Created for pleasure, spiritual reflection, and aesthetic contemplation, gardens have held many meanings. Beyond their beauty, they represent the human impulse to organize, contain, and collect the natural world. Without cultivation a garden would cease to exist. Similarly, without cultivation of the mind and the soul, it is believed a society cannot progress. “To dwell is to garden,” wrote the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, reminding us of the central role of culture as part of our existence. The Garden of Ideas brings together the work of six internationally acclaimed Pakistani artists whose creations play with, question, and interrogate the timeless theme of the garden. Several pieces have been made in direct response to works in the Aga Khan Museum’s collection and to the Museum’s own reinterpretation of an Islamic garden (the chahar bagh) as designed by Vladimir Djurovic.
Sharmini Pereira, guest curator of this exhibition, has garnered international attention as a curator, publisher, and conference speaker. Based in Sri Lanka and New York, she has written extensively on contemporary Asian art and is the director and founder of Raking Leaves, a non-profit independent publishing organization and the Sri Lanka Archive of Contemporary Art, Architecture, and Design in Sri Lanka. In 2011 she was the international guest curator of the Abraaj Capital Art Prize, which recognizes artists from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, and in 2006 she served as co-curator of the inaugural Singapore Biennale.
Bani Abidi (b. 1971, Karachi) received her BFA degree from the National College of Arts, Lahore, in 1994 and an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. Over the past decade, Abidi has worked primarily in digital art and has become Pakistan’s leading figure in contemporary video. Abidi held her first solo international exhibition in 2011 at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art. She has exhibited in several international group exhibitions, including the Berlin Biennale (2014); dOCUMENTA 13 (2012); Where Three Dreams Cross — 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2011); the Singapore Biennale (2006); and the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2005). Her work is included in several permanent collections, including those of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The British Museum, London; and the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas. Abidi lives and works in Berlin and Karachi.
Nurjahan Akhlaq (b. 1979, Lahore) moved to Canada via Turkey from Pakistan in 1993 and studied filmmaking at Concordia University, Montreal, before earning her MFA at Goldsmiths College, London, in 2009. Akhlaq is part of a younger generation of filmmakers that has also been involved in exploring the conceptual possibilities of collage and print. Her videos have been screened in international exhibitions and festivals, including Monitor Reruns, A Space Gallery, Toronto, in 2014; the Mumbai International Film Festival, India; the Kassel Documentary and Video Festival, Germany; the EBS International Documentary Festival, Seoul, Korea; and the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) in 2005. Akhlaq’s film Death in the Garden of Paradise (2004) was an Official Selection at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto in 2005. She lives and works in Lahore and Toronto.
David Chalmers Alesworth (b. 1957, Wimbledon, United Kingdom) gained his BA Honours in sculpture from Wimbledon School of Art in 1980. In 1987 he relocated to Pakistan and gained his MFA in New Media from Transart Institute Berlin/NYC in 2010. In the mid to late 1990s, he began working with Pakistani truck artists and other urban craftspeople to produce a series of public installations conceived in collaboration with the Pakistani artist Durriya Kazi. Alesworth’s works and teachings influenced many Pakistani artists known as the Karachi Pop generation, who focused their attention on Pakistan’s street bazaars, the aesthetics of cinema hoardings, truck art, and the public realm. His art has been exhibited in exhibitions that include the Berlin Biennale (2014); Lines of Control, British Council, London (2011); Gardens of Babel, Rhotas-2 Gallery, Lahore (2011); and Half-Life, NCA Gallery, Lahore (2009). His work is also found in collections at the Pakistan National Collection, Islamabad; the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Japan; and the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane. Alesworth lives and works in Lahore.
Aisha Khalid (b. 1972, Faisalabad) was trained in miniature painting and graduated from the National College of Arts in 1993. Khalid was schooled in classical miniature painting and has become a leading figure in developing the contemporary miniature. She is one of the few artists to experiment with large-scale painting and abstraction and has also worked with video and textiles. Khalid is among a handful of Pakistani artists who have had solo shows of their work, including Larger Than Life, Whitworth Art Gallery, United Kingdom (2012); Larger Than Life, Corvi-Mora, London (2012); Pattern to Follow, Chawkandi Art, Karachi (2010); and Conversations, Pump House Gallery, London (2008). She has had group exhibitions at the Sharjah Biennale (2013); the Moscow Biennale (2013); the Venice Biennale (2009); the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. In 2011 Khalid was awarded the Jameel Prize’s People’s Choice Award, and in 2012 she was a winner of the Alice Award (Artist Book Category). Her work is included in several permanent collections, including the Sharjah Art Museum (Sharjah), the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Japan), and the World Bank (Washington, D.C.). She lives and works in Lahore.
Atif Khan (b. 1972, Sahiwal) graduated with distinction in fine art from the National College of Arts, Lahore, in 1997. He was awarded the UNESCO-ASHBURG Bursary in 1998 and completed a residency at Darat-al-Funun in Amman, Jordan. In 2007 he received the Commonwealth Arts and Crafts Award. He was also appointed artist-in-residence at the Swansea Print Workshop in Wales in 2005–06; the London Print Studio, United Kingdom; and the Glasgow Print Studio, Scotland, in 2008. Khan has participated in workshops in India, Bangladesh, and Jordan and has participated in exhibitions that include More Interpolation, Rohtas-2, Lahore (2009); Anthropology, Chawkandi Art, Karachi (2011); Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (2012); and Landscape of the Heart, Ceri Richards Gallery, United Kingdom (2013). He lives and works in Lahore.
Imran Qureshi (b. 1972, Hyderabad) completed his BFA at the National College of Arts in 1993. He is one of Pakistan’s leading figures in developing the contemporary miniature painting. In 2013 he was named Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year and in the same year was invited to create the prestigious roof garden commission at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He has held numerous international solo shows, including Imran Qureshi: The God of Small Things, Eli and Edyth Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing (2014); Midnight Garden, Gandhara Art, Pao Galleries, Hong Kong (2014); and And They Still Seek the Traces of Blood, Zahoor Al Akhlaq Gallery, National College of Arts, Lahore (2010). Group exhibitions include Don’t You Know Who I Am? at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp (2014); The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Venice Biennale, Venice (2013), the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012); the Sharjah Biennial (2011); Beyond the Page: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, California (2011); East-West Divan: Contemporary Art from Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, La Scuola Grande della Misericordia, Venice (2011); Hanging Fire, Asia Society, New York (2009); and the Singapore Biennale (2006). Qureshi lives and works in Lahore.
Imran Qureshi, Rise and Fall (2014) (Detail), gouache on wasli (paper), 57.6 x 49.3 cm. Collection Claire Hsu and Benjamin Vuchot, Hong Kong.