Ahmed Javed's new body of work exhibited under the title "Lahorenama" at Sanat Gallery, Karachi explored behind the scenes in an artist's studio. Graduated from National College of Arts (NCA) Lahore Ahmed was trained in the traditional style of Mughal painting. Afterwards he gradually began developing his own distinct style. He worked with different subjects, which interested him thus nurturing a personal equation and refined his expressions by various narratives through multiple aspects of a single state.
The current series took over a period of one year to complete, which comprised of eight paintings by Ahmed Javed. He was born, raised and works in Lahore therefore he has chosen six artists who were also Lahore based.
He documented major artists of the Lahore art scene who were greater part of the local contemporary art world. It included what they are like, their artistic process and where they work that is their studios.
He painted these artists in their respective studios, in an up-close and personal way, while they pursue daily practice in their workspace which serves as a creative centre of experimentation for them.
Ahmed wanted to document an independent artist's studio because it was a place where an artist felt free to pursue his/her own imagery and artistic agenda. The artists selected were the one's who easily connected with Ahmed on a personal level in order to allow him to step into their territories without any insecurity. The six chosen artists were those who agreed on having him come into their sacred and personal spaces. In addition to others Ahmed has also portrayed himself in his own studios.
In a way he has created an archive. As he understood that Miniature art is not just about its technique but it is also about the subject matter - documenting people and events - serving as archives and memoirs. He attained his goal by painting himself and other artists and the events taking place around them and the surrounding atmosphere.
"The Mughals preserved themselves by documenting their ways of life and the events that took place around them and within their lives in the form of illuminated manuscripts and small albums. And, they did this during their life. This very thought paved way for Lahorenama. I decided to pay a tribute to my 'ustads' who helped shape me as an artist over these years. Unlike the prevalent trend of venerating a person when it's too late it occurred to me that perhaps I should honour them during their lives, as did the Mughals albeit they limited the tribute mostly to themselves," he said.
He documented every single detail of the studios of each artist. In the process he studied and documented the artist at work - their body language, change in mood and personality (if any), relationship with the work in progress, and the special bond the artist shared with his/her studio.
"As the old masters documented life of royalty, I decided to document the life in the present. My fascination with tradition was obvious, therefore as an alternate I decided to go backwards, in order to move forward, to find my subject through contemporary life documentation. My work seeks to identify and apply the minute details within our everyday life; focusing on activities that are always done without questioning. I seek to document them through stylization, technique and multiple-perspectives based on the actual environment and people around me. The colour scheme has been inspired from the old Mughal miniatures and not based on reality. I play around with the size and perspective of certain areas, objects and figures to denote their elevated status or importance much like traditional Mughal miniatures and my work seeks to preserve the traditional practice while acknowledging its existence in present context," he said while elaborating the project.
A project like this series has never been made before therefore the participating artists as well the working artist enjoyed it and found the process interesting, unique and rare especially in connection with modern and contemporary miniature practice.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])