Two works inspired by life in Pakistan on sale at Benefit Auction

Maha Ahmed, Untitled, 2015, gouache on wasli, 56 x 76 cm, float-mounted in a white frame, courtesy of the artist

Maha Ahmed, Untitled, 2015, gouache on wasli, 56 x 76 cm, float-mounted in a white frame, courtesy of the artist

Two works inspired by life in Pakistan on sale at Benefit Auction

27 May 2016

By Lucy Tomlinson

Two works generously donated by Pakistani artists Maha Ahmed and Farina Alam, both living in the UK, will be auctioned in June on to raise money to support Asia House’s ongoing arts programme.

Drawing with language and visual metaphors, highly established artist Farina Alam’s Crow Crow Crow (2014) is a work on paper which explores the notion of place and how it bears upon Pakistan as a post-colonial nation state. She uses Arabic, Urdu and English text to explore how concepts can be attained or lost in translation, her work being engaged with issues of boundaries and nationhood. Alam spent a large portion of her live living in Karachi, where social tension manifests through street art whereby anti-imperial slogans and jihadist propaganda is rife.

As a Pakistani, she feels the undercurrent of national political anxiety remains central to her drawings.

Farina Alam 790x600

Farina Alam, Crow Crow Crow, 2014, pen and ink on Somerset paper, courtesy of the artist

In 2015, Asia House hosted the complete series of My Kolachi in a solo show of drawings by Alam. My Kolachi expressed a series of influences picked from Arab literary symbolism, local Pakistani craftsmanship and a play of words across languages.

Born in 1971 in Pakistan, Alam now lives and works in London. She studied at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi then moving to the UK to study for an MFA in print at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Maha Ahmed’s work is also hugely influenced by her Pakistani roots. She has said that due to the insurgency of terrorism and deteriorating national security, Pakistanis today hide under a false pretence of safety. Through her work she aims to employ abstractions, directing emphasis on the mood and ambience in spaces.

With her paintings she encourages the audience to seek and look closer, in attempt to find solace in the little things. What at first may seem like a black space, on closer inspection, becomes a scene filled with life.

Emerging artist Maha Ahmed graduated from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan. After receiving the prestigious Caspian Arts Foundation Scholarship, she completed her postgraduate degree in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.

Ahmed uses a miniature painting technique, as seen in Untitled, which she learnt at the National College of Arts in Lahore. She has said that was intrigued by the sensitive nature of the tradition, which requires an immaculate level of skill and patience to be able to fully master the craft.

Miniature painting is amongst the richest cultural traditions that emerged at the time Mughals ruled the Indian Subcontinent. Akbar was the first Mughal patron of the arts. With Lahore as his principal residence, he commissioned numerous illustrated manuscripts that incorporate Persian, Indian and even European elements.

In April 2016 Asia House held an exhibition of Ahmed’s work, Maha Ahmed | A Seed Once Planted. She is represented by Display Gallery, London, where she will have her solo show A Mute Land in July 2016.

The Benefit Auction is being held to celebrate 20 years since Asia House was founded in 1996 and to raise funds for its ongoing programme of arts and cultural events.

A preview of the auction works will take place in the Asia House Gallery from 14 to 21 June between 10.00 and 18.00.

The 25+ artworks on offer have been generously donated by artists and galleries from across Asia, as well as those who have a strong links to the region and includes artworks by artists who have exhibited at Asia House in the recent past.

A champagne reception and dinner with the theme ‘white gold’ will take place on June 21 at Asia House during which there will be a live auction. Please email if you’d be interested in attending.

To place bids for items in the auction click here. Bidding closes at 17.00 BST on Wednesday 22 June.

For more information about the Asia House Benefit Auction and the other artworks that can be bid for click here.

For more information about any aspect of the auction email

If you would like to support us, please consider making a donation towards the Asia House arts and learning programme below. We accept donations by credit card, debit card and PayPal.