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Rashid Rana (Urdu: راشد رانا) (born 1968) is one of the most important artists of his generation in Pakistan. Rana has been included in numerous exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad. He worked, over the past decade and a half, in dramatically different modes – abstractions on canvas, collaborations with a billboard painter, photographic/video performances, collages using found material, photo mosaics, photo sculptures and large stainless steel works – each time finding a freshness of purpose, and a surprising inventiveness of visual language.
Rashid Rana was born in Lahore, Pakistan. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan in 1992, and a Master of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, US in 1994. He is the head of fine art department and one of the founding faculty members of the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.
Rashid Rana has emerged as a leading name among the young-generation artists on the contemporary art scene. He is known to develop a conceptually driven, well-informed art practice, which maintains a pixelated attention to formal concerns. His works revolve around a subtle simultaneous exploration of media and identity – both bound by a sharp political edge as he satirizes pop culture and looks to reinterpret varied elements of art and cultural history. His new media projects are a visual commentary and parody of socio-political scenarios.
Deftly traversing between the diverse mediums like painting, video, installation and photography, Rashid Rana has emerged as one of the leading artist of his generation, making his presence felt globally. His work deals with everyday issues encompassing a wide range of themes from urbanization and popular culture to faith and tradition. He often employs video installations and still photography. A case in point is his series of composite photomontages in which each main image is constructed out of countless smaller photos of diametrically opposite subjects. The viewer confronts a moment of sudden withdrawal after moving closer to the picture when one becomes aware of the several tiny images that constitute the larger one.
It is the aesthetic concept of the grid deftly exploring the language of minimalism and geometric abstraction that serves as the precious connecting his monumental work to his mentor Zahoor ul Akhlaq.
A foray into video art has resulted in seminal installations such as ‘Meeting Point’ (2006) in which the artist recalls anticipation from terrorism by projecting two airplanes facing and seeming to collide into each other, with the loud airspace audio.
His recent international exhibitions include: Solo Exhibition, Lisson Gallery, London, Perpetual Paradox Solo Exhibition at Musée Guimet, Paris France (2010, Where dreams Cross: 150 years of photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Fotomuseum|Winterthur, Switzerland, and Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK; The Empire Strikes Back; India Art Today, Saatchi Gallery (2010) The Power of Ornament, Lower Belvedere, Vienna; Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York (2009), View Points and Viewing Points: Asian Art Biennial at the National Fine Arts Museum, Taichung, Taiwan (2009), Re-Imaging Asia, House of World Cultures, Berlin (2008); Mirror Worlds: Institute of the Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia; Beyond the Page: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Manchester Art Gallery and Asia House, London; 1st Singapore Biennale; Grid<>Matrix, Kemper Art Museum, St Louis, US; 5th Asia Pacific Triennale, Queensland Gallery of Art, Australia (2006); 3rd Fukuoka Triennale, Fukuoka Museum of Art, Japan, (2005); Playing with a Loaded Gun, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany.
Dis-Location (2007), a major solo in a range of media show of his selected works spread across two galleries including Gallery Chemould Prescott marked his return to Mumbai after a gap of three years. Underlining the artist’s importance on global art stage, an accompanying note mentioned: “He has come to represent an entire generation of Pakistani Contemporary Artists. Moreover in terms of the Indian art scene, he is the first artist from across the border to have been so thoroughly embraced since partition era artists such as Abdul Rehman Chughtai and Allah Bux. Working both on major public installations as well as gallery based works, his art is now some of the most recognisable among artists from South Asia.”
His importance in the context of Indian art scene is much beyond a simplistic cultural exchange. On the international art scene, he represents the region as a whole, and he shares a deep connection with the country. The artist had his very first international solo in New Delhi with Nature Morte in 2004. Looking back at those times, he had once stated: “India was my launch pad. I didn’t consider myself a professional artist till that show in 2004. It changed my approach.” He has not looked back since then, and has now become a poster boy for the Indian art gallery circuit. One edition of his work "Red Carpet-1" was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York on 16 May 2008, for a record price of 623,000 USD, highest price ever paid for a work of art produced by a Pakistani.
The artist does not prefer to be tagged as a photographer, sculptor or video-artist. He explains: “I trained as a traditional painter, but I like the freedom to use any kind of medium. I don’t like hard divides.”
In his work, Rana cleverly relates back to the history of art in Pakistan, his native country. A graduate of the National College of Arts, Lahore, Rana deviated from his peers by moving into digital media and photography and away from the traditional painting techniques taught at the school.
He writes; “In this age of uncertainty we have lost the privilege of having one world view. Now every image, idea and truth (may it be ancient or modern) encompasses its opposite within itself. Thus we live in a state of duality. This internal conflict translates into my work, on a formal level, as well as having geographical, historical and political connotations.”
Rana’s ability to identify and exploit these tensions between the whole and its parts in his pointillist photographs has become his hallmark. The artist is adept at pulling apart the world’s facades, forcing his viewers to look beyond the larger image and to the sum of its parts. In so doing, Rana reveals a litany of cultural, political and economic ills lying just beneath the surface of the carefully constructed representations we have come to accept as “reality.”
Although trained as a painter, Rana has recently turned his attention to various genres of new media art, including digital photography, installation, and video. Nevertheless, the artist dislikes being defined only as a painter or photographer. Not fond of hard boundaries, he prefers the liberty to choose for himself.
Rana’s work deals with everyday issues ranging from faith and tradition to urbanization and popular culture. He uses photography and video installations to depict his commentary and parody of both social and political scenarios. In his composite photomontages, for instance, each main image is made up of several thousand smaller photographs of diametrically opposite subjects. There is a moment of sudden withdrawal when the viewer moves closer to the picture and becomes aware of the tiny images that compose the larger one.
However, Rana's formal and conceptual departure from this traditional style and medium is distinctly his own. The stark contrast of the Muslim women in their traditional dress with the exposed nudity of the Western porn stars forces a powerful shift in focus between the poles of these two stereotypes and alludes to the great cultural divide between East and West. Fascinated by how meaning is often misunderstood in our media-oriented society, Rana's photographic practice cleverly creates images that offer an alternative view of how popular ideas and prejudices are created.
- Rashid Rana, Lisson Gallery, London
- Art Dubai, Chemould Prescott Road + Chatterjee & Lal, Dubai
- Collectors’ Stage: Asian Contemporary Art from Private Collections, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore.
- The Rising Tide: New Directions in the Art from Pakistan 1990-2010, Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi.
- Perpetual Paradoxes, Musée Guimet, Paris
- Finding India: Exhibition of Contemporary Indian Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei
- Where Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Fotomuseum, Winterthur
- Where Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Whitechapel Gallery, London
- Beyond the Page – The Miniature as Attitude in Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena
- The Empire Strikes Back: Indian Art Today, Saatchi Gallery, London
- Art Basel, Chemould Prescott Road, Miami
- Living off the Grid, Anant Art Centre, New Delhi
- View Points and Viewing Points: Asian Art Biennial, National Fine Arts Museum, Taichung
- Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York
- The 21st Century, the Feminine Century, and the Century of Diversity and Hope, Incheon Biennale, Incheon
- Mashq: Repetition Meditation Mediation, Green Cardamom, London
- How Nations Are Made, Cartwright Hall, Bradford
- Starring the Artist, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, Karachi
- The Power of Ornament, Orangery, Lower Belvedere, Vienna
- Lines of Control (travelling exhibition), Third Line gallery, Dubai; V.M. Gallery, Karachi; Green Cardamom, London
- Hong Kong\ Art Fair, Chemould Prescott Road + Chatterjee & Lal, Hong Kong
- Critical Studio: Dialogue with South Asian Artists, Macy Gallery, Columbia University, New York
- Everywhere is War (and Rumors of War), Bodhi Art, Mumbai
- Passage to India, Frank Cohen Collection, Initial Access, West Midlands
- Re-Imaging Asia, House of World Cultures, Berlin
- Solo show, Art Public – Cabinet P.H., Geneva
- Dis-Location, Chemould Prescott Road + Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai
- Reflected Looking, Nature Morte, New Delhi
- Shanghai Contemporary, Best of Discovery, Nature Morte, Shanghai Exhibition Center, Shanghai
- Face East: Contemporary Asian Portraiture, Wedel Fine Art, London
- Moving Ahead, National Art Gallery, Islamabad
- Group show: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Thomas Erben Gallery, New York
- The Politics of Fear, Albion, London
- Mirror Worlds, Two Rooms, Auckland
- 5th Asia Pacific Triennale, Queensland Gallery of Art, Queensland
- EX-OTICA, Gallery Vitamin, Turin
- Artissima Art Fair, Turin
- Grid <>Matrix, Kemper Art Museum, St Louis
- Lille 3000: Desi Pop, Lille
- 1st Singapore Biennale, Singapore
- Beyond the Page: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia House, London; Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester
- Asian Contemporary Art Week, Asia Society, Gallery Korea, New York
- Flights of Fancy, Royaat Gallery, Lahore
- Mirror Worlds: (travelling exhibition), Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
- Parallel Realities: 3rd Fukuoka Triennale, Blackburn Museum of Art, Blackburn
- Identical Views, Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai
- Bitmap: International Digital Photo Project, Loop, Incheon
- New Media Art from Pakistan, Artist Village, Kowloon, Hong Kong
- Metrospective: Visual Representations of Metro-sexuality, Kitab Mahal, Mumbai
- Parallel Realities: 3rd Fukuoka Triennale, Fukuoka Museum of Art, Fukuoka
- Subhodh Gupta, Rashid Rana & L.N. Tallur, Bose Pacia, New York
- Mirror Worlds: Contemporary Video from Asia, Australian Center for Photography, Sydney
- Beyond Borders: Art from Pakistan, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai
- Identical Views, V.M. Gallery, Karachi
- Identical Views, Nature Morte, New Delhi
- South Asian Masters: Old Masters and Young Voices, Alhamra Art Gallery, Lahore
- Art Summit IV, National Gallery of Art, Jakarta
- KOVIDEO: 1st Durban Video Festival, Kazna Gallery, Durban
- Playing with a Loaded Gun, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel
- Along the X Axis: Video Art from India and Pakistan, Apeejay Gallery, New Delhi10th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka
- 9th Cairo International Biennale, Cairo
- Global Priority (travelling exhibition), San Francisco Arts Commission gallery, San Francisco
- Playing with a Loaded Gun, Apexart, New York
- Miniatures Pakistanises, Maison d’Art Contemporarian Chaillioux, Paris
- Around Miniature, Royaat Gallery, Lahore
- Around Miniature, Canvas Gallery, Karachi
- Painting over the Lines: Five Contemporary Artists from Pakistan, York Quay Gallery, Toronto
- Painting over the Lines: Five Contemporary Artists from Pakistan, Indo Center for Art and Culture, New York
- Non-Sense, Rohtas Gallery, Islamabad
- Crossing the Line (site-specific project at Jackson Heights), Queens Museum of Art, New York
- Non-Sense, Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery, NCA, Lahore
- Context, Barefoot Gallery, Colombo
- Another Vision: 50 Years of Pakistani Art (travelling exhibition), The Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London;
- Gallery Oldham; Haddonfield Art Gallery; Victoria Art Gallery, Bath
- 2010 Resemble Reassemble: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Devi Foundation, New Delhi
Works in various public and private collections in Pakistan, India, Canada, Europe, UK and US including; Saatchi Gallery, Queensland Gallery of Art Brisbane Australia, Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art Japan, Frank Cohen Collection, National Gallery of Art Islamabad Pakistan, Devi Foundation Delhi India.
Awards, grants, residencies, and public commissions projects
- 2009 Associateship, National College of Arts, Lahore, conferred in recognition of international contributions in the field of contemporary art
- 2007 Rusholm Project, site-specific public work organized by SHISHA Manchester, Manchester International Festival
- 2006 HAT exchange program residency, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester
- 2002-4 Aar Paar Project, Mumbai & Karachi
- 2003 International Artist of the Year Award 2002–2003, South Asian Visual Arts Collective (SAVAC), Toronto
- 2003 Hathor Prize, 9th Cairo International Biennale, Cairo
- 2003 Darmiyaan workshop, Neher Ghar Gallery, Lahore
- 2003 Artist-in-Residence, Gasworks, London
- 2000 Art-Link International Artists’ Workshop, Colombo
- 2001 Creation & Production Grant, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario
- 1992 Distinction Award, Degree Show, National College of Arts, Lahore