The miniaturist artist making bacteria beautiful
“I deal a lot with the bacteria and viruses – and these forms I only use because I wanted to convey a message of how we feel if you’re being observed,” explains Talha Rathore, whose nature-inspired artworks reveal an entire universe of microorganisms upon closer inspection.
They say observation is a dying art but for Talha Rathore it is an everyday phenomenon.
The miniaturist painter behind the exhibition titled ‘Indispositions’ – a show displayed earlier this month at the Chawkandi Art gallery in Karachi – is one of the many artists leveraging her platform as a model of expression for the Pakistani diaspora.
With her growing knowledge and experience of a life influenced by eastern and western traditions, the artist in this particular exhibition is exploring the effect on the people and culture of profound ecological change, both externally and internally.
“After 9/11 the experiences that you have being a Pakistani living in New York – it’s extremely different from being here,” says Rathore
“After 9/11 the experiences that you have being a Pakistani living in New York – it’s extremely different from being here,” says Rathore, whose works have been exhibited in several galleries across Asia, Europe and North America.
Suspended between two worlds, Pakistan and the United States, Rathore’s creative drive straddles the dichotomies of belonging, of the natural and man-made, the observed and the observer. ‘Indispositions’ centred around similar subjects, depicting visual metaphors in true Rathore fashion – organic forms representing life.
Marked by her enduring interest in her South Asian origin, Rathore’s choice of technique is miniature painting, a traditional method of creating art that allows her to bridge contemporary realities with historical reference. Not only does this method emphasise the repetitive, labour-intensive aspect of Rahore’s work but it also demonstrates the intimacy she maintains with the medium.
The surface reveals hundreds of tiny micro-organisms running through each piece
From afar Rathore’s work seems to be all about nature but upon closer inspection you notice something different, as though it’s inhabited by a different life altogether. The surface reveals hundreds of tiny micro-organisms running through each piece. This signature Rathore method transfigures the canvas as a screen allowing the viewer to glimpse into another reality making it far more immersive.
“I deal a lot with the bacteria and viruses – and these forms I only use because I wanted to convey a message of how we feel if you’re being observed so that’s why I picked an icon or a symbol that can only be seen under close observation,” explains Rathore
An organism that even upon hearing makes one squirm – bacteria – makes up most of the human body, it can threaten, strengthen and destroy entire beings despite being of minute size. These unicellular organisms, each precisely painted by hand, come together as a whole, challenging the viewer to learn to see what they are looking at – both literally and metaphorically.
There is a sense of devotion and faith to the artform cultivated within Rathore’s works, one that reverberates with acquired knowledge of past history. Deeply contemplative all the while sustaining a remarkable creative and critical relationship with multiple influences, it is evident that living outside her place of origin has only emphasised the pressing need to hold on to it. Rhythmically composed, each piece takes time to absorb, the organisms catch the eye but how those eyes travel and what they decipher is individual.