ArtAsiaPacific recently published a book on Naiza Khan, one of Pakistan’s most influential contemporary artists. The book, which is the first major monograph on the artist, examines over 25 years of her work, and accompanies her first US solo exhibition at Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.
Born in Bahawalpur in 1968, Khan received training in art from the Wimbledon School of Art, London and the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at the University of Oxford. She eventually moved to Karachi in 1991, where she remains heavily involved in art. Khan is also a founding member and former coordinator of the Vasl Artist Collective and has been part of the faculty in the department of Fine Art at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.
Khan’s practice is vast and she works in various mediums including painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, video and performance.
This fully illustrated book, designed by Philip Hubert, examines Khan’s practice over two decades and captures her experience living and working in a volatile city like Karachi, which remains at the grip of political unrest and social struggle.
Although dominated by images of the artist’s work, studio and sketch book drawings, the monograph also includes essays by Salima Hashmi, Karin Zitzewitz and Nafisa Rizvi. While these writings discuss in great detail Khan’s ideas and work, they also manage to reveal how her practice has evolved within the years.
Khan’s public interventions and its subsequent result in the studio – which focuses on Karachi and its constantly changing topography, history and displacement – are thoroughly discussed in the book. Its central theme centers around Khan’s Manora Island project, which she began working on in 2007. Still recognized as a picnic spot and home to a naval base, an army cantonment and fishing villages, the island today lies in ruins. Over the years, Khan’s exploration of her personal muses at Manora Island has resulted in an extensive body of work. The essays provide an interesting connection of her Manora Project to previous works both focusing on human constraints and freedom.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Khan’s practice as an artist is the energetic research that goes behind it. In this regard, the essays and illustrations provide an excellent insight into the buildup to her work, mapping her research and concepts from the inception to the end product.
The monograph concludes with an interview of Khan conducted by artist and art historian Iftikhar Dadi. The piece elaborated on Khan’s interest in Karachi and her research on the Manora Island.
Having had the honor of being Khan’s students, attending her talks and visiting her studio a number of times, I feel this monograph pieces Khan’s interests, research and her extensive practice in a fluid and apt manner; in fact, it would be safe to say that the book captures the artist’s decades-long work rather brilliantly.