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.

The last day started as a sightseeing day. We went early in the morning to the historic city of Lahore to see first the fort and its palaces. The outer walls where under restoration where the plaster that the British applied after concurring the city in the 19th century. The mosaic patterns that lay underneath where of a genuine beauty, telling how rich and magnificent the culture must have been before Lahore was colonized.

The nearby Badshahi Mosque was as impressive, especially since when we walked up the gigantic court, the call for prayer started and magnified even more this historic site. But we not only came for the spectacle, we also were a spectacle. Tourism has been fallen back enormously the last decade, so a group of European tourists for sure caught the attention of the Pakistani crowd.

The sightseeing tour ended with a visit at the Shahi Haman in the walled city. The mosaics and fresco decoration were again astonishing.

After the lunch we did our last academy visit. This time studio RM Naeem, led by the artist himself, were alumni of this post bachelor education studio program presented their portfolio in a super short presentation.

Arma Khan
Paintings focuses on the male body, gay and trans community in Pakistan. The works vary in size and technique, in which how society sees people of the communities seems reoccurring aspect. Her work also included photography and performance in which the political symbolism of clothing, and how that is perceived.

Sameen Agha
The work of Sameen varies from sculpture, to works on paper and installations. Her fresh and varied oeuvre looks at the same time vulnerable and self-conscious. The playfulness and variation make it one of the best we get presented that day.

Mudassar Manzoor
Work evolved out of the practice of miniature painting, after having had a career in graphic design and animation. The meditative aspect of this time-consuming process is embraced to encounter ‘the silence’ between the lines, like finding the space between the words in a sentence. That makes this mixture of calligraphy and biomorphic abstraction hallucinating and esoteric.

Irfan Gul Dahri
Is one of the teachers at Studio RM Raeem. He started as a textile designer but moved in to painting via body paintings, prints of his own body that he dipped in paint. It was for the first time he wanted to relate his art practice to the trauma he suffers as victim of being abused in his youth. This theme and urgency are explored in different styles and media. The fear of abuse stays an important motive in his work, till today, where his own fatherhood suffers from the anxiety of these horrible events. His Adam and Eve paintings and as well as the paintings of mythical figures, half man/half animal, are all self-portraits in which it is unclear who is victim and who is offender. This presentation made shed new light on the work Irfan had made for the Karachi Biennale, a family of goats intentionally meant to be presented in front of the Lions in the Zoo.

Abida Dahri
Holds a major in miniature painting. In her final thesis she researched theoretically the power of the detail: when does a detail work and when not? This question is also in her practice as an artist an important motive. She works with tiny strips of tape, self-cut out of standard masking tape. The work is extremely complex and organized, composed with an intuitive, meditative state of mind.

Memon Eshan
Ceates playful sculptures that in their precise execution relate in a funny way to a trompe de l’oeil tradition. He is a master in misleading the eye. Everyday objects seem not to be what they look like on first sight. Architecture and the meaning and characteristics of the materials he uses are important ingredients in his playful oeuvre.

Fakhra Assif
Has a series of work in gay man, questioning the judgement that underlies the perception of these man in Pakistan. Another line in her paintings are portraits of hands, the traces of life left behind in the skin and the gesture as social communication tool as ways to portray. (Fakrah is also a hand reader where she can read the spiritual and psychic state of the person through the hands). Other series investigated climate change as subject matter. Her work is again a striking example of the high level in technical skills and eye for colour.

Eesha Sohail
Paints details and rooms of the home she grew up in. Based on photos of her former home, she converts the images into haunted and uncanny scenes. She calls them self-portraits, referring to the miserable time she had home and is able to transfer that to interiors where beauty and fear meet. This clear and confronting framework makes her work one of the best presentation this afternoon.

Zainab Aziz
Has also an uncanny side in her paintings and drawings, focussing on female relationships. Based on unpleasant friendships she experienced, she is able to portray the hidden agenda’s in the contact between the girlfriends, depicting the Chinese whispering. Most in black and white, with the worn jewellery shining out by giving colour to these details.

Hira Mansur
Finds her starting point also in a highly personal matter. Being adopted and raised by her stepparents and in good contact with her biological parents, lot of her imagery is what she called ‘hybrid’, referring to how she was formed from both sides. Another motive in her work is the infertility of her (step) mother, refered to by the needles and eggs that float her paintings and drawings.

Sana Arjumand
Presented her work at the Karachi Biennale this year, large scale paintings of peacocks that seemed touched and moved, full of human emotions. An important source of inspiration is her fairly recent motherhood, the feelings and emotions she experiences are translated to the canvases in a sort of alter ego’s as birds. These self-portraits are hidden in these bird figures where the landscapes in the back carry often political connotations.

Hamid Ali Hanbhi
Has a multidisciplinary practice in which several works have a surprising material to work with: the black coal for Pakistani ‘eye shadow’ to make drawings with or colour small sculptures for an installation, or chili peppers, all taken from different regions in Pakistan, to create a work with. Hamids oeuvre has a firm conceptual approach towards his media and contains a strong political agenda contemporary Pakistan.

Ahmed Javed
Was one of our tour guys earlier that day when we visited the historic sites, focusses on painting artists in their studio. He had made series of paintings on artists in Lahore and in Karachi, for us nice since some of these artists we had visited ourselves earlier in the trip. These portraits were for sure not standard portraits, but tried to catch the studio practice and technique of these artists at once, including their mentality in selecting the details of attributes and clothing carefully.

Hamid Ali Hanbhi
Starts his work by using sayings as a starting point, as specially on the Pakistan and India crisis. The landscape of the border between the two countries appears often in his work. He started to adds words, like subtitles to his paintings to question the meaning of the depicted. This was most funny and effective with a diptych, where video beams projected changing subtitles under the two paintings, so it looked like the two paintings had a conversation. Besides painting from these sources, images and texts where quoted from films he saw when he worked in a cinema. Hamids work was surprisingly playful and seemed to have a free approach compared to the more rigid way of working of many of his fellow alumni.

At night we had a lovely dinner where many of the people we visited in Lahore came by so we could continue the conversations we had before and celebrate the new friendships we have made. Totally exhausted form the full program but inspired and satisfied, we returned to our hotel. Next day we would travel back to our home countries, having new insights and perspectives to cherish.

Bart Rutten