Orientation trips
The Mondriaan Fund organises orientation trips for visual artists and mediators to Asia, Latin America and Africa since 2004. The trips are aimed at exchange and cooperation between visual art professionals.

Studio visit Imran Qureshi
In the morning we visited the Imran Qureshi’s studio situated in an area, apparently, out of the city. Surrounded by craftsman’s workshops, his studio has two floors. The first one is dedicated to the work of painting. On the ground we can see the traces of the actions and the way he’s doing painting. The visit started with a kind of choreography. Not so softly, he turned some canvas lean to the wall. They are five and form a big work together on which we can see some references to action painting. During his presentation, he mentioned Jackson Pollock.

With the help of his assistant, the choreography went on. He presented an impressive canvas made of gold foil. Another work was also unpacked.
Imran Qureshi’s practice is firmly rooted in the tradition of miniature painting, the subject he still teaches at the National College of Art in Lahore, an art form that reached its zenith during the Mughal Empire. Imran Qureshi has been exhibiting locally and internationally for almost twenty-five years and has greatly expanded the language of miniature painting, both in traditionally sized and crafted works and in many original variations in the form of site-specific installations, three-dimensional works, videos, and paintings on paper and canvas. His work is exemplary of a practice that combines a local background with a global outlook, artistically, socially and politically.

Nicolas Raufaste

The Lahore Museum
After our visit to Imran Qureshi we drive to the Lahore Museum

Originally established during the British colonial rule in 1865-1866, the Lahore Museum, in Urdu ‘The Wonder House’, is known to be one of Pakistan’s most visited museums. It wont be lost on anyone who visits the museum on an average Thursday morning, that the Wonder House attracts a crowd. Groups of schoolchildren and their teachers cover the five main ground floor galleries: The Gandhara gallery; the Islamic gallery; the Hindu and Buddhist gallery; the general gallery; and last but not least the Contemporary Paintings gallery. The focus drifts away from the antiquities on display the moment we enter the building’s remarkable galleries, designed by the well known Lahori architect Sir Ganga Ram, who locally is known as ‘the father of modern Lahore’. Suddenly transformed into walking curiosities, we are followed by a swarm of schoolchildren whose keenness to get acquainted with the foreign only seems to be natural. Their schoolteachers don’t seem to mind. Few pictures later, order is restored. Their class continues.

The Lahore Museum is renowned for its extensive collection of Buddhist art from the ancient Indo-Greek period to the Gandhara Kingdoms. It is furthermore home to a collection of cultural, historical and artistic artefacts from pre-historic times to the Hindu Shahi period – the last Hindu dynasty in Afghanistan from 879 A.D. to 1026 A.D. The museum attracts countless students, scholars and tourists from around the world on a yearly basis precisely because of its comprehensive collection and its multifaceted narrative of the history of the Subcontinent, with artefacts ranging from ancient jewelry, textiles, pottery, carved woodwork armory and paintings. We learn that these artefacts and their histories find their origin in different countries and regions, forming a unique cross-section of the history of the Subcontinent, including Tibet, Burma, Bhutan, Central Asia, Middle East and Africa.

In a more hidden part of the museum, on the ground floor, there is a stairway that leads to yet another gallery, which is divided into two parts. One is a comprehensive coin gallery which is comprised of mainly rare coins highlighting the political, economic, cultural and social history of the Subcontinent, as well as the development of coin-making technology itself. The other part of the gallery, which is the actual first part upon ascending the stairway, is an exhibition about Pakistan’s ‘freedom movement’.

The Pakistan Freedom Movement Gallery constructs space to gather up histories that have been ubiquitous and are part of the more recent history of the Subcontinent, that is, the history of Pakistan as a nation state. Because of this fact alone, the gallery’s politics and culture of display differs from that of the rest of the museum’s galleries. In doing so, it conjures up a space that centers around the nation state through the narrative of resistance and resilience. At the entrance of the gallery, the visitor’s gaze is directed at a large scale painting by Shahbaz Khan, depicting a scene about Tipu Sultan of Mysore (a pioneer of rocket artillery) during his last battle against the British East India Company outside the gates of Seringapatam, in 1799. A group of boys, schoolchildren, has gathered in front of the painting so as to allow their teacher to capture them. It’s as though the children have been arranged into a formation that extends them as part of the historic scene. A single portrait of a figure called Begum Hazrat Mahal attracts my attention. Apparently, as the second wife of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, she had organized an army of women rebelling against the British East India Company during the Indian uprising in 1857. She later found refuge in Nepal where she resided until her death.

More than anything else, the Pakistan Freedom Movement Gallery displays an extensive image archive of the life of several key figures in the struggle for freedom and self-determination of the Indian Muslim community since 1757 all the way to the creation of Pakistan in 1947. In the main hall of the gallery, one finds numerous portraits of Sir Seyed Ahmed Khan (1819-1898), the social and educational reformer and modernizer of the Indian Muslim community, Allama Iqbal (1877-1938), the national poet of Pakistan known as ‘the spiritual father of Pakistan’, and portraits and photographs of the life of the Quaid-e-Azam, in Urdu ‘the Great Leader’, also known as Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), Pakistan’s iconic founder and first governor-general. A special section has been devoted to the life and achievements of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and his sister Fatima Jinnah.

Prominent in this section is a picture of Quaid-e-Azam studying the composition of the national anthem. Suddenly, I am reminded of a studio visit in Dubai. Interestingly, the strikingly dissimilar places that we had visited so far during our orientation trip, that is in the UAE and Pakistan, seem to come together in an associative manner that underlines the complexity of geographic lineages, especially with regard to the West-Asian and (classically connoted) Subcontinental relations. During a studio visit that we were fortunate to have in Dubai in the eccentric house/museum of the Iranian artist trio Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh, and Hesam Rahmanian, we were told that the lyrics to the ‘Quami Taranah’, Pakistan’s anthem entitled ‘Pak Sarzamin’ is exclusively written in Persian poetic vocabulary. This peculiar fact is corroborated through a quick google search, although Wikipedia additionally points to the use of one exclusive Urdu word ‘ka’. Although I am a proponent of the saying ‘Sing songs, not anthems’, driven by sheer curiosity, I went ahead to listen to the anthem on YouTube to find that the vernacular remains different from native spoken Farsi.

National College of Arts

Our visit to the National College of Arts, essentially next door to the Lahore Museum, brought us together with some of our new found friends that we had met during the Karachi Biennial (KB19). Indeed, many arts professionals and students from Lahore were visiting the KB19. Our host tells us that an important figure for the very existence of this multidisciplinary art academy had been Ustad Haji Mohammad Sharif (1889-1978), whose mastery of miniature painting and his teachings still live on within the different visual arts departments.

We are collectively awestruck by the level of technique and the compelling local visual language that this academy seems to bring forth. Certainly, and without a doubt, it has been crucial for me – and I am confident to say for the whole group – to visit the art academies of Lahore so as to be able to connect to the local arts scene and with the people of Lahore.

Katayoun Arian

Institute of Art & Culture

After the Lahore Museum we drive to the Institute of Art & Culture were we are welcomed by Prof. Sabah Hussain, Prof. Zafar Iqbal and some faculty members.
The IAC is a recent player in the Art education landscape of Lahore and has around 250 undergrad students across 4 different schools: School of Digital and Cinematic Arts, School of Architecture, Design and Urbanism, School of Art and the School of Culture and Languages. One of the focus points is to educate the students on how to effectively sync technology and art to provide the industry with innovative solutions.

COMO Museum

In one of the suburbs in Lahore, Seher Tareen, created the Como museum in a modernist architectural style house, white from the outside and build with that rhythm so particular for the modernist. Seher Tareen tells in an interview that the goal was to create a museum with the modern masters and contemporary artists. And though many have achieved global recognition Seher felt that is was equally, if not more, important to preserve and promote their work within Pakistan. Seher Tareen studied at Central Saint Martins ( university London) in 2012. She tells about the art scene in Lahore and thinks there is some amazing art hidden in private collections which she plans to show at COMO through a series of exhibitions.

O Art Space & A Party

Our last stop for the evening is O Art Space run by Omer Nabi with the help of curator and artist Irfan Gul Dahri. After our tour w end on the rooftop for a fantastic party and diner offered by our two hosts Omer Nabi and RM Naeem.