Aisha Khalid is one of a generation of artists from Pakistan who have transformed the tradition of miniature painting into an internationally celebrated form of contemporary art. In recent years, Khalid’s practice has extended to significantly larger paintings, murals, installations and tapestries.
In her textile works, Khalid draws on a form of visual language embedded in Persian culture, with its emphasis on pattern, colour and geometry, as well as incorporating designs from traditional Charbagh gardens. These large-scale hanging tapestries, embedded with thousands of long, gold-plated pins show the confident hand of a miniaturist, together with her sensitive understanding of pattern making and her love of textiles. The sharp pins pierce through several layers of cloth and add a three-dimensional, sculptural element to the works, creating a tension between beauty and danger, pain and fragility.
Khalid draws on Persian and Islamic art, experimenting with scale, technique and subject matter to translate historic traditions into an art practice that is politically and socially relevant today. In her transformation of elaborate techniques, Khalid subtly comments on our contemporary world.
Taking its title from the words of the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi, Water has never feared the fire 2018 is a triptych with the central panel based on the quadrilateral garden layout of the Charbagh. The Charbagh represents the quintessential Islamic garden from the Qur’an, and is a symbol of paradise on earth. The four sections constitute the four gardens of paradise and are delineated by four water channels representing the rivers of paradise. Within the sections are dragons and phoenix – creatures that appear widely in Persian art – while the outer panels’ geometric designs represent water, in which sea creatures and ships symbolise trade and the movement of peoples and cultures. Motifs on one side of her tapestry are barely distinguishable on the reverse, including a central design, which, in Mughal architecture and gardens, would be the space where the heavenly symbols culminate.
Delve deeper into APT9 with Martha Atienza
Born into a family of seafarers, Martha Atienza creates video, sound and installation works that explore the experience of being at sea and address histories of migration, labour, environmental degradation and identity.
Atienza uses art as a tool for social change by working directly with the community of Madridejos on Bantayan Island, where her family is from, to address the problems this small fishing community faces due to poverty, environmental change, and the long absence of family members at sea.
APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.
Martha Atienza has been supported by the Australian-ASEAN Council.
Feature image detail: Aisha Khalid Water has never feared the fire 2018