Delhi Weekend: 10 Miniature Artists Perform Margin

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Think of the word “margin” and you automatically think of people on the periphery of socio-political situations or disappearing cultures. But in the tradition of Mughal and Pahadi miniature paintings, the margin played a unique role. Apart from the symmetry it brings to a work, it has either served a decorative purpose or contributed more to the central piece. But the margin, or the border if you prefer, has not been addressed in its entirety or for itself. A new exhibition titled “Hashiya – The Margin” explores the possibilities that abound in miniature paintings when the margin becomes the center. Hashiya, which in Persian means the margin, brings together the miniature works of ten artists. “I have always worked with contemporary miniatures. The genesis of this exhibition occurred after I worked on the theme of the seasons”, explains Mamta Singhania, curator of the exhibition. “I wanted to talk about the margin in art, which we know as hashiya.” The works presented in the exhibition are contemporary reworkings of the miniaturist technique. Only the process is traditional, not necessarily the result.

The project started over a year ago. Singhania asked ten artists to respond to the idea of ​​hashiya, and what each of them came up with was as varied as their individual techniques and cultural backgrounds. The work of Pakistani-born Saira Wasim, for example, speaks to a persistent socio-political issue in the United States (where she lives) – gun culture.

“As a migrant Muslim artist in the United States, a mother of three school-going children, every mother’s greatest concern is to protect our children from gun violence. To me, hashiya is [the] space where I belong, a marginalized person who sees the mainstream in their own way,” says Wasim. Her work, fine in its detail, sees the margin as a place for people.

Desert Meets River by Manisha Gera Baswani uses the margin as a place of union, between hues and elements (Credit @ Anant Art Gallery)

More literal is the work of Desmond Lazaro, the Pondicherry-based miniaturist, whose works attempt to create the idea of ​​an undivided, borderless world. British-born Lazaro, who was schooled in Rajasthan for more than two decades, says the process is almost everything. “Without doing the color, the paper or the brush, there is perhaps nothing else to the miniature. It’s not a case where it could matter, it’s at the heart of the concept,” says Lazaro. “The process, the method and the material are everything. Personally, I’m more interested in travel, in how you can change the state of matter and transform it into something else. His works are rendered on Sanganeer, a rare form of handmade paper made in Rajasthan, the makers of which, according to Lazaro, are rapidly disappearing.

The wide variety of voices and ideas that form the exhibition is delightful. From Delhi artist Manisha Gera Beswani’s vision of the earthly elements (sky, water, earth) to the ecstatic and pop culture-evoking works of US-based Alexander Gorlizki, the concept of border or margin takes on new meaning. many forms. That said, what about the state of the miniature as a form in general? “When you look at Mughal and Pahadi miniatures, it’s not craftsmanship, it’s art. But the best of our miniatures aren’t even found in India,” says Singhania. Smithsonian, or Munich. As for the work that the artists from Rajasthan still do, it’s more of a copyist style. But if you see Pakistan, they’ve done a better job of preserving the form.”

A Forgotten Place by Alexander Gorlizki reminds us of the decline of natural habitats. (Credit @ Anant Art Gallery)

Part of the problem, according to Wasim, is that people don’t know their own heritage. “Most of the time, the public is unfamiliar with the rich visual vocabulary or traditional symbolism of miniature painting. When we exhibit or talk about our works of art, we [have] to briefly explain that legacy,” she says.

The finesse of a miniature painting is often so breathtaking that it takes a special look to fully appreciate it. This is why, we are better rewarded if we use the lenses, available at the gallery.

Is it hard work? “Oh absolutely. It took me almost 15 years to learn the trade, and I think I’ve only just gained the confidence to be able to do a job,” says Lazaro. “But it’s still a slow process. Sometimes I leave a work for months or even years if I have nothing to offer the piece. But I like the etiquette, the process. Hashiya is a a new, perhaps timely, version of the miniaturist technique.In the hands of artists who have given it a contemporary twist, it seems full of possibilities.

WHAT: Hashiya – La Marge exhibition.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., until April 24 (closed on Sundays).

WHERE: Bikaner House, Pandara Road, India Gate

NEAREST METRO STATION: Central Secretariat

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