Tales of devotion

25 Sep 2016

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Miniature painting, with its early origins, bears focal significance in the history of regional art. This discipline germinates from the early rock paintings or petroglyphs that were found in the subcontinent almost 30,000 years ago. In the present era, this fading art has made a huge comeback because there are institutions, artists and outlets worldwide who are actively promoting this art. The Sanat Gallery, cognisant of trending genres, recently held an exhibition of 14 miniature paintings of Naveed Sadiq titled ‘Perpetual Layers’.

The artist is currently completing his Master’s Degree at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts (PSTA), London.

The major thrust of Sadiq’s paintings is based on the ustad-shagird (teacher-student) relationship, specifically in the context of traditional arts and crafts. Although, the successive transfer of ancestral techniques and discipline has been practiced religiously through the ages, with the onslaught of modern technologies, the tradition of regimental apprenticeship has been gradually disappearing. During his graduation days, Sadiq often used to wonder about those famous people that carved a niche for themselves in museums. He elaborates, “The mystery of fame and fortune is unraveling itself at the PSTA. I find myself [becoming] more discerning and logical since my relationship with the tutors is incredibly interactive and rewarding.”

Rightly so, since the conviction of thought and confidence in his current paintings corroborates the artist’s statement.


Sadiq Khan reckons that the concept behind a composition is the leading prerequisite

of a painting. Ironically, therefore, the common belief ‘It’s not what you draw, it’s how you draw’ seems to be morphing into ‘It’s not how you draw, it’s what you draw!’

To describe his perception of the said relationship, Sadiq employs a special layering technique where collage and paper overlays have been used. One can see a major change in Sadiq’s work, especially after the one year that he has spent at the PSTA. For instance, through an inspiration from a colleague, he adopted the chine-collé technique, which introduced numerous creative possibilities of expression for the artist.

Chine-collé is a printmaking technique, used for transferring an image to a thin surface (rice paper, tinted tissue etc) that is glued to a heavier support (paper or vellum). Artists like Eugène Delacroix are known to have used this technique with lithography during the early 1800s.

Explaining his compositions Sadiq says, “Although, the use of traditional hand-ground pigments from minerals, plants and animals are central to my work, the concept of the composition takes priority.” Referring to one of his works ‘Perpetual layers XIV’, a diptych in gouache and chine-collé on wasli, he says, “Anything that you see within the inner rectangle signifies a haven. The area between the jadwal (border) portrays the unpleasant noise, chaos and unknown dangers that exist around us.” The presence of a lion and a wild cow (gaur), symbolically represent the hazardous environment beyond a certain threshold of psychosocial indulgence. The left side of the diptych indicates an engrossed teacher, while on the right side there is the labouring student (shagird or apprentice), with a dhol (double-headed drum) making an announcement in the form of pigment spatters of a prediction — a harbinger of things to come.

He reckons that the concept behind a composition is the leading prerequisite of a painting. Ironically, therefore, the common belief ‘It’s not what you draw, it’s how you draw’ seems to be morphing into ‘It’s not how you draw, it’s what you draw!’

Armed with seasoned expertise to handle traditional apparatus, Sadiq insistently voices his perception with a unique vocabulary which is gradually evolving. His layered methodology and ideological demeanor on the wasli has assumed a promising direction which, while remaining within the spirit of miniature painting, is likely to unleash enormous creative possibilities.

‘Perpetual Layers’ was exhibited at the Sanat Gallery from August 30th till September 16th

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine September 25th, 2016