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Rashid Rana

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1968, Lahore, Pakistan
Lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan

Rashid Rana is one of the leading contemporary Pakistani artists, in the international scene. With his background in miniature painting technique, he juxtaposes photography and digital design in his works to bring out the inherent contradictions among ideologies, and perceptions.



Master of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, USA


Bachelor of Fine Arts, National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan


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Rana's work engage extensively with paradoxes and dualities

He plays with paradoxes not only as a concept but also as a motif, thus presenting a very complex structure to its viewers. He uses the position of the smaller picture to emphasise the bigger picture.  The effect is a composite structural web of varied representations and the strict divisions between the two kinds of perspectives. In Untitled, 2010-11, Rashid uses stainless steel to create a box like structure. On looking closer one would see square boards of stainless steel aligned together to form the larger structure. These smaller square boards are printed with UV with images of local architecture of his own city, Lahore. Because of the sheen of the stainless steel it looks almost like it is reflecting the image of the city.

Rashid Rana, Untitled, 2010-11, stainless steel + UV print on aluminium, 49 x 49 x 49”.

Rashid Rana, Untitled (detail), 2010-11, stainless steel + UV print on aluminium, 49 x 49 x 49”.

He seeks to establish a wider audience, even outside of the art circle

Rana’s installation style draws from a range of symbols and objects in popular imagination. These symbols are derived from advertisements, archival material, news items, hoardings etc. Some of his works, which refer directly to issues of his own country, help to reach out to audiences outside of the art circle, leading to a more local and varied reading of his work. This attempt of reconfiguring with another set of audience begins to loosen the structure of art criticism and viewership that previously based itself only on the niche market.  Re-Ornamented I, 2004, is an image of doorways of a Mughal building. On closer inspection, the smaller pixelated boxes are pictures of texts from hoardings and advertisements, in Pakistan, with both Urdu and English scripts. This textual use is also sharp witted as the Urdu texts are mostly English words appearing on the advertisements. The use of a relatively popular material, as he mentions, draws in audiences from non-art backgrounds as well, who understand the wit of local advertisements and its use in his larger body of work.

Rashid Rana, Re-Ornamented I, 2004, c-print + Diasec, 30 x 36”.

Rashid Rana, Re-Ornamented I (detail), 2004, c-print + Diasec, 30 x 36”.

Negotiating cultural identity as Pakistani, or simply an artist

His works are largely sourced from his immediate surroundings. As a resident of Lahore, they corroborate with events, institutions, ideas and perceptions that are local in nature. He positions certain dialogues through his pieces that mark his cultural identity, deeply affecting several of his perspectives that evoke these works.

In his piece Desperately Seeking Paradise II, 2009-11, he juxtaposes smaller images of semi-urban houses, local roads and sites to create a larger installation of high rise buildings. He attempts to explore the relationship of actual urban development in his own city to the aspired notion of complete urban makeover, borrowed from a western notion of development.

Rashid Rana, Desperately Seeking Paradise II, 2009-11, c-prints and stainless steel.

Rashid's work provides a dialogue between the perceived polarised sites of culture-East and West

Often denying demarcation of his own cultural identity, Rana examines the on-going interactions between ‘east and the west’ in the context of representation. His work seeks a critical resonance, and so does his identity as an artist.

In Veil I, II and III, 2004, he has clubbed several small pornographic images, into the larger whole image of a veil. He attempts to pose two notions of understanding of symbolic representation of women from an eastern as well as western perspective, where both notions are absolute when viewed from the opposite extreme.

Rashid Rana, Veil I, II and III, 2004, 3 c-prints + Diasec, 20.07 x 20.07” each.

His works speak volumes of his background in painting, which he meshes with fine techniques in photography

His works are stylised through multi-media usages. Although he is trained in painting, he uses photographs to create an effect of pixilation or collage that form a sculptural installation.He believes in his vying interest in the representation within 2 dimensional and uses this aspect to juxtapose pictures that eventually stand as massive sculptural installations which are three-dimensional figures.This process is also symbolic of digital manipulation that is used equally by institutions of governance and media in this highly digitised age. What Lies Between Flesh and Blood–1, 2009, are depicted using multi-media techniques. His fascination with digitisation emphasises the political gestures inherent in his technique and conceptual framework.

Rashid Rana, What Lies Between Flesh and Blood–1, 2009, c-print.

Rashid Rana, What Lies Between Flesh and Blood–1 (detail), 2009, c-print