About this artwork
Nilima Sheikh combines traditional forms of Asian painting with contemporary political content. The artist’s recent series of scroll-like canvases takes as its focus Kashmir, a region fissured by the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. The two countries maintain an uneasy peace, broken periodically by wars.
A stirring evocation of the area, this series followed a set of smaller works (2003) titled The Country without a Post Office after Agha Shahid Ali’s 1997 book of poetry of the same name. The artist’s desire to move away from the restrictive binary of Hindu–Muslim conflict led her to focus instead on the cosmopolitanism of the Silk Road, the series of trade routes that linked Kashmir to Central Asia, China, and Europe in antiquity. This historical perspective is reflected in Sheikh’s imagery and in the use of the painted scroll format. Suspended from the ceiling so as to be visible from both sides, the works capture the composite culture of the Kashmir Valley through palimpsestic episodes, layering richly colored passages of figuration and script.
We Must Bear, which Sheikh painted specifically for a solo exhibition at the Art Institute, comments not only on the troubles that have beset the Kashmir Valley since 1989, but also on the ongoing hardships its residents have borne over the centuries. The work is based on a quotation from a sixteenth-century verse by Nund Rishi (Sheikh Nuruddin Nurani), which can be seen at upper left. Kashmiris’ struggles are reflected by the weight of the body that the central figure is carrying across a field strewn with images of loss and war.
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Nilima Sheikh
- We Must Bear
- Casein tempera on canvas
- 120 × 72 in.
- Through prior purchase from the Mary and Leigh Block Fund
- © 2014 Nilima Sheikh.