Khadim Ali debates miniature painting’s confines

3:51 | Published on November 18, 2013 | 37 Views

Here, Khadim Ali discusses some of the restrictions inherent to the practice of miniature painting, and relates his recent interest in moving away from the intimacy of his current output and toward the production of life-size paintings—and even three-dimensional works—as a way of imparting greater impact to the demons he depicts. “My son, who is six years old,” he relates, “always encourages me and pushes me to do bigger works. He says, ‘You are not a child. You have to work on a bigger scale.’”

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This video features No Country artist Khadim Ali; Georgia Krantz, Senior Education Manager, Adult and Access Programs, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Molly DiGrazia, Gallery Guide, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and partially sighted or blind participants of the Mind’s Eye workshop (indicated by first name within the transcript). 

Karen: I was just curious—when you draw in miniature, isn’t it constricting? It seems limited. Like, constricted?

Khadim Ali: Yeah, it is. It is very limited.

Spider: But there’s amazing detail in your work. Just amazing detail.

Khadim Ali: There are details. But art is just art. You know, I don’t want to bind myself in just one technique. I want to use more techniques. I want to explore more. I want to express myself in other mediums at the same time. You know, I want to do demons, bigger demons. Those smaller demons, they are small. They look like toys, sometimes. So I want to do bigger demons.

Karen: What about three-dimensional demons?

Khadim Ali: Oh, yeah! Yeah.

Karen: I would love to see that. You don’t see that every day.

Offscreen voice: A hologram.

Spider: Well, there’s Dick Cheney!

Khadim Ali: The little kids were asking me that. “Wow, what small cartoons you are drawing!”

Molly DiGrazia: But there’s also that idea that when you paint a miniature—and, as you were saying, that when you first heard this story recited, that you were looking through these pictures. I’m sure that was a big enough demon when you were small.

Khadim Ali: Yeah.

Molly DiGrazia: To look at, you know? And then, of course, when you become a painter and an artist, then you want to find that creative expression. But I think the fact that you have miniatures that can be carried with a text really figures in to the work.

Khadim Ali: Exactly. But there were always comparative images. There was a hero. And the demon was a little taller than the hero. So now I want to paint taller demons. That makes all the shorter people heroes. I just want to make taller demons.

Spider: Kind of like David and Goliath.

Khadim Ali: Maybe!

Georgia Krantz: But I have to say, the beauty of a miniature is that you’re kind of inclined to get close. And when you get that close, everything becomes bigger. Right? Whether it’s, you know, something small on the wall . . .

Karen: It’s intimate.

Georgia Krantz: That’s the beauty of it. And there’s so much gorgeous color and detail in your work. When I’m looking at it, it seems big, you know? There’s kind of a face-to-face feeling. It’s right there. Just beautiful.

Khadim Ali: But sometimes, you know, when you are showing a miniature painting in a group show, where these other artists are showing huge-scale work, your work looks like the title of the other work. It’s this small work! My son, who is six years old, always encourages me and pushes me to do bigger works. He says, “You are not a child. You have to work on a bigger scale.” So, yeah, I have to. Yeah, we have a deal. When I ask him to do his homework, we have a deal. I listen to him, and he listens to me. So now I’m doing these big paintings.

Georgia Krantz: Thank you so much.