Video Interview conducted by School of the Art Institute of Chicago students: Nidhi Deshpende, Xuanlin "Kalvin" Ye, Soo Jin Park and Connie Chu

Mahwish Chishty (b. 1980)

Initially trained as a miniature painter from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, Mahwish Chishty has aggressively combined new media and conceptual work with her traditional practice. Ms. Chishty has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at venues like University of Technology (UTS Gallery) Sydney, Australia; Boghossian Foundation– Villa Empain. Brussels; Utah Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MOCADA), Brooklyn, NY; Imperial War Museum, London, UK and Gandhara Art Gallery, Karachi, Pakistan among others. By camouflaging modern war machines with folk imagery, Ms. Chishty is shedding light on the complexity of acculturation, politics and power. 

Ms. Chishty has been awarded several residencies including Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY ; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL; and Vermont Studio Center, Vermont, NY. Ms. Chishty also has works in public and private collections including the Foreign office Islamabad, Pakistan, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka Shi, Japan and Imperial War Museum, London.

Ms. Chishty is also a recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.

About my work:

My artistic research combines my interest in Pakistani traditional folk art/culture and contemporary politics as it relates to US/Pakistan relationship. Drone series is inspired by my visit to Pakistan in 2011. I am creating formal paintings that depict contradictions and irony within its pictorial coding. Starting from a silhouette of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, I paint colorful folk ‘truck art’ imagery on these war machines to give them a second skin that opens a dialogue about Pakistani culture.

These paintings are accompanied by culturally loaded text. Poetic expressions in combination with stark iconography give birth to a new visual language. By applying photo-transferred images from Pakistani print media and layering it with traditional miniature painting, I challenge the grotesque reality of modern warfare. More recently, I am creating installations that interact with the space and the viewer. I am interested in the juxtaposition of terror with the representation of cultural beauty.