Risham Syed / Pakistan b.1969 / Untitled 4 (from ‘Lahore’ series) 2015 / Synthetic polymer paint on canvas on aluminium / 10.2 x 15.3cm / Purchased 2015. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Risham Syed

Risham Syed
Untitled 4 (from ‘Lahore’ series) 2015

On Display: Regional Touring Exhibition

In Risham Syed’s ‘Lahore’ series, the artist draws on the tradition of miniature painting in Pakistan, an ancient form which developed from Indian Mughal painting. This genre has seen a revival as a number of contemporary artists have reworked the medium, employing the traditional techniques to comment on current issues facing the nation or the individual.

Indicative of the rapid growth in Pakistan and the destruction of heritage sites, Syed’s paintings focus on the backs of buildings. Syed deliberately chooses these spaces as they are sites that will soon be occupied by further development and are not meant to be seen or inhabited. They are temporary spaces, and by capturing and freezing them in these delicate paintings, Syed frames the space of development and change.

Through these works, the artist expresses her growing feeling of alienation in the city of Lahore:

I have lived mostly in this city that traces its origins in pre-historic myths and has seen Turkish, Mughal and British times. . . . [In] the last 15 years or so, with the political and security concerns in other big cities like Karachi, Lahore has seen an influx of people like never before. This has brought in money and ideas. As a result, the city has been growing along with its real estate businesses. The older Lahore has become an island with new urban quarters around.1

Construction and deconstruction, the connection between the past and its rejection, are framed in this body of work which examines change with conscious irony.


1 Risham Syed, Risham Syed: Metropolyptical: A Tale of a City [exhibition press release], Project 88, Mumbai, 2013.

Risham Syed is a Pakistani artist who lives and works in Lahore. Syed works in mediums as diverse as drawing, embroidery, painting, weaving and quilting. Her art documents changes in urban landscapes and the lifestyles of their inhabitants. Syed’s practice critically focuses on the remains of curatorial/historical inheritance and its perceived authenticity in present-day Pakistan.