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Mahwish Chisty

Mahwish Chisty, Untitled, 2015 
Courtesy of the artist.

The Drone Series

Hovering over the clouds of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are these vicious Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that are there to target terrorists. Mahwish Chishty presents her series of paintings using silhouettes of drones juxtaposed with vibrant folk art imagery, combining politics and cultures that have shaped her experience.

 Ms. Chisty’s visit to Pakistan in 2011 inspired her recent body of work. Her hometown, Lahore, had changed. The streets were full of security guards with large Kalashnikovs and the US drone program was being heavily discussed. As a result, she started creating formal paintings that combined the silhouette of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and the colorful folk art ‘Jingle Trucks’. They get their name from the thousands of chimes that dangle and ring from the base of the vehicle whenever the truck moves. The truck drivers decorate their vehicles with elaborate colorful imagery that represents their ideas and personalities. The combination of the UAV silhouette and folk art depict contradictions and irony within the pictorial coding. Ms. Chisty paints colorful folk ‘truck art’ imagery on these war machines, giving them a second skin that opens a dialogue about Pakistani culture. Poetic expressions in combination with stark iconography give birth to a new visual language – the juxtaposition of terror with the representation of cultural beauty.

Adapted from the artist’s statements

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 Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MOCADA), Brooklyn, NY; University of Technology (UTS Gallery), Sydney, Australia; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; Maryland Art Place, Baltimore, MD; and Canvas Gallery, Lahore, 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 also has pieces in public and private collections including the Foreign office Islamabad, Pakistan and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka Shi, Japan.

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