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.

This morning’s first stop was a studio visit to the internationally acclaimed artists Rashid Rana and Aroosa Rana.

Aroosa Rana shares her work with a digital portfolio presentation in their shared studio.
Aroosa’s practice include several mediums, though one of the few artists working with video we met so far. The first work she describes is about a 9 channel video installation from 2016 of an amusement park she documented a few months after a large terrorist attack. The attack took place around Easter, and therefore targeted a largely Christian minority group in Pakistan.
Beautifully filmed and with floating camera movements the video depicts an empty amusement park. The video footage is of very high quality and because of the fixed height movement with steady-cam around the park, it uses the same visual trope as a virtual camera in a virtual environment. To a point where we doubt if it’s 3D animated. The camera slowly moves around the park, creating an uncanny feeling of hyperrealism. Possibly linking the unimaginable idea of the event, that can become more real then most of us are able to perceive.

Next, Rashid Rana, one of the most successful contemporary artists Pakistan speaks about his work. He has shown work in several prestigious institutions around the world. Rana was also the first artist ever representing Pakistan at the Venice Biennale.
He starts with explaining that as an artist here you are generally expected to make works that is celebrating the past and deal with the nation’s history. And, if you don’t do that, you could be seen as copying a western visual language of Modern and Contemporary art.

Rashid further explained that he loves miniature painting, and he draws inspiration from the minimalism movement. He also objects to Nationalism, and opposes absolute truths. The works are impressive, smart, and well produced. Can see how his works functions in larger international institutions.

After a 30 minutes drive we arrived to BNU (Beaconhouse National University). Chartered by the Government of Punjab, BNU is the first Liberal Arts University of Pakistan offering undergraduate and graduate programs in various fields of Liberal Arts including Visual Arts and Design, Architecture, Business Studies, Psychology, Economics, Journalism and Media Studies, Theatre, Film and Television, Education, and Computer and Information Technology. BNU is a non-profit, apolitical, non-sectarian, equal-opportunity institution offering degree programs in modern disciplines, many of which are not offered anywhere else in Pakistan.
Here we were lead into an auditorium filled with students and teachers. The university and Mondriaan Fund had arranged previously that the group present themselves to the school and it’s students. We were introduced by the vice chancellor Shahid Hafiz Kardar. First off were the artists of the group, starting with Kianoosh Motallebi who presented several of his works with various mixed media and materials, to make wonderous objects related to chemistry and light. After him, Nayab Ikram presented her practice as in two key aspects of her works, her identity and notions on post-internet media. Then Andrew Gryf Paterson presented sharing a long-term, collaborative and participatory culture project revolving around fermentation and cultural heritage. Lastly Marylin Sonneveld talked about her practice as an artist and her recent exhibition at No Man’s Gallery in Amsterdam. After the four short presentations, a short, moderated panel discussion was held, which came to revolve around different view on what arts function and possibilities, what lead to thoughts on responsibility of art, artists and curators in society.

After a short lunch break, five more of the group presented the institutions they run, or work for. Nicolas Raufaste presented CAN in Switzerland, Jannie Haagemann, Copenhagen Contemporary, Johan Gustavsson, 1646, The Hague, Bart Rutten, Centraal Museum in Utrecht, and Mikkel Elming presented Regelbau 411, Kunsthal Aarhus and The Association of Contemporary Art.

After this we were quickly shown around the studios of the campus. The university was established in 2003. They focus especially on the liberal arts. Being a young institution, they have decided to liberate their art education from old traditions, working with the open faculty of visual culture and letting the students explore their own interests, and work with whatever media the students feel fits their work.

After meeting the students in their studio, the artists/ tutors of the school, Risham Syed and Rashid Rana made a presentation of some of the artists teaching at Beaconhouse National University. Among others they presented the works by: Ali Raza, Aisha Abid, Basir Mehmood, Ehsan Ul Haq, Ghulan Mohammad, Hamra Abbas, Hirsa Farooq, Madyha Leghari, Mehbub Shah, and Sana Iqbal.

After the visit to the Art school we get in to the five Toyota’s driving in convoy. The next visit was planned with another international star, Imran Qureshi. Delayed from the enthusiastic presentations at the Academy, we got stopped by the military police. We all need to get out of the cars and identify our-self. At the chaotic roadside we aimlessly wait around, with thousands of speeding scoters and honking cars passing by, before we finally are told to go back to the cars. Apparently they won’t let us in to this part of Lahore. We make a U-turn and drive around for an hour before we finally we arrive at Imran Qureshi’s home.

This home is remarkably beautiful. Designed by a good friend of Imran Qureshi. Inside, there’s an impressive collection of art, decorating every corner of the villa. Apart from several artists we came across the last few days, there are works by artists such as Sara Lucas, Jeff Koons and Damian Hirst. 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, with many original variations of the genre, including 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.

In the kitchen with some much appreciated tea, Aisha Khalid, wife of Qureshi, and alumni from The Rijksakademy in Amsterdam, explains she designed most of the furniture. She tells us about her time in Amsterdam and further explains her interesting practice in her impressive studio in the back of the villa. And the it is time to leave, and we rush further in today’s packed program.

The Toyota convoy is back on the bustling streets of Lahore, now on our way to the last studio visit of the day with Ali Kazim. Another internationally known artist based in Lahore.

Here too, we receive a very warm welcome. Kazim had prepared a presentation of both current and slightly older works. We had seen his work in Karachi as part of the Karachi Biennale. Ali Kazim’s work was presented at Alliance Française, where he showed the extremely detailed 4-part drawing of birds (described here in this blog a few days ago). The drawing took almost a year to produce, in parallel to working on some other works. He is an incredible craftsman, as we have seen many others here. His main medium would be considered to be drawing, though has made several installations and sculptural works as well. Generously Ali Kazim offered to us all to take away a sculpted heart of clay. The fist sized sculptures are leftovers from 5000 terracotta hearts he produced for the first Lahore Biennale. We promised to send him photographs of them when we make it home, placed in our own respective personal environments.

It’s now 21:00 and we are late for our dinner appointment with Rashid Rana & Aroosa Rana whom we met this morning. Here we spend a fantastically fun evening with our charming hosts, and many of their lovely friends.

Mikkel Elming, Johan Gustavsson, Andrew Paterson