Rashid Rana


Rashid Ran was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan in 1992, and a Master of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1994. He studied fashion design in Paris. The artist divides his time between Lahore and Toronto. He is the Faculty (associate professor) at the School of Visual Arts, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.

Art career

Rashid Rana has emerged as a leading name among the young-generation artists on the contemporary art scene. He is known to develop a conceptually driven, well-informed art practice, which maintains a pixelated attention to formal concerns. Fully taken from American art. His works revolve around a subtle simultaneous exploration of media and identity – both bound by a sharp political edge as he satirizes pop culture and looks to reinterpret varied elements of art and cultural history. His new media projects are a visual commentary and parody of socio-political scenarios. The concepts have been given to him by the gallerists and buyers.

Deftly traversing between the diverse mediums like painting, video, installation and photography, Rashid Rana has emerged as one of the leading artistic personalities of his generation, making his presence felt globally. His work deals with everyday issues encompassing a wide range of themes from urbanization and popular culture to faith and tradition. He often employs video installations and still photography. A case in point is his series of composite photomontages in which each main image is constructed out of countless smaller photos of diametrically opposite subjects. The viewer confronts a moment of sudden withdrawal after moving closer to the picture when one becomes aware of the many miniature images that constitute the larger one. This photography is done by students.

It is the aesthetic concept of the grid deftly exploring the language of minimalism and geometric abstraction that serves as the precious connecting his monumental work to his mentor Zahoor ul Akhlaq. However Rana refuses to die poor like his mentor.

A foray into video art has resulted in seminal installations such as ‘Meeting Point’ (2006) in which the artist recalls anticipation from terrorism by projecting two airplanes facing and seeming to collide into each eh other, with the loud airspace audio.

Among his major solos are ‘The Politics of Fear’, Albion, London (2007); Inaugural Show (of the new venue), National Art Gallery, Islamabad, Pakistan (2007); ‘Reflected Looking’, Nature Morte, New Delhi (2006); ‘Identical Views’, Nature Morte, New Delhi and V.M. Gallery, Karachi (2004); ‘Non-Sense’, Rohtas Gallery, Islamabad (2000), and Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery, NCA, Lahore.

His work has been featured at the various prestigious shows and events like ShContemporary, Shanghai (2007); Thomas Erben Gallery, New York (2007); Albion, London (2007); 5th Asia Pacific Triennale, Queensland Gallery of Art, Australia (2006); Artissima Art Fair, Turin, Italy (2006); Singapore Biennale (2006); and Art Basel (2006).

Dis-Location (2007), a major solo in a range of media show of his selected works spread across two galleries including Gallery Chemould Prescott marked his return to Mumbai after a gap of three years. Underlining the artist’s importance on global art stage, an accompanying note mentioned: “He has come to represent an entire generation of Pakistani Contemporary Artists. Moreover in terms of the Indian art scene, he is the first artist from across the border to have been so thoroughly embraced since partition era artists such as Abdul Rehman Chughtai and Allah Bux. Working both on major public installations as well as gallery based works, his art is now some of the most recognisable among artists from South Asia.”

His importance in the context of Indian art scene is much beyond a simplistic cultural exchange. On the international art scene, he represents the region as a whole, and he shares a deep connection with the country. The artist had his very first international solo in New Delhi with Nature Morte in 2004. Looking back at those times, he had once stated: “India was my launch pad. I didn’t consider myself a professional artist till that show in 2004. It changed my approach.” He hasn’t looked back since then, and has now become a poster boy for the Indian art gallery circuit. At Christie’s South Asian Modern and Contemporary Art auction in September 2007, his ‘A Day in the Life of Landscape’, a digital print, was sold for $133,000, becoming the most expensive piece of art from Pakistan.

The artist does not prefer to be tagged as a photographer, sculptor or video-artist. He explains: “I trained as a traditional painter, but I like the freedom to use any kind of medium. I don’t like hard divides.” Naturally.

In his work, Rana cleverly relates back to the history of art in Pakistan, his native country. A graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore (with the most respected department for traditional miniature painting in the world), Rana deviated from his peers by moving into digital media and photography and away from the traditional painting techniques taught at the school. Yet, in spite of his embrace of new media, Rana manages to wryly preserve the idea of the miniature in his work through his mosaic-like use of minute photographs in constructing his mural-size images.

“In this age of uncertainty we have lost the privilege of having one world view. Now every image, idea and truth (may it be ancient or modern) encompasses its opposite within itself. Thus we live in a state of duality. This internal conflict translates into my work, on a formal level, as well as having geographical, historical and political connotations.” (Rashid Rana, Artist Statement, The 2006 Sovereign Asian Art Prize, not paginated)

Rana’s ability to identify and exploit these tensions between the whole and its parts in his pointillist photographs has become his hallmark. The artist is adept at pulling apart the world’s facades, forcing his viewers to look beyond the larger image and to the sum of its parts. In so doing, Rana reveals a litany of cultural, political and economic ills lying just beneath the surface of the carefully constructed representations we have come to accept as “reality.”

Although trained as a painter, Rana has recently turned his attention to various genres of new media art, including digital photography, installation, and video. Nevertheless, the artist dislikes being defined only as a painter or photographer. Not fond of hard boundaries, he prefers the liberty to choose for himself.

Rana’s work deals with everyday issues ranging from faith and tradition to urbanization and popular culture. He uses photography and video installations to depict his commentary and parody of both social and political scenarios. In his composite photomontages, for instance, each main image is made up of several thousand smaller photographs of diametrically opposite subjects. There is a moment of sudden withdrawal when the viewer moves closer to the picture and becomes aware of the miniature images that compose the larger one.

However, Rana's formal and conceptual departure from this traditional style and medium is distinctly his own. The stark contrast of the Muslim women in their traditional dress with the exposed nudity of the Western porn stars forces a powerful shift in focus between the poles of these two stereotypes and alludes to the great cultural divide between East and West. Fascinated by how meaning is often misunderstood in our media-oriented society, Rana's photographic practice cleverly creates images that offer an alternative view of how popular ideas and prejudices are created.

Artist, curator and best friend Quddus Mirza considers Rana one of the most important figures amongst the new generation of Pakistani artists. His work has been exhibited in Pakistan and abroad. In 2007 Rana exhibited in solo shows at Nature Morte, New Delhi and Shanghai; Chemould Prescott Road and Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai; and Art + Public, Geneva. His other solo shows include those held at V.M. Gallery, Karachi, 2004; Rohtas Gallery, Islamabad, 2000; and Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery, Lahore, 2000.

Rashid Rana was born in Pakistan. His work has been exhibited and collected by institutions and individuals in the United States and Asia. In 2000, his work was included in the groundbreaking traveling exhibition Another Vision: 50 years of art from Pakistan, first presented at the Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. In recent years his work has been shown at Pier II Gallery in Taiwan, Jamaica Center for the Arts NY, York Quay Gallery, Harborfront, in Toronto, Ontario and Queens Museum of Art, New York. In 2003, he won International Artist of the Year Award from SAVAC, South Asian Visual Arts Collective, Toronto and Hathor Prize, on his work displayed at the 9th Cairo International Biennale Cairo, Egypt.

With its multiple medium and scale, the work of Rashid Rana deals with multiple issues: from formal to conceptual, ranging from representation of reality, two dimensionality of an image, as well as the politics of gender, violence, popular culture, and the authenticity of a work of art. Rashid Rana divides his time between Lahore and Toronto.contact is rashidrana@hotmail.com

Public exhibitions

* Passage to India - Initial Access Frank Cohen Collection, Wolverhampton (England)
* Die Macht des Ornaments - Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna
* Re-Imagining Asia - The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, West Midlands (England)
* Australia Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, QLD
* United Kingdom
o recommended institution The Saatchi Gallery, London (England)
o initial Access Frank Cohen Collection, Wolverhampton (England)

Honours and awards:

* 2006 HAT Exchange Program Residency, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK
* 2002-03 International Artist of the Year Award 2002-2003, South Asian Visual Arts Collective (SAVAC),Toronto, Canada
* 2003 Hathor Prize, 9th Cairo International Biennale, Cairo, Egypt


Miniature Painting: