Thursday, September 11, 2014

Small And Beautiful

An Iranian miniature painting artist makes Hyderabad her home. Find out how and why. 
Shima Talebi, an Irani turned Hyderabadi is an artist who has been trying to promote the idea of heaven through her unique paintings. Her work symbolizes miniature art form, one that is rich in ancient history and culture. Cityplus catches up with Shima to find out what motivated her to move to Hyderabad for good and her journey from carpet designing to promoting miniature painting art form.

 What is miniature art?

 Miniature painting became a significant Persian genre in the 13th century, receiving Chinese influence after the Mongol conquests, the tradition flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Persian miniature was the central influence on other Islamic miniature traditions, chiefly the Ottoman miniature in Turkey, and the Mughal miniature in the Indian sub-continent. The techniques used in the art of miniature painting are broadly comparable to the Western and Byzantine traditions of miniatures in illuminated manuscripts. Although there is an equally well-established Persian tradition of wall-painting, the survival rate and state of preservation of miniatures is better, and miniatures are a best-known form of Persian painting in the West, and many of the most important examples are in Western, or Turkish, museums.

The influences

The beauty, fine work and spirituality of Persian miniature influenced her since childhood and she incorporated the same in her paintings. She recites one childhood story, “When I was eight years old my art teacher asked students to draw winter on paper. Upon my submission, my teacher refused to accept it citing the reason that it was copied. When I told the story to my mom she told me that I am so good at painting that even my teacher couldn’t believe it.” It was this incident that inspired Shima to continue to pursue her love for painting and not pay much heed to what people have to say about it. Today her subjects revolve around the Heaven as she paints figures like Simurgh rising high in the skywards obviously towards heaven.

Hyderabad as her home

 It is not unusual to find Central Asian students in Hyderabad as the cultures are related from the time of Nizam. Shima Talebi, too, came from Iran to pursue her MBA in Marketing. She says, “I completed my Bachelor’s degree in fine art carpet designing from Iran. But I liked Hyderabad city and was charmed so much that I decided to stay back. And here I am putting my paintings on display as exhibitions in art galleries around the city.” She learnt miniature style nine years ago in the university. Miniature style is a tradition style of painting in Iran. She goes on, “India is a second home for me. Iran and India both have so many things in common like Hindi language, foods, culture and more.”

 Why miniature art is the toughest
 What is important to recognize about Persian miniatures is that they were intended primarily to be book illustrations without any intention of showcasing the artist’s creative abilities. Shima says, “The goal was to show how well the artist could adhere to the rules and traditions used in previous renderings of traditional subject matter which were mostly related to Persian mythology and poetry.”

This pre-Islamic empire’s art mainly incorporated old Persian themes with more recent Hellenistic and Chinese techniques and motifs. The latter were introduced into the Middle East as a result of the Mongol invasions of the 14th century and hence, we find mythical beasts in Persian miniatures that greatly resemble those in Chinese drawings.  Shima adds, “It has a high value and respect in the country. It is called Negargari and is considered the best miniature amongst all small paintings produced in Middle Eastern countries. It is traced to the artistic works of the Sassanid Empire which ruled the region from 224 to 651 A.D where modern Iran is today.” Content and form are fundamental elements of Persian miniature painting, and miniature artists are renowned for their vivid but subtle use of colour.

Heaven and beyond

Shima recently exhibited her miniature paintings at Lamakaan located in Banjara Hills. It was titled ‘Heaven1’ and received an encouraging response. For her unique art form, Shima uses brushes, colours and other related stuff made in Iran. Especially the brushes, those are purely handmade. Colours used by her are mostly from natural resources and minerals, some even have Arabic gum and rabbit glue. Also the Secretary of the carpet designing Society in the University of Sistan and Baluchistan, Shima likes to use carpet patterns in her paintings to make them as unique as her style. About her future plans, she says, “In the next exhibition I am going to show the combination of modern and traditional forms to prove that art is not antiquated.

--Saima Afreen

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