Modernism in South Asian Muslim Art

Introduction

This book traces the emergence of modernism by artists associated with “Pakistan” since the early twentieth century, but it is not a broad history of national art, nor does it seek to offer a complete an account of the selected artists considered here. It traces one influential genealogical trajectory—the emergence of artistic subjectivity in relation to a constellation of conceptual frameworks, nationalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism, and “tradition.” Although artists contributed to national life by forming new institutional frameworks for the patronage, exhibition, and reception of modern art—labour that is an inextricable aspect of their personae—the addressee of their art cannot be simply equated with Pakistani nationhood marked by aporias and impasses as a consequence of complex historical developments. Pakistani nationalism has provided a painting with no “ancient mythopoetic or iconographic anchor sheet,” a critic noted as early as 1965.1 Rather, artists drew selectively from broader Persianate and Islamicate cultural and religious legacies,2 yet also situated themselves as modern cosmopolitans addressing the quandaries of the self in modernity. In this book, therefore, the nation-state functions as only one frame of meaning in designating the artists’ complex practices: in a larger sense, this project can also be viewed as a deconstructive study of nationalism that attempts to fashion a new narrative of a transnational South Asian Muslim modernism from within a national art history. For complete Book

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