Shahzia Sikander

14. June 2014 to 31. July 2014

The new exhibition this summer at the Upper Gallery of Nikolaj Kunsthal presents the opportunity to meet the internationally known and renowned Pakistani artist Shahzia Sikander and her – literally speaking – living innovation of the Indo-Persian miniature painting.

Shahzia Sikander is known for transforming the traditional small paper format of the miniature into detailed, living, and magnificent digitally animated stories. Just like the miniature itself, Sikander’s works overflow with colour, details, and meanings. The exhibition presents her most recent video installation Parallax (2013), previously shown at the Sharjah and Istanbul Biennales, the video work The Last Post (2010), as well as a selection of works on paper.  


Hundreds of drawings come alive

In 2011, Shahzia Sikander went to the Arab emirate Sharjah to be a part of the local biennale. On her car trips around the country, she met the desert and not least the coastline at Hormuz – the historical hot spot from which one fifth of the world’s oil is shipped from the Persian Gulf. This meeting has resulted in the 15 metres long, cinema-sized video installation, Parallax.

In Parallax, hundreds of Shahzia Sikander’s miniature drawings and gouaches (paintings made with a special watercolour technique) are transformed into living animations, isolating and copying her own images, millions of them, until they become an immensely detailed and overwhelming work. The perspective changes from details resembling close-ups of soil, sand, water, and blood, to a kind of bird’s-eye view of this strategic area, only the next moment to change into something which looks like flocks of thousands of birds, then flowing black oil, then swarms of people... Put together, Parallax becomes a complex and beautiful story of power and control.  

The other major work of the exhibition, The Last Post, is a story about the powerful British East India Company. This company held sway as one of the world’s most powerful corporations from the 17th century and for another 250 years, mainly in what today is India and Pakistan, and had immense influence on global trade and politics.

The exhibition is arranged in co-operation with the Bildmuseet Umeå Universitet in Sweden where it was presented in the spring of 2014.



Shahzia Sikander was born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1969 and was educated at the National College of Arts Lahore in 1991 and at Rhode Island School of Design, USA, in 1995.

Shahzia Sikander’s practice takes as its starting point the Indo-Persian miniature painting, but she challenges and breaks with its normally very strict idiom as far as scale, symbolism, and choice of media are concerned. She employs elements of the miniature painting in animations, video works, installations, and murals.

Her works have given rise to a meteoric international career from the mid- and late 90’s, and her efforts have promoted national as well as international interest in Pakistani miniature artists.

Shahzia Sikander was the first artist from the Miniature Painting Department of the Lahore Art Academy to challenge the technical and aesthetic boundaries of this medium. She was educated under Bashir Ahmed who re-introduced the miniature painting as a major subject at the Academy, and she became the first student also to be a teacher, alongside Bashir Ahmed.

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