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Nusra Latif Qureshi

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1973, Lahore, Pakistan
Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia

Nusra Latif Qureshi belongs to the dynamic group of neo-miniaturists emerging in Pakistan, re-inventing the historical tradition in newer frames and insights to narrate contemporary political, social and cultural realities.  She uses the iconography and motifs of the historical miniature, superimposed and altered, to subvert and expose new meanings.

Education

2002

Master of Fine Arts, School of Art, Victoria College of the Arts, University of Melbourne

1995

Bachelor of Fine Arts (Miniature Painting), National College of Arts, Lahore

 

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Nusra Latif Qureshi

Miniatures provide a potent scope for political and social commentary

For Nusra, miniatures have provided the tool for political and social commentary. The tradition is temporally altered to insert a modern iconographical charge to put current issues of political and social realms under scrutiny. With the historical legacy of the Mughal miniatures being a visual treat, it also embodied a state propaganda. Nusra re-interprets this potent historical notion of statist agenda and inverts it to reflect contemporary concerns.

She employs religious signifiers in her paintings to portray the dominion of religion as a naturalised entity to dictate, alluding to the grip of religious fanaticism in her home country Pakistan. In Accomplished Mission III, 2012, she uses the gesture of the prayer call in Islam over the outlined shapes of people dressed to play polo. This overwhelming gesture on top of seemingly ordinary people heightens the domineering effect that religion strives to make.

Nusra Latif Qureshi, Accomplished Mission III, 2012, gouache and acrylic on illustration board, 2 panels, 7.6 x 22.8”.

Neo-miniaturist interventions mark her oeuvre, merging the historical and the contemporary

Nusra Latif Qureshi belongs to the generation of Pakistani artists from the Lahore School of Art who re-invented and reclaimed the Mughal miniature tradition to situate contemporary mores. As a miniaturist, she deals with extreme deliberation and craft to revive this historical art form of small scale grandeur. She engages with Mughal miniatures to re-locate the original, traditional images in newer frames of imagery, situating her works in the genre of neo-miniaturism. This new imagery would then be welded with the traditional ones to create a previously untold set of meanings.

Considerate Flying Object is a re-creation of an original Mughal miniature paínting showing the Mughal Emperor Jehangir in a position of camaraderie with his counterpart from the Persian Safavid Dynasty (even though they never met). The figures standing atop a globe is in a similar rendering with the original image but there is a careful re-telling of the iconography of the two figures from the original to give a more friendly touch between the two emperors.

Nusra Latif Qureshi, Considerate Flying Objects.

Jahangir Embracing Shah Abbas, Mughal Dynasty, c. 1618, opaque watercolour, ink, silver, and gold on paper. Photo: Freer Gallery of Art, Washington.

Re-negotiates the idea of the female representation in the historical miniature

Portraiture and figuration forms an important stratum of representation in Mughal miniatures, with portraits being made of emperors and other powerful men. There was an investment in creating naturalism with these portraitures; mimicking the glory of the living men with all complete regalia, thus restoring them to a life of posterity. In these renderings there was a visible absence of women in terms of naturalism, as the women depicted in the miniature tradition would frequently be cited from typical iconography and features.

Nusra attempts to insert figures of women and allow them to possess a visual and narrative space. Nusra’s figures of women are positioned in a wide array, in seated positions with halos reserved for them, or single portraitures made just for them. In Precious Strings of Pearls, 2006, Nusra renders the woman in full colours while the figure of the male, clearly an emperor, is just reduced to a mere silhouette, diminishing his individuality while heightening hers, tensing the patriarchal complacency.

Nusra Latif Qureshi, Precious Strings of Pearls, 2006.

The historical and the contemporary are positioned in tensed fault lines

Nusra’s deliberate use of a traditional method, which bears a masterful legacy of centuries, offers her the license to juxtapose anachronisms. This creates a dialogic intent between the past and the present and offers a critical entrapment. It forces one to engage in an introspective mode, not just with a mega-historical universe but highlight contemporary concerns.   

Nusra Latif uses Mughal portraits and other drawings from the colonial past and superimposes them with an image of her own to re-frame the conventions of portraiture in her work Did You Come Here to Find History?, 2009. Her image as a contemporary intervention forms a dialectics between the past and the present and invites the viewer to ruminate on the politics of identity, lineage and images.

Nusra Latif Qureshi, Did You Come Here To Find History? (detail), 2009, digital print on clear film, edition 3/3, 27.5 x 342.5”.

Self as a subject in the artworks explores the idea of suppression

Nusra has effectively explored the terrain of placing the self as a subject of art. She meticulously uses her own body as an imagistic device to create her visual narratives. The female forms that constantly appear in her works are a direct visual reference to her own self, making her engagement with the image more personal, and attempt to understand the ways of transmission of meanings from the subject of an artwork to the viewer of the artwork.

Like her photo superimposition in Did You Come Here To Find History, 2009, she has placed her own photograph in the Red Skills series, along with the figures of prey birds, floral patterns acting as creepers and Urdu words— all forming a binding political and religious discourse. Here the self is in a suffocated location where the impositions all around her has rendered the figure oppressed.

Nusra Latif Qureshi, Red Skills-I, 2007, digital print on paper, 15.7 x 11.8”.

Bibliography