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Aisha Khalid

Pakistani Contemporary Artist
Born 1972, Faisalabad, Pakistan
Lives and works in Lahore

Aisha Khalid is among the revivalist miniaturists in Pakistan engaging in the centuries-old tradition to narrate contemporary political, socio-economic and cultural tales. Her body of work offers a rich trajectory to include finely done miniatures to large scale installations infusing elements as diverse as textiles and video.



Post Graduate Fine Art, Rijksakademie, Amsterdam


BA Fine Art, National College of Arts, Lahore

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Miniatures as legacy, a fusion of historical style and contemporary realities

Aisha Khalid is a part of the renaissance of miniature artists in Pakistan, transposing the Persian and Mughal tradition onto modern contexts and contemporary mores. Trained in miniature painting in Lahore School of Arts, she has created a body of miniatures to narrate contemporary realities. Aisha’s works are informed on multiple layers— international and regional politics in the aftermath of 9/11, issues of gender and female oppression in her country and the stereotypical depiction of Muslim women according to the Western gaze. Her appropriation of the traditional method of painting is a way of re-energising and re-inventing heritage, whilst continuing the legacy as a distinct difference from the West.

Aisha Khalid, Birth, 2011, gouache on wasil, 6 x 4”. This marks her return to the miniature tradition.

Recreation of the repetitive processes of Islamic architectural motifs

Another historical legacy that Aisha borrows from is Islamic art and architecture, mostly with the precise geometric patterns in design and the idea of repetition in the processes. The architectural designing and motif patterning from the era of the Persians and the Mughals find its way into the works of Aisha. Her Pattern to Follow, 2009, is an intricately done piece with gouache and gold leaf on wasil paper, which is reminiscent of the floral patterning and the repetitive imitation found in Islamic architecture.

Aisha Khalid, Pattern to Follow, 2009, gouache and gold leaf on wasil paper, 32.6 x 33.4 x 2”.

Aisha's artistic diversity includes her obsession with textiles

Apart from small scale miniatures, Aisha has also created large scale installations mimicking and fusing textiles on varied mediums. Her confession for her fondness for textiles also marks an appearance in her paintings with vivid floral designs. As a specially commissioned project for the Sharjah Art Foundation in Dubai, she created Kashmiri Shawl, 2011, by inserting gold plated pins through a double layer of shawls to create exquisite patterns on one side, while the other side reveals the thorny, edgy ends of the pins. This rendition of the famed form of textile to be exported worldwide explores the ironies that the region stands for.
Her “Larger Than Life” at Whitworth in 2012 showcased an embroidered wall onto which half embroidered roses patterned the wall, with some of the designs deliberately left half finished with needles sticking through them. This tactile representation was a ploy to show the artistic processes at work.

Aisha Khalid, Kashmiri Shawl, 2011, site-specific installation, pashmina scarf and gold plated steel pins, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. Installation view, Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE.

Aisha Khalid, Kashmiri Shawl, 2011, site-specific installation, pashmina scarf and gold plated steel pins, commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation. Detail view.

Aisha Khalid, “Larger than Life”, 2013. Exhibition view, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.

Western feminism as a myth and burqa beyond the symbol of opression

Aisha’s stint at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam as a fellow debunked ideas for her how progressive the world thought about Western women. She says, “Here we get the wrong impressions from the western media and tend to regard western women as very independent, liberal and confident; but that is not so.” The representation of women in Western media, for her, follows an exploitative tangent, constantly appeasing the male gaze. On the other hand for Aisha, the Western media follows a regressive depiction of the Muslim woman with the burqa or the veil, terming it as a medieval drapery which keeps women oppressed. “Previously I was working with the burqa image in a not very positive way,” Aisha admits. Later this transforms where the veil becomes a garment not of restriction but of choice, and follows a questioning logic in both the Western and Islamic societies. Her Covered/ Uncovered series, 2002, attempts to satirise this archetypal rhetoric about the burqa and the rhetoric that Western powers use to justify their military interventions as a ruse for liberation.

Aisha Khalid, Covered/ Uncovered, 2002, mixed media on wasil paper in two parts, 10 x 7”.