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COURTESY THE ARTIST, PILAR CORRIAS GALLERY, LONDON AND SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO., NEW YORK

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A atramentous atramentous rectangle glistens and undulates on the awning of Shahzia Sikander’s laptop as the artisan shows a company to her New York flat a access from her action in progress.

Gradually, the acreage seems to atomize into a close accession of aberrant atramentous marks that vanish one by one. Admirers accustomed with Sikander’s assignment may admit that these acutely abstruse atramentous shapes are in actuality absolute renderings of the august crew of the Gopi women—worshippers of the Hindu god Krishna, whom Sikander generally depicted in her miniature paintings from the 1990s. The hairdos accept reappeared, disembodied, in abounding of the animations that set her repertoire of corrective adumbration in motion, including SpiNN (2003), in which the beard rises from the women’s dematerialization bodies and takes flight in a alarming army that invades an administrative Mughal court.

“I begin the beard had this admirable contour that, if you angry it around, could attending like bats or birds—that was a actual agitative moment in action for me,” says Sikander. She acclimated this contour to actualize the floating, adipose arena in the all-embracing bump she was advancing for the Sharjah Biennial in the United Arab Emirates (on actualization through May 13).

“I’m still action to the aforementioned angel but aggravating to acquisition addition way to transform it. I’m not aggravating to adumbrate area they appear from,” she says of the beard shapes, “but they charge not be associated with their source. I’m captivated conceptually in the ambit amid the adaptation and the original.”

All of Sikander’s works, from her baby assets to her room-scale painting installations to her behemothic activated videos, axis from her absorption of acceptable Indian and Persian miniature painting in her built-in Pakistan in the backward 1980s. “It was a actual absolute choice—of analytical a style, school, genre, and developing a relationship, a language, a chat with it,” says Sikander, who was admiring to the alluring adorableness of the august gemlike miniatures and captivated by the insularity and appearing amnesty to adaptation of the forms.

Since affective to the United States in 1992, Sikander, 44, has been exploring means to amplitude and cull afar the cant of miniature painting in altered media and at altered scales, creating a amalgam adumbration that blurs such polarities as Hindu and Muslim, acceptable and contemporary, East and West, representation and abstraction. Fundamental to the assignment is the alteration with which Sikander accouterment acumen and challenges our means of seeing.

In the 2004 action Pursuit Curve, for instance, a ample flowerlike anatomy starts to beat and breach apart, its aerial brownish genitalia evoking insects or feathers. Gradually the shapes achieve as turbans on a arrangement of barbate men. “It’s an angel which is already loaded,” says Sikander of the turbans. “It’s masculine. It’s got chase and religion. Aback it’s aerial around, it’s like collywobbles and fragile, and again it fits on and all you see is turban. I like that there are assorted reads and facets to a situation, and that the break can be that stark.”

“Shahzia mixes history, claimed animosity and experiences, and actual abreast art making—firing on all cylinders at the aforementioned time—in her masterfully crafted works,” says Ian Berry, administrator of the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery in Saratoga Springs, New York, who in 2004 organized a ample analysis of her assignment there that catholic to the Aldrich Abreast Art Museum in Connecticut. “The artwork can acknowledge to people’s desires to anticipate about backroom and biography, not aloof of Shahzia’s but of their own. And again added bodies can appear to it and acknowledge absolutely to line, form, color, movement, and perspective, and the artistic things Shahzia brings to that.”

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The Tang is one of abounding museums to host abandoned exhibitions, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in 1999. Sikander was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2006. Today, she is represented by Sikkema Jenkins & Co. in New York, area her works advertise for up to $125,000.

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COURTESY THE ARTIST, PILAR CORRIAS GALLERY, LONDON AND SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO., NEW YORK

Sikander grew up in Lahore, in a abode abutting those of her grandfathering and aunts and uncles. “I accept a actual admiring and accomplished ancestors with able women—writers, academics, human-rights activists,” she says. She consistently drew as a adolescent and appropriately did all the diagrams for her cousins’ science homework. (The nuns at her Catholic academy kept some of her aflame notebooks.) Her parents encouraged her to administer to the National College of Arts.

There, in 1988, Sikander abounding a address on miniature paintings accustomed by a visiting babysitter from the Victoria and Albert Museum, an acquaintance she describes as action changing. Accustomed abandoned with the blatant creations awash to tourists, she was abashed by the “immense ambit and beheld connections” of the images apparent by the lecturer. “I acquainted potential,” she says.

Her abstraction was to analyze claimed adumbration aural the contemporary guise of miniature painting, at a time aback adolescent bodies in Pakistan, beneath Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s aggressive regime, had to behave actual carefully in public. She fabricated the accommodation to above in miniature painting, alive with abandoned one added apprentice beneath the austere alignment of the adept teacher.

“It was a big affair to say, ‘I’m action to embrace article that’s already saddled with address and ritual and a affectionate of artful and a assertive language,’” says Sikander, who had to absorb an absolute year alive aloof in ink afore she was accustomed to use color.

“I submitted myself to that,” she says. For four years she formed 18-hour days, about consistently alone, to adept the art of acceptable miniature painting, acquirements how to administer layers of acrylic to anatomy up beaming surfaces. Her final allotment was The Annal (1991–92), about a bottom aerial and added than bristles anxiety long, in which she mapped out the apartment in her ancestors home, application the brand conventions of stacking flattened-out spaces, and adorning the architectonics and the borders of the allotment with assiduous arrangement and detail. “You had to comedy by those rules,” Sikander says.

A alternating amount in the annal is a adolescent woman with continued atramentous hair, dressed in white, consistently corrective from abaft so that her face is not visible. She passes about like an bogeyman through apartment abounding with activity. At the end, she is apparent at an board painting herself. “She is an observer, who is not necessarily adequate in that space,” says Sikander. “I larboard anon after.”

In 1992, afterwards graduating, Sikander was arrive to install her paintings for one day at the Pakistan Admiral in Washington, D.C. She flew on a standby ticket, accustomed her miniature paintings in her suitcase, and absitively to stay. Paintings in tow, she toured alum schools all over the country, and in 1993, she enrolled at the Rhode Island Academy of Design in Providence.

At RISD, Sikander explored a new affectionate of abandon and description in her work. “I acquainted the assignment should be added about drawing,” she says. She experimented with quick gestures in ink on tissue cardboard and followed the suggestions that arose from the marks. Out of that action she developed a cant of images, including a contour of a changeable anatomy after arch or arms, with tendrils abounding from her legs.

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“It was about a anatomy afloat and uprooted,” says Sikander, who acquainted a alikeness with Ana Mendieta’s bodyworks. Her signature drifting contour has reappeared in abounding accomplished works, sometimes like a bogeyman feminizing the arch of a Mughal courtier, sometimes abutting with the multi-armed Hindu goddess brandishing an arrangement of weapons and cutting a veil, like a cross-cultural changeable superhero.

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COURTESY THE ARTIST, PILAR CORRIAS GALLERY, LONDON AND SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO., NEW YORK

After admission from RISD in 1995, Sikander spent two years in the Core Address Affairs at the Glassell Academy of Art in Houston. There she began to comedy with abolitionist accouterment of scale. “It was breaking out of the brightness about my action and testing the activity of a form,” she says of accretion an angel from ten inches to ten feet, and “seeing whether it assets added drive or maybe becomes added confrontational.”

Sikander’s blemish came in 1997, aback she confused to New York and her paintings were apparent at the Cartoon Center and in the Whitney Biennial. “It was a absolutely absorbing time in the U.S. for me, afore September 11, aback things were attractive apparent more,” she says.

During the abutting few years she accustomed a flurry of invitations to do site-specific assignment about the country. At the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, she formed alongside Barry McGee and Margaret Kilgallen on her own huge brief mural, which captivated some of those artists’ street-art practices. At assorted places, including the Abreast Art Museum Saint Louis in 1998 and the Cleveland Center for Abreast Art in 2001, she confused her bank installations into three ambit by blind layers of clear-cut tissue cardboard bizarre with images, sometimes several anxiety deep, in advanced of the mural, appropriately blind or abashing its actualization as admirers confused through the space.

“I abhorrence the word, but there was a prevailing ‘multiculturalism’ action on in the 1990s,” she says. “That timing was alone admirable because there was such a focus on exploring identity.” That focus helped accompany absorption to her paintings aboriginal on, but it eventually became a limitation, decidedly in the post–September 11 climate, aback her assignment was apparent primarily through the lens of her character as a Pakistani and a Muslim woman.

COURTESY THE ARTIST, PILAR CORRIAS GALLERY, LONDON AND SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO., NEW YORK

“I strive for the open-ended,” Sikander says. She has an astute compassionate of the circuitous accord amid her citizenry and her adopted country, area she has acclimatized with her husband, who is a chemist, and their adolescent son. While Sikander’s assignment isn’t candidly political, the alternation and alteration of her imagery, which generally incorporates assorted kinds of ammunition and aggressive music, in some way reflects the cultural tensions and misrepresentations amid East and West, as able-bodied as the abeyant for transformation.

Sikander fabricated her aboriginal animation, a accustomed addendum of her absorption in layering, during a 2001 address at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas. She was alive on a miniature painting and absitively to browse in Photoshop anniversary change she fabricated to certificate the alteration of the work. She afraid the painting adverse its angled activated version, which would altogether mirror the painting for a cursory second, in an accession alleged Intimacy.

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“The foundation of my animations and all my assignment is drawing,” says Sikander, who continues to accomplish her projections from scans of fatigued imagery. “The computer is autumn and acceptance me to move the layers about with amazing abandon and flexibility. The agenda amplitude absolutely lets me advance the movement.”

These days, she is bent up in the possibilities of bump as an immersive amphitheater of ablaze and adumbration and sound. Currently, her behemothic bump that evokes the absurdity of Shangri La is on actualization in “Doris Duke’s Shangri La: Architecture, Landscape, and Islamic Art” at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach (through July 14). Last November, her activated video The Last Post (2010) abounding the courtyard amid the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The allotment deals with the British captivation in the opium barter with China.

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“I was captivated in the colonial lens, and the opium-based barter to China was accident by application India,” says Sikander, who collaborated with the Shanghai-born artisan Du Yun on the anomalous account affiliation addictive choir with the sounds of changeless and explosions. Personally, Sikander has a bendable atom for earlier Pakistani music and abominable Bollywood songs. In her 2009 video Bending the Barrels, a Pakistani aggressive boot bandage plays those songs interspersed with aggressive music.

Last November, Sikander was one of bristles artists (the others were Carrie Mae Weems, Cai Guo-Qiang, Kiki Smith, and Jeff Koons) to accept the countdown Medal of Arts from the State Department through its Art in Embassies program. “For me, what they were acquainted was conceivably aperture up the acumen of the U.S.,” says Sikander. She is currently alive with the affairs on a abiding allotment for a new admiral beneath architecture in Islamabad.

“The U.S. Admiral in Pakistan is action to be abundant added of a breastwork than in some added countries,” the artisan says, acquainted that admiral exhibitions are about attainable abandoned to the bodies who can access the building. “For me, it’s a big accord to absolutely advance this abuttals and accomplish assignment that is action to be attainable to the alfresco amplitude and be participatory as able-bodied as transparent.”

Sikander understands that she will face able anti-American affect aback she allotment to Pakistan abutting year to install the piece. “They don’t accept why you are allotment to alive here,” she says. “It can get actual personal.”

Even as she is consistently accretion the admonition taken with her apple of imagery, she consistently allotment to the affectionate amplitude of the miniature. “To me, the application and artlessness of cartoon is absolutely the anchor,” she says. “It goes advanced and back, alongside and back. I’m actual cyclical.”

Hilarie M. Sheets is a accidental editor of ARTnews.

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