Well-known artist Naveed Sadiq’s solo exhibition, The Source Is One, is a show whose splendour is difficult to express in words. It needs to be witnessed.
The show displayed at Karachi’s Koel Gallery boasts an extensive body of work. Visually, there are three sections to the exhibition. However, for each of them the underlying theme remains the same — that is the methods and process of image-making. Sadiq has recently done his master’s from the Princes School of Traditional Art in London where he diligently researched traditional methods of Persian and Indian miniature painting in the Mughal courts of undivided India. This exhibition is a visual translation of the findings of his research. Hence, concepts, such as the underlying grid and sacred geometry that uses circles as a fundamental tool in making compositions, are at the core of his practice. These techniques were generally used in Islamic art to plot out compositions. The artist has not only used them to make his paintings, but kept the technique intact and a part of his main visual.
All of Sadiq’s works are so potent that each must be commented upon separately. In the series titled The Underlying Grid I-VI, Sadiq has chalked out a basic map of the composition through sacred geometry. But instead of drawing and filling out the beautiful flora and fauna, skies and earth, he has simply written in Urdu language the words describing the image, bringing into sharp focus the significance of drawings and charting in traditional mussawari [painting] or naqashi [calligraphy]. This technique doubles as an exercise in modern conceptual painting where absence and text are movements in themselves. Furthermore, these pieces are interactive as they encourage the viewer to participate and imagine the visual that is hinted at with words.
An exhibition pays tribute to miniature painting as an integral part of our heritage
To add to the mystery of these paintings, Sadiq has placed a tiny glass container filled with organic pigment on top of each painting, addressing all the elements that go into creating a painting, leaving the viewer to do all the work in their mind.
The next set of paintings refers to the tools and raw materials utilised in the production of miniature painting. Amongst brushes, shells and vasli, in this series, the artist references the process of grinding and mixing organic pigment derived from nature, as has been practised historically. This includes deriving the colour green from malachite and blue from lapis lazuli. All the natural pigments documented in the visual are also contained in a little vial and placed by the painting. These pigments are found and ground by the artist himself.
Even though Sadiq’s paintings archive the process, there is a deeper meaning to the show, as suggested by its title. It becomes evident in the pigment-related paintings, especially the pieces titled ‘Directly From The Source I-IV’, which depict elements of earth (in bricks) and fire (diyas or oil lamps) and the sky in relation to the production of the colour black (from soot).
The last section consists of three magnificent holistic scrolls that serve as a historic archive and relay in chronological order, the beginning of miniature painting from Persia (Iran), its development in the subcontinent, the masters of pre-and-post Partition eras and its relatively recent resurgence at the National College of Arts, Lahore. This piece basically conveys the tutor-trainee relationship — which is a process of learning and making in itself — and also a visual manifestation of the underlying grid and sacred geometry.
Miniature painting, whether contemporary or traditional, is our heritage and something to take pride in. Sadiq’s work embodies the art form like no other, and his understanding of and confidence in the medium is exemplified in the show.
“The Source Is One” was displayed at the Koel Gallery in Karachi from August 7 to August 20, 2018
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 2nd, 2018