Marium Rana's series references the ancient Islamic tradition of painting miniatures, but with a modern twist.
This series is called the Qalam Series. Qalam is the Urdu term for the miniature painting brush. This brush is unique, in that it is made from one hair of a squirrel’s tail. Qalam also refers to the first and most important step of the painting process.
I make gouache miniature works that are influenced by both traditional paintings of the Mughal empire, in what is now modern day Pakistan, and contemporary Pakistani street art. As a Pakistani-American, I craved going to Pakistan for the rich visual experience. I was attracted to the art in museums, as much as the folk art that fills the streets. By combining the use of flat patterning, repetition, and vibrant colors with contemporary iconography I honor both traditions.
For two months, I studied in Lahore, Pakistan with miniature painting professor Naheed Fakhar from the National College of Arts. During my trip, I was also able to visit different nonprofit organizations that centered around educating individuals with physical or financial limitations. Soon, I started to feel like a witness to two very different lifestyles. I would see miniature paintings hung in these beautiful, antiquated galleries, protected by guards.
I felt a sense of compassion for both lifestyles. When I returned to America, I knew that I did not want to abandon the miniature painting technique that I had learned but I also knew that I had to make art that was relevant to my experiences. I decided to create miniature paintings that removed the emperors from the center of the painting and create paintings that highlighted everyday scenes that I feel are deserving of our attention in this day and age.