About Hira Mansur

25.03.2012 - 21.04.2012

Hira Mansur is a contemporary miniature artist from Lahore in Pakistan, currently studying for an MFA in  painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Her delicate watercolours are laboriously built up in many successful layers with such fine brushes that the hyperrealist images are sometimes more detailed than the photos she works from. Her imagery is derived from her personal history and that of her adoptive mother who waited for many years for a child and found patience at her sewing machine. While she is influenced by surrealist collage, every object and animal in her assembled compositions are derived from childhood experiences. Zebroid and branches are symbols of infertility, scissors of pain, sewing machines of waiting. Animals and objects morph into one another, sometimes around empathic portrayals of her mother. Symbols meld seemlessly to speak of beauty, time slowly passing, yearning and loss.

Macrophotograph of a work in progress

Hira uses her hand as a palette to avoid damaging the delicate brushes

While on the residency at Trelex, Hira coincided with Joana BC, and we have had a number of discussions on the importance of time in her work. It typically takes Hira 2 months to complete a miniature, which wouldn't be apparent to the uninformed viewer. But the care and loving attention lavished on her work is central to her practice. She has experimented with needle piercing and more recently with copper-plate embossing (etched with needle piercing or solar plates). While in Trelex, however, she started to notice that as she built up the water colour, it was prone to flaking on the embossed paper (rendered less absorbent by the press). This forced her to look for other methods of making images. She grew fascinated with japanese Chyogami paper and used some I had in the studio to make her first collage. She is now considering ways of combining this with her painting and needle-piercing.

Collage, 15 x 20 cm - not yet titled... I particularly like
 the timestamp on the colour copy that Hira made the collage on.

Hira's space while the collage was in progress.

Beyond the studio, Hira found source material in the farm animals of Trelex (particularly horses and goats) and in a sewing machine museum in Fribourg. She was also immensely moved by our visit to the Collection de l'Art Brut in Lausanne where she found plenty of artists whose work was perhaps even more fastidious and obsessive than her own.

Hira at work on her watercolour miniatures which required very specific lighting, a sturdy easel.

In the woods near Trelex.

Examples of Hira's work can be seen on the website of the Vasl Artist's Collective

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