Exhibition dates: 13 to 27 February
Danish Ahmed’s small, spare paintings with their refined compositions and rich colours link and rework classical traditions. Like many of his peers in Pakistan’s vibrant contemporary art scene, Ahmed combines historical layers, such as labour-intensive Mughal miniatures and Islamic architecture, to Western abstraction and contemporary issues. In particular, he contemplates religious and cultural identity and schisms between east and west.
Painted over the past two and a half years in Sydney, the works customise an Eastern conceptual framework and personal symbols of devotion to an unfamiliar capitalist environment. In this alien context painting has a dual function: reconnecting to place, language and familiar gestures and as an interface with modernity. Here, like devotion, painting is a reverie.
Temporarily in exile from a disintegrating country with proud classical traditions, Ahmed subverts metropolitan modernism to claim a unique voice. Most motifs and works appear in pairs, like an open book, representing this double action, uniting and separating. This follows the symbolic division of space in Eastern architecture where emptiness reflects divine presence.
Danish Ahmed expands this minimalist schema to symbolic or metaphoric ends. For example, the image of the inward tree against a deep blue lapis lazuli ground is a quotation (from the Holy Qur'an), Eden or point of beginning, sacred grove or garden. Other motifs, such as the book or frayed edges of a prayer mat against an orange ground, suggest the point where heaven and earth meet but also resonate with everyday activity and rhythms. In this way the artist links solitude and common humanity.
Danish Ahmed studied Arts at University of Karachi and Fine Art at Karachi School of Art. He teaches at the Textile Institute of Pakistan (since 1999) and previously at Karachi School of Art. In Sydney he taught at College of Fine Arts UNSW while undertaking a Masters in Fine Art.
More contemporary artists are in Salima Hashmi’s exhibition Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, currently at the Asia Society New York, an investigation of preconceived notions about the nation and its culture.