Shahzia Sikander

WS- Shahzia Sikander, "The Illustrated Page Series #?" 2005-06
Shahzia Sikander, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum. “The Illustrated Page Series #3,” 2005–2006. Gouache hand painting, gold leaf and silk-screened pigment on Waterford Saunders hot press 410 gram paper. 65.75 x 81.3125 x 4.0625 inches (framed). Edition 3/3.

Layers of figurative and abstract imagery coat the surfaces of Shahzia Sikander’s work whether on paper, in paintings, or in digital animation. Embedded in each layer are open-ended narratives that reveal multifaceted and constantly morphing relationships. Sikander appropriates imagery from universal modern motifs and from her own visual vocabulary, sometimes further abstracting symbols from her previous works. Raised as a Muslim in Lahore, Pakistan, she explores the thresholds of Hindu and Muslim culture, often combining tropes and iconography from both. By adding modern and non-traditional elements to the manuscript artform, Sikander forces the viewer to reconcile conflicting sensibilities hidden within beautifully rendered landscapes.

Predefined icons become open-ended narratives as Sikander abstracts and removes context from the imagery in her work. Cross-cultural images—such as sports equipment, animals, landscape and pattern—incongruously co-exist alongside traditional Southeast Asian motifs organized in swirling and tumbling compositions. Sikander presents identity as “fluid and unfixed”; oppositions such as west/east, white/black, white/brown, modern/ traditional, presence/ absence, beginning/end, and conscious/unconscious are questioned in an ongoing dialog with tradition. Sikander’s visual vocabulary reintroduces disparate deep-rooted allegories and illustrates them as an abstracted, shared, indeterminate and simultaneously dissolving and evolving story.

Her residency at FWM was an exploration of scale, as well as, she remarked, “a successful marriage of two materials” that have previously been independent in her work. Inspired by traditional manuscript form, The Illustrated Page Series #1 (2005-6) is the first of three unique works on paper in this series made in collaboration with FWM. By utilizing the process of screen-printing in conjunction with gouache hand painting, Sikander magnified the imagery and vocabulary of the work for which she is well known.

Artist Bio

Born in Lahore, Pakistan, 1969. Lives in New York, NY. 

Shahzia Sikander is known internationally for her contemporary exploration of the traditional Indo-Persian medium of manuscript painting, often called “neo-miniaturist.” Sikander’s interdisciplinary practice probes colonial histories, notions of tradition and identity, and questions assumptions of physical and theoretical boundaries. Earning her BFA from The National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan in 1991, Sikander moved to the United States where she received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1995. She has exhibited globally, including solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Art Institute, CA; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain; the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, NY; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; and the Miami Art Museum, FL. Her work can be found in numerous public and private collections, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Sikander has been the recipient of several awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Karachi Biennale Shahneela and Farhan Faruqui Popular Choice Art Prize, the Asia Society Award for Significant Contribution to Contemporary Art, Art Prize in Time-Based Art, and the Inaugural Medal of Art. From 2021–2022, a traveling exhibition, Shahzia Sikander: Extraordinary Realities, was presented at The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX.