In Memoriam: Lubna Agha – Artist in White

Marcella Sirhandi in Islamic Arts:

Lubna-AghaLubna graduated from Mina Art School in Karachi, Pakistan in 1967, and at a very young age became one of the most recognized painters in the country. In the 1960s she painted colorful abstract compositions, exhibited at the Arts Council as well as newly established galleries in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. She sold her work at a time when collectors were few and very selective.

In the 1970s, she became famous for her White series, delicate minimalist paintings with cotton ball shapes delineated by calligraphic lines and sweeps of black and red paint. The press reacted as never before. Each journalist, trying to outdo one another, saw something symbolic in these paintings, from the erotic to the sublime. These paintings were purely formalist concerns but Lubna enjoyed the spin. In 1973, when she was in her 20s, Lubna was awarded second prize in the National Exhibition in Pakistan, an exhibition dominated by senior Pakistani artists.

At the height of her career in Pakistan, Lubna and her family moved to Sacramento, California. Lubna took up drawing, print making and painting small watercolors in her new home. Her drawings expressed feelings of alienation from her home in Pakistan. California was truly a foreign place for her. Her watercolors held similar meaning with falling figures and limbs detached from their bodies. Several exhibitions, including one-person shows, followed both in California, the United Kingdom and on her periodic return to Pakistan. By the year 2000, Lubna was gripped by political concerns. She produced the Ja-namaaz series to address her grievances. Pakistan, her homeland, had become increasingly dependent on foreign institutions. She painted prayer rugs mocking allegiance to these institutions, including the White House, the IMF and even McDonalds.

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