Dr Virginia Whiles, Dr Amna Malik & Niru Ratnam In Conversation | Chair: Sutapa Biswas |

Open Lecture


Installation detail from A Missing History: "The Other Story" re-visited, Aicon Gallery, London (2010)

Dr Virginia Whiles is an Art Historian, critic and curator. She completed her Doctorate in Social Anthropology at S.O.A.S. (2007), the title of her thesis, Miniature Manoeuvres: Tradition and Subversion in Contemporary Pakistani Art. In 2010, her book, Art and Polemic in Pakistan: Cultural Politics and Tradition in Contemporary Miniature Painting, was published by I.B. Tauris, London. Virginia is an Associate Lecturer at Chelsea College of Art and Design, UAL, and a member of the Adjunct Faculty at Beacon House National University (B.N.U.) and the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, Pakistan. Formerly Professor de Culture Generale at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Rouen France (1980-1999), and 2001-2005, she curated 5 exhibitions of Pakistani miniature painting, in various countries: India, France, Switzerland and Japan (Fukuoka Asian Art Museum). Virginia Whiles is an art critic and contributor to Art Monthly, Art Forum, and Art in America.

Virginia’s book charts the movement of contemporary miniature painting in Lahore, Pakistan (which has been the foundation of Virginia’s research for over 10 years). It is presented through participant-observation of the practice, based on traditional apprenticeship, and inspired to re-invent itself through measures of appropriation and parody towards a critical chronicle of socio-political issues such as fundamentalism, violence against women, nuclear warfare, corruption and militarism. Within the context of post-colonial art education, the issues are those of the provenances of convention and the consequences of innovation, in other words its interaction with the art world is shown as a means of projecting the politics of a localised cultural conflict onto a screen of globalised proportions to investigate the ideological issues at stake: gender conflicts, indigenous and western aesthetics, cultural identity, market and globalisation, audiences, performative knowledge. The study looks specifically at the works of 9 artists through a fusion of art historical and anthropological perspectives.

This Open Lecture has been organised to coincide with an exhibition partly curated by Virginia:
Le Cabinet de Curiosites de Mlle Clouet
An ethnographic exhibition as homage to the life and work of Shelagh Cluett (1948-2007). The display in the vitrines of the old library at Chelsea College will be composed of objects from her collection and documentation of her travels in Asia which inspired her sculpture. A catalogue including her works and texts contributed by colleagues and friends will be edited by the curator: Virginia Whiles, co-curator and archivist: Johanna Garrad.

Dr Amna Malik is a Lecturer in Art History and Theory at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. She has published a number of articles and essays examining contemporary art practice from the perspective of diaspora, including: History in the Present, in Ghosting, The Role of the Archive Within Contemporary Artists’ Film and Video (2006); Patterning Memory: Ellen Gallagher’s “Ichthyosaurus” at the Freud Museum’, Wasafari (2006); and Migratory Aesthetics: (Dis)placing the Black Maternal Subject in Martina Attille’s Dreaming Rivers (1988), in Black British Aesthetics Today (Victoria Arana ed., Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007). She is currently working on two book projects. Migratory Aesthetics examining the movement of artistic practices in the works of diaspora artists who have disappeared from mainstream narratives of art history, and Proximity is a re-appraisal of aesthetics and politics in recent art practice.

Niru Ratnam is Director of the Aicon Gallery, London. He studied English Literature at Oxford University, and completed his Masters in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. As Director of Aicon, curatorial projects include solo exhibitions by the artists Rasheed Araeen, Simon Tegala and Ashish Avikunthak, as well as group exhibitions including, A Missing History: “The Other Story” re-visited (2010), which re-appraised questions of amnesia within mainstream culture and critical art historical discourse, and Royale With Cheese (2010). Previously Director of STORE gallery (London), Ratnam worked with many artists including Margaret Salmon, Ryan Gander and Rosalind Nashashibi. Working for Arts Council England, he designed and delivered the Inspire programme – an important museum and gallery placement scheme for curators of colour. Niru Ratnam’s writing on art is published widely, and he has been a contributing writer and art critic for Art Review, Frieze, Art Monthly, Third Text, and the Observer Magazine.

Sutapa Biswas is an internationally recognised artist, and Reader at Chelsea College of Art and Design, CCW, UAL.

The Event will be recorded for broadcast purposes, by ONFM Radio 101.4


Related Projects

  • Ol_image_thumb

    TrAIN Open Series

    The TrAIN Open series is a forum for invited speakers to present exhibition, publication, and research projects in the form of lectures, discussions and screenings.

    Taking place at fortnightly intervals on Wednesday evenings during the academic term, the series is open to the public, as well as staff and students across the University of the Arts London.
    Find out more about TrAIN Open Series

Related People

  • Professor Deborah Cherry

    TrAIN Member

    I studied in the UK (Edinburgh and London) and I have worked in the UK, the USA, and in Europe, where I am now at the University of Amsterdam. Following my PhD I have written extensively on art in Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth century with two books, Painting Women (1994) and Beyond the Frame: Feminism and Visual Culture (2000) along with exhibitions such as ‘The Edwardian Era’ (co-curated 1987).
    Find out more about Professor Deborah Cherry