Zahoor ul Akhlaq, ‘Still Still Life I’, 1995, Christie's South Asian + Chinese

There is no such thing as a concept of painting. If there is it is always changing. Divisions of space is very important in Oriental paintings. I am very influenced by this concept, and also by the rhythm of calligraphy, so after painting for some time in oils, I moved to just plain forms but please don't call my work abstract. Abstraction is a term which belongs to a particular age in the history of art. (1986) (Artist Statement, Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society Museum, New York, 2009, p. 86)

Salima Hashmi writes, "One cannot chart the course of contemporary art making without considering the overarching influence of the late Zahoor ul Akhlaq. Trained at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore and Royal College of Art, London, his tenure as teacher and mentor at NCA was crucial for several generations of Pakistani artists." (S. Hashmi, Hanging Fire Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society Museum, New York, 2009, p. 130) His profound artistic and conceptual influence has shaped contemporary art practice for following generations, including Shazia Sikander, Rashid Rana and Imran Qureshi.

Zahoor was influenced by the master calligrapher Syed Yusuf Dhelvi, whose work he was exposed to as a child and later underwent a Modernist phase under Shakir Ali at the National College of Arts (NCA). Zahoor's extensive knowledge and interest in the indigenous vernacular and tradition, as well as contemporary Western thought led to his deconstruction and re-appropriation of the classical miniature allowing him to be classified as one of the pioneers of the neo-miniaturist genre. "In Lahore, Zahoor ul-Akhlaq brought Post-Modern ideas to the forefront in the 1970s and 80s. At NCA, he insisted on miniature painting's relevance and viability as a source for contemporary artists. His own paintings took elements from the miniature tradition and combined them with an abstract painterly style." (A. Atteqa, 'Postmodernism: Recent Developments in Art in Pakistan and Bangladesh,', as accessed on 9 February 2013)

Virginia Whiles sums up Akhlaq's attitude toward the content of his work by stating, "However minimal his paintings appeared, Akhlaq's works like the color fields of Barnett Newman, were suffused with content: a magical realism linking the traditional world of miniature painting with the activism of painting within history." (V. Whiles, 'Deconstructing the Miniature: An Analysis of work by Zahoor ul Akhlaq', Pages of Perfection, p. 54)

Signature: signed and dated in Urdu; further titled, inscribed and dated 'Still Still Life / Acrylic / 95' (on the reverse) each

Image rights: [Christie's](


About Zahoor ul Akhlaq

Pakistani, 1941-1991, Delhi, India, based in Lahore, Pakistan

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