The Manipulation of Media in the Art of Rashid Rana

Rashid Rana. Photo:
Rashid Rana. Photo:

Rashid Rana is a contemporary Pakistani artist who works incorporating painting, installation, photography, and collage. He is widely considered to be the leading Pakistani artist of his generation. Before gaining wider, international exposure after the millennium, Rashid first came to prominence in South Asia alongside artists such as Subodh Gupta.

Rashid was born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1968 where he lives and works. He has been involved in numerous exhibitions with his works in abstractions on canvas in Pakistan and abroad. Rashid is a multidisciplinary artist known for have made photo mosaics; photo sculptures; large stainless steelworks; photographic/video performances; collages using found material; and collaborations with a billboard painter.

Life and Studies

Rashid Rana trained as a painter at the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. Where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1992. Later he received a Master of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston in 1994, Massachusetts, USA. He actually serves as an associate professor, he is one of the founding faculty members and the head of the Fine Art department of the School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD), Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.

Veil III (2004). Photo:

The principal works of Rashid have a political edge and often include a dialogue with the painting. These have been displayed in various exhibitions around the world. Like his show “Perpetual Paradox” at the Musèe Guimet in Paris. His works are held in the National Gallery of Art in Islamabad, the collections of Saatchi Gallery in London, and the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in Japan among others.

Using repetition, rearrangement, and manipulation Rashid transpose imagery from one time and place to another in photography, sculpture, and digital printmaking. He originally made early photomontages by reconfiguring tiny squares of imagery into micro-mosaics by hand.

Rashid Rana was influenced by Zahoor ul Akhlaq, the Indian-born modernist painter who moved to Pakistan after the 1947 partition, whose works combined abstraction with traditional art. Zahoor inspired Rashid to deal with everyday issues utilizing such mediums as painting, video, installation, and photography. He incorporates themes like faith, tradition, and urbanization in his artworks.

Art Career and Most Renowned Works

Veil Serie (2004)

Among Rashid Rana most renowned works are the “Veil Serie” with Veil I, Veil II, and Veil III (2004). This work points out the stereotypes and the great divide between Eastern and Western cultures. There he employed photographs of hardcore pornography acts to create the portrait of a woman cloaked in a burqa. He used computer software to superimposed the pornography scenes onto the silhouette of the burqa.

Dis-Location (2007)

Dis-Location (2007) was a major solo media show of his selected works spread across two galleries including Gallery Chemould Prescott. This work marked his return to Mumbai after a gap of three years. It was said at that moment that Rashid represented an entire generation of Pakistani Contemporary Artists. He was the first artist from across the border to have been so thoroughly embraced since partition era artists such as Abdul Rehman Chughtai and Allah Bux. His art was perceived as some of the most recognizable among artists from South Asia.

Dis-Location 5, 2012, c-print and Diasec. Courtesy the artists and Lisson Gallery, London

Language Series (2013)

Each of the works in Rashid Rana’s “Language Series” refers to a significant work of Western art. The individual photographs in the mosaic capture views of the Lahore city landscape while reflecting on the history of Western art.

In the Language Series 3 Rashid (2013) refers to Claude Monet’s Church at Vetheuil (1880), which was purchased for the City of Southampton Art Gallery with the help of the Art Fund in 1975, recreating the mottled blues and greens of the original landscape through signage photographs taken around the city.

Rashid Rana. Language Series 3 (2013). Photo:
Language Series 3 (2013). Photo:

Other Works

Rashid turned hundreds of graphic slaughterhouse snapshots into facsimiles of Persian rugs (Red Carpet, 2007). One edition of this work “Red Carpet-1” was auctioned at Sotheby’s for a record price of $623,000 US in New York in 2008. This was the highest price ever paid for a work of art produced by a Pakistani.

In the works of the series “Desperately Seeking Paradise” (2007-2011) he made an incursion into themes of politics, civilizations, and time. In this work, he united the humble streets and houses of Lahore with the architectural promise of skyscrapers and the lines of minimalism.

The large-scale photographs, which he describes as “unpacked abstraction”, appear from afar as non-representative geometric compositions. But up close they are revealed as forming thousands of images of specific content.

Rashid explores the impact of media and globalization on life and identity in South Asia in his sculptures, installations and photographs. Playing with the relationship between part and all, the artist’s “Books” sculptures use pixelated prints on aluminum blocks to emulate what looks like stacks of books.

International Exhibitions of Rashid Rana

Participation in major group exhibitions includes:

  • The Asia Society, New York, USA (2009).
  • Saatchi Gallery, London, UK (2010) .
  • Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2010).
  • Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2010).
  • Kiev Biennial, Ukraine (2012).
  • Lisson Gallery, London, UK (2015).
  • Arnolfini, Bristol, UK (2016).
  • Contemporary Art Museum Kumamoto, Kumamoto, Japan (2016).
  • FOR-SITE Foundation, San Francisco, USA (2017).
  • Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Aachen, Germany (2018).

Solo exhibitions includes:

  • Musée Guimet, Paris, France (2010).
  • Lisson Gallery, London, UK (2011).
  • Cornerhouse, Manchester, UK (2011).
  • New Art Exchange, Nottingham, UK (2012).
  • Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi, Pakistan (2013).
  • Lisson Gallery, Milan, Italy (2014).
  • the Pakistan pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2015).
  • Leila Heller Gallery, Dubai, UAE (2017).


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