Facing the World by Transcending Tradition─The Journey of Shahzia Sikander, and Thoughts Filled in Her Artworks
Friday, September 30, 2022 | 18:30-20:20 (JST)
Ajibi Hall, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum(External link)
KOKATSU Reiko (Art Historian)
USHIROSHOJI Masahiro (Director, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art)

Part 1 Keynote Speech

From Pakistan to the USA, and onto the world - the trajectory and her thoughts expressed through Art

Ms. Shahzia Sikander has brought new life and fascinating forms to the world of miniature painting, which follows conventions dating back to the Mughal Empire. In the first part of the session, Ms. Sikander spoke about her journey to becoming an internationally renowned artist and the thoughts behind her artwork.

To begin the session, the coordinator, Mr. Ushiroshoji Masahiro introduced a picture book that illustrates Ms. Sikander's journey from childhood to becoming an artist. Ms. Sikander then answered questions from Mr. Ushiroshoji about her path as she became an artist, her experiences in the U.S., and exploring new expressions in miniature painting.

Ms. Sikander was born and raised in Pakistan, where she grew up surrounded by a large family. She first encountered miniature painting while the country was under a military dictatorship, and enrolled at the National College of Arts in Lahore to study painting. Since then, she has been experimenting with new methods of expression, adding her own original ideas to the traditional methods. Miniature painting first originated in South Asia, but none of the original works remained in the country, as they were taken away by colonizers when the region was a colony. It was only when she went abroad that she first saw the originals and felt deeply moved. She shared her feelings and said, “I could see them overflowing with vitality and life.”

Since the late 1990's, she began studying at the Rhode Island School of Design in the U.S., where she found herself facing various issues. In particular, she felt doubtful about the fact that her work was categorized as “work by a Pakistani woman” from a biased viewpoint. This led to her considering stepping out of the existing framework of miniature paintings. She pursued diverse forms of expression, such as using transparent paper, and turning works on paper into sculptures. Through her miniature paintings, Ms. Sikander confronts the history of colonialism and engages with social preconceptions and stereotypes while presenting “borderless” works that transcend common perceptions.
As a new technique, she incorporated digital animation into miniature paintings to express changes in time and space, and video works were projected in the exhibition space to introduce works in which motifs were rapidly growing and shrinking, changing their forms. The works created a world beyond the scope of the human imagination. The artist's passion was imbued in this imaginative work, in which people and nature, heaven and earth were melting together.

Part 2 Discussion

How art responds to an unstable world with diverse values

Interlocutor: KOKATSU Reiko(Art Historian)
Coordinator: USHIROSHOJI Masahiro(Director, Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art)

In the second part of the session, Ms. Kokatsu Reiko, an art historian who has been discovering and reevaluating female artists for many years, joined the group to discuss contemporary art. After talking about an exhibition of Asian female painters that she organized, Ms. Kokatsu introduced Ms. Ikemura Reiko and Ms. Shiota Chiharu, two Japanese female artists based outside of Japan in Germany. Ms. Kokatsu described how these artists started their work overseas, the influence of culture of their home country, their current activities, and their artwork.

In the second half of the discussion, Ms. Sikander was asked the question, "What was the impact of locating yourself abroad?” She expressed her belief that the idea of one's base is not a choice between one's homeland and a foreign country, but rather that bases are cyclical. "Wherever I am, my 'home' is to paint. I would like to call myself a citizen of the world," she said.

She also emphasized the importance of collaboration and described how she has developed her work in cooperation with people from various countries. She told that her work "Parallax", which was on display at the Artist Cafe in Fukuoka City, was inspired by nature, history, and industry, among many other things. This work captivated the audience with its dynamic art that embraces a grand sense of time and diverse values. In her closing words, she stated her aspirations with a smile, "As a leading Pakistani artist, I would like to expand miniature paintings from the archives to the world.”

*The exhibition at the Artists' Cafe has ended.