Within the scope of traditional commissioned miniatures, much of the paintings shared a poignant dialogue or narration with the viewers. The eclipse of storytelling within contemporary miniature could be due to a variety of reasons yet TalhaRathore’s recent collection intertwines a multitude of personal stories alongside reflections of the changes in her surrounding environment.
Exhibited at the Chawkandi Gallery in Karachi, ‘Celebrating Life’ creates a simple yet multi-faceted visual dialogue with the viewers. Moreover the titles chosen by TalhaRathore for her paintings convey a sense of home, spirituality and life lessons; the artist claims herself that she particular uses ‘lyrical and passionate tittles’ such ‘Eternity In a Moment’, ‘Song of Life’, ‘I Still Remember’ to infuse the work with a sense of personality. Visually, in comparison with her previous miniatures, the paintings have taken a more centralized form, with more focus on singular symbols like the trees. The presence of trees evoke a rejuvenation-al and resilient harmony within the series, their fresh lime green hues and bright cadmium tones suggest positivity. There are beautiful intricate foliage details within the trees, some miniscule leaves hint passive light pinks, while others glow in fervent greens. These details can be synchronized with the artist’s claim for finding the small pleasures in life and appreciating them to the fullest. The linearity present in calm shapes and threads running throughout the compositions recall the preciseness required from miniature, yet this contrasts with wholesome primary colours and sensitive visuals.
However TalhaRathore still carries forward with the exploration of amoebae, atoms and maps. She seems to confide in the unicellular and organic nature of science; used as symbols and metaphors for characters and progressions in her journey, the visual vocabulary is more fluid and entrancing rather than stoic and factual (which is usually what one associates with scientific diagrams). The repeated use ofcircles in ‘The Harmony of All That is’, ‘Tide of Hope’ and the ‘Life Forms’ series echo a sense of comfort and security. At the same time, ‘Celebrating Life’ ensues a theme of translucency and lucidity throughout the work as figures and multimedia layer over each other allowing different elements to remain separate entities within one piece. The use of maps has connotations of the artist’s journey, long distances and her diaspora situation, it could however contrastingly give the feeling of familiarity and guidance. This could tie into the collections’ attempt to recreate a safe haven of memories, positivity and longevity.
While some pieces with the collection of ‘Celebrating Life’ indulge with bright citrus colours, TalhaRathoredemures the mood of the series with the ochre maps and the rusty trees which are reminiscent of traditional Mughal miniature landscape. The artist emphasizes that no matter the use of contemporary forms and multimedia, the miniature painting style is imbued in the wasli. A stylized figure with the ever familiar arched eyebrow geared into jeans and a t-shirt, stands through the background of maps. However, she interacts with the map, pullingon a road line that tugs into a thread; this illustrates a dialogue within the elements in the paintings. The narratives are not psychologized or overwhelming detailed/rendered, the wholesome compositions recite the ‘sukoon’ vibe which the artist seeks to project in this exhibition. Continuing upon the mood of stability and reassurance, TalhaRathore recalls her childhood memories during the rainy monsoon when she would make paper boats and hope to see them float in water for ages. The impracticality yet serene innocence in this act is a symbol of the title ‘Celebrating Life’as the artist finds the paper boat a metaphor of the joys and endless possibilities on earth. Meanwhile a tight thread from the paper boat wraps around the trees and is held in position glows luminescently in white; a reoccurring image in most of the paintings, the boat seems to stand the test of time from the artist’s childhood.
The series of miniatures encompasses traditional technique with liberties taken to envision fresh compositions. While the collection suggests a personal insight into the artist’s life and her perspective on change and memories, the paintings are open to the viewer’s own interpretation. In spite of the linear geography within the paintings which make use of maps, there is an omniscient simplicity and dedication of the paintings which makes it easy for viewers to derive meaning from them.