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Naiza Khan

Pakistani Contemporary Artist

Born 1968, Bahawalpur, Pakistan

Lives and works in Karachi, Pakistan

Naiza Khan, winner of the 2013 Prince Claus Award is an exciting new entrant into the contemporary art scene of Pakistan. Exploring concepts of failed urbanization and oppression of women, Khan's works have an abstract quality which borders on ambiguity. Her depiction of landscapes is unique in its subtle depiction of decay and ruin while exploring the hold of History in the past and present.



Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Oxford, Somerville College, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford, UK


Foundation Course, Wimbledon School of Art, London, UK

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Questions in her landscapes

Naiza's landscapes are a depiction of the decay that has passed. The concept of 'failed urbanization' speaks out from her paintings. There is an outcry for change and it leaves the viewer with the feeling of longing and sadness at the decay and at what could have been. A feeling of sympathy is roused up by her depictions. Her work with landscapes carries an implicit political statement with them with a strong manifestation of anger. They are a criticism of the political and social structure adressing the viewers coming from similar backgrounds of developing countries or decayed cities where politics is a mess. For instance, the melting figures depicted in The Streets are Rising seem to represent this very fact.

Naiza Khan, The Streets Are Rising.

Experimentation with different mediums

Over time she has experimented with acrylic, oil, latex, organza, watercolor, charcoal, leather, print, steel, brass, photography and so forth. She has not restricted herself to a single media. Her work with galvanized steel and armour again explores the female presence, whereas her work with brass is more structured and representative of decay and what could have been. Her versatility in handling different mediums provides her with an advantage of being able to approach the same theme from varying perspectives. This brings a catalytic dynamism to her works, establishing her as an artist with a powerful voice.

Naiza Khan, Two Corsets, 2005, conte, photo-silkscreen print, inkjet print on paper, 104 x 130 cm.

Naiza Khan, Spine, 2008, galvanized steel and suede leather.

Sense of Ambiguity in her works

Besides exploring boundaries, her artworks expresse their meaning through ambiguity, part of which is symbolic of decay. Her colours, though not that bright, are assembled in a loud and jumbled up manner that echoes its message across the frame to the viewers. Ambiguity as a concept is consistent in her work, from her early to recent works and across all mediums of experimentation tried by the artist. The strength in her art and its message lies in its ambiguity, on which the viewer can reflect. Her narrative depends on the viewer’s willingness to interact and ask questions. If the effort is not made from the viewer’s end then they lie indistinct and unexplained.

Naiza Khan, Hendrickje's Robe, 2006, acrylic and charcoal on paper, 180 x 150 cm.

Naiza's artistic expression involves an exploration of boundaries

Naiza’s work is of a peculiarly exploratory nature. They have a structure as well as an apparent lack of it, thereafter creating a sense of forbidden exploration. Her work evokes psychological, cultural and sensual feelings and thoughts and forces the viewer to think. They are like a confrontation of the social norms, daring to cross them in their ambiguity. In terms of boundaries, her depictions challenge them and attempt to break free of them at the same time.

Naiza Khan, The Wardrobe, charcoal, conté and acrylic on fabriano paper

Manifestation of the Female

The female presence is prevalent in her early works, which were mostly restricted to paper or canvas and thus her representations of the female body remained within the confines of these mediums. But along the years, her depiction of the body has become more fluid and is being expressed through different mediums like galvanized steel, leather and site-specific projects. They seem to challenge the presence and position of women in society. She questions gender through her work and explorations with armour and henna are symbolic of her flow and change as an artist. Her representation of the female ignites thoughts of oppression of women and is very sensual in their depiction.

Naiza Khan, Reclining Nude, 1993, oil on canvas, 121.9 x 91.4 cm.

Naiza Khan, Armour Lingerie V, 2007, galvanised steel, 82 x 40 x