Born in Lahore, Pakistan, Saira Wasim now lives and works in Illinois, USA. With her often quite literal depictions, Wasim blends surrealism, symbolism, traditional Mughal miniature and comedy to create frozen mockeries of human behaviour. At both a commercial and governmental level, Wasim explores the divides that drive and the intrigue that knits the Western and Islamic world. Depicting taboo subjects in Pakistan and Western cultural imperialism abroad, she finds a manner to rail at the hypocrisies in the elevated language of Pakistan’s classical miniature art forms. A hugely prolific artist, she embeds the criticism in the language of their own pride and heritage, as if imploring the authorities and the people to see clearly how far they have strayed from national pride – the costumes, tokens of commerce, iconic portraits suspended together in a sometimes debauched, but always hapless and chaotic dance. Using repetition and cyclical compositions Wasim creates wheels of fortune, of time or machinery, interminably churning on. Even the titles point to her stance on issues of cultural clashes and ties, e.g. Demockery, 2008. Her mother is also an artist:
“My mother came from a time when making art was considered un-Islamic, and she wanted me to have a safe job, where I could support myself. Art school is not considered very respectable, so few girls get permission to go. Even to do our research, we had to go around the city with a brother or male relative.”
The works are cynical in their depiction of the corporate and governmental circus that the artist perceives. Now in her 40s, Wasim mixes her own pigments and works from a cushion on the floor for days on end.