Mahnoor Hussain is an aspiring visual artist born in 1986 in the historic city of Lahore, Pakistan. She completed her Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA) with first class honors from the prestigious National College of Arts Lahore in 2009, specializing in Indo-Persian Miniature Painting and received the Renard and Ibrahim Excellence Award for her work.
Professionally, Hussain has a great deal of exposure in various art related fields varying from teaching advanced level art and design to creating a fashion accessories brand, as well as Illustration work for an interactive English Language learning tool. She has participated in a number of art shows, nationally and internationally. Her work has also been showcased in Milan at an art show organized by Moulin de l'Est, a Parisian cultural society dedicated to the promotion of South Asian contemporary art and, more recently, was showcased in London at the Art Rooms 2018 exhibit.
Though pertaining to traditional miniature, Hussain’s work is realistic in contrast and contains irony. The issues addressed by Hussain are of an emotional disposition and portray the psyche and struggle of individuals. The world today compared to the one where traditional miniature took birth, is full of novelties inevitably brought in by time and today’s human experience, a complex mix of similarities and differences from that bygone era. The same parallels are manifest in Hussain’s work; a fresh authenticity that is recognizably modern amalgamated with the timeless and traditional elements of Indo- Persian miniature painting. Themes ranging from obsessive behavior through eating disorders to isolation and its effects. A vibrant color palette and expressive portraits are her trademark.
Hussain is currently residing in Rhode Island, USA and continues to pursue her painting career.
Historically, art and fertility have an age old relationship. The concept of creation and life is at the root of most religions and cultures. Being female instinctively labels you as a child-bearing instrument. Your identity and purpose in life is predefined by your sex. In modern times when we are becoming more aware of globalization and social issues pertaining to present cultures, equal importance is required for self-realization and personal identity. My latest body of work is dealing with the idea of infertility and what being female means without the ability to reproduce. The complexities and blind spots one encounters during that winding and long journey, dealing with ideas of physicality, trauma, sexuality, and mental health are some of the topics I am exploring in my paintings and drawings. The works are an extremely personal representation and yet also hold the power of connection through shared experiences. It is a way of connecting with the self and at the same time reaching out to others who may find it relatable and to create a safe space for such discussions to be held.
When did you first begin creating art?
Art has been an integral part of my childhood. I come from a family of creatives, so art was a form of self-expression in our home. Honestly, as far back as I can remember I have been creating art. It’s difficult to limit it to a specific time frame or to even separate it from myself or the person I am.
When did you first consider yourself to be an artist?
An early exposure to art meant that I grew up with an appreciation for aesthetics and an inherent need to express myself through it. It was never a profession to me but more of an identity. It subconsciously ties to my sense of self.
Who or what influences your practice?
I have thought a lot about this question at different stages in my career. And the best answer I can give currently is that some of the inspiration and influence is received from the world around me and another part from my personal perception, experience, and subsequent response. Both parts combined create my expression. I have always been fascinated by individuals and their behavior as well as their relationship with social structures. I feel this comes across in my work -- as stories of individuals as a whole come together to connect to larger global issues we face as societies. It is a sense of connection to one self that in turn leads to a greater connection outwardly.
Tell us about a specific moment in your career that you would consider a turning point?
If it had to be a specific moment, it would have to be my move to the U.S. I feel not just my career but I myself experienced a transition. Though the larger picture for me has always been about emotions, psychology, and the human experience, I feel the move can be marked as a specific time when a shift from an extrospective narrative to a more introspective one took form in my artwork. This, in my opinion, is quite natural. I was removed from an environment I had grown up in -- my personal narrative was always colored by those around me. However, moving found me in an unfamiliar setting and a startling silence for the first time, which helped me to explore introspectively and to form a new narrative staying true to my experiences and interests.
Where would you like to see your artwork go in the future?
The future has always held this fascination of things unexplored and an underlying sense of hope. I would like to see myself grow in my expression, to connect with more experiences and people that would make that possible.