In the golden age of the Mughal Empire (1556-1658), painting was an art of the book. Favourite projects included royal histories like the Baburnama which recorded details of court life, royal portraits, exotic flora and fauna, and hunting and garden scenes.
Relegated to the level of craft under the British colonial rule, this traditional art form has continued to be taught in Pakistan’s art schools since 1945. Contemporary artists have however, added their own twist to this centuries old traditional art form and have taken the art of miniature painting to new levels by interrogating both its form and content.
Farhat Ali is one of Pakistan’s rising new contemporary artist. Beginning his career as a signboard painter, he spent 10 years painting billboards before moving on to study at the country’s most prestigious art college, the National College of Art (NCA). Combining the best of both formal and informal art-making, Ali takes familiar images from the historical genre and combines them with contemporary ones.Present day icons from comic books and fairy tales are juxtaposed with personalities from the Mughal court giving the resulting image not only an improbable twist but also highlighting the socio-cultural mix of East and West. Ali has exhibited widely in Pakistan since 2009 in group as well as solo shows.