The miniature in contemporary art

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ISTANBUL

The Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation’s Pera Museum offers a new exhibition for art lovers. Organized by Azra Tüzünoğlu and Gülce Özkara, the exhibition “Miniature 2.0: Miniature in Contemporary Art” brings together more than 40 works by 14 artists from different countries such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan. The exhibition features works by Hamra Abbas, Rashad Alakbarov, Halil Altındere, Dana Awartani, Fereydoun Ave, CANAN, Noor Ali Chagani, Cansu Çakar, Hayv Kahraman, Imran Qureshi, Nilima Sheikh, Shahpour Pouyan, Shahzia Sikander and Saira Wasim.

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Noting that the miniature is once again gaining theoretical potential today, Tüzünoğlu and Özkara sum up the objective of the exhibition as “not to treat the miniature only as a historical object, but to consider it as a unique art form and to emphasize its theoretical potential. The works in the exhibition plead for action against the nostalgia that freezes the miniatures in time and detaches them from their cultural context.

The exhibition takes the contemporary miniature as a means of resistance. Beyond the familiar comparisons between East and West, works that answer questions about art and society show the audience that other forms of life and thought are possible.

Problematizing issues such as colonialism, orientalism, economic inequalities, gender, identity politics, the struggle against traditional prototypes, social violence, forced migration and representation, the “Miniature 2.0” exhibition creates a fertile ground that helps us to understand the changing structure of society, its repeating patterns and to observe cultural meanings.

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Artists and their works

Interested in creating works that look at Turkey’s recent past, carrying a visual critique of the modernization process, CANAN produced two installations for the exhibition titled “Beauty and the Beast (The Lion and the Gazelle) ” and “Adams and Eves” among other series of drawings entitled “Falname (2020)”.

Altındere’s work titled “Tesla to the Moon” (2019) centers on 16th century scientists observing the 21st century from their observatory on the hills of Tophane. Referring to the painting made by Kapıdağlı Konstantin (Konstandinos Kizikinos) in 1789 entitled “Ceremony of accession to the throne of the sultan with drone” (2018), Altındere brings elements of the classical miniature style and figures of the present, merging in his work entitled “Soliman the Magnificent goes to Friday prayers” (2020), which refers to the panorama drawn by Zacharias Wehme in the 16th century.

Çakar participates in the exhibition with “Tak Tak Tak Gırç Gırç Gırç Tak Tak Gırç Gırç” (2017), “A Thousand Ink” (2016) and the newly commissioned work, titled “Rahime” (2019). Çakar’s pictorial compositions are influenced by the miniature style and present imaginary maps based on a particular sense of perspective.

Disturbing facts and scathing issues

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One of the leading exponents of contemporary miniature painting, Sikander, uses classical Pakistani-Hindu miniatures as a starting point to level her current historical critique. Premiered at the Sharjah Biennale, Sikander’s ‘Parallax’ (2013) is a three-channel installation made up of hundreds of different digital animations.
One of the leading figures of his generation, Qureshi’s “Seeming Endless Path of Memory” installation and video titled “Breathing” form a unique synthesis of the formal language of contemporary motifs, abstract painting, patterns and techniques. traditional, exhibited with his drawings which were commissioned for the exhibition.

Wasim’s traditional 16th century Iranian miniatures challenge the way migrant children are marginalized on Western television. Another work by the artist, “Silent Plea” (2019), refers to Madonna, the famous 19th century painting by French painter William Bouguereau.

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Ave defines “Shah Abbas and His Page Boy” (2017) as the border between the public and the private and finds its inspiration in a miniature of the same name, drawn by Muhammad Qasim Musavvir in the 17th century and now in the Louvre Museum.

Alakbarov creates unexpected scenes with found objects. He uses light and shadow as fundamental elements in his works, which can be described as shadow paintings. Appearing like heaps of metal or plastic objects thrown at random, these compositions can only be seen with the help of a light source.

Chagani joins the exhibition with his work, a miniature made of “found” terracotta bricks bearing traces of graffiti or wall advertisements. The artificiality of the found material and the flowing form of a hard, solid material like brick are illusions created by the artist for the audience.

Awartani’s installation and video were created in a vacant house in one of Jeddah’s old neighborhoods, where his grandparents once lived. The artist began to cover the floors of the house with sand in a way reminiscent of old Arab houses as well as the geometric tiling that forms traditional Islamic art. Once this difficult work was completed, she began to sweep the floors in symbolic reference to the destruction of this cultural heritage.

The links between home, cultural identity and Islamic geometry are even more vivid in the works of Hamra Abbas. The geometric patterns that the artist creates using two types of marble of different colors are reminiscent of the floor tiles used in houses as well as the marginal ornaments of miniatures.

Pouyan’s works use culture to focus on fundamental concepts such as power, tyranny and sovereignty. His inspiration comes from Persian miniatures and the artist makes reference to Sumerian, Babylonian, Persian and Indian cultures.

“Miniature 2.0: Miniature in Contemporary Art” at the Pera Museum is open to art lovers until January 17, 2021.

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