Murad Khan Mumtaz is a US-based Pakistani artist and researcher trained in the traditional practice of Indian miniature painting. He graduated with an MFA from Columbia University in 2010, and completed his PhD in art history from the University of Virginia in 2018. He is currently Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Williams College. As small acts of remembrance, his paintings meditate on traces of local cultures and histories disappearing in the globalized landscape of contemporary life. As a direct response to his scholarly research, Murad applies painting methods and techniques associated with historical South Asian painting. More recently, he has immersed himself in a traditional iconography, creating images of devotion that find expression through contemplative landscapes and figures of saints and ascetics.
These works are derived from historical images of devotion, a theme that has crossed over from my scholarly work on depictions of saints in Indo-Muslim miniature painting and hagiography. The series started from my exploratory practice of making direct copies of well-known Mughal, Deccani, Safavid and Ottoman portraits of saints and ascetics, as a way to better understand the artists’ modes of expression, methods, and the compositional and stylistic choices they made.
As a counterpoint to my paintings of saints and devotees I began a series where sacred landscapes take center stage. In Indian paintings, saints and ascetics are often shown inhabiting dynamic otherworldly landscapes, which sometimes can be interpreted as metaphorical projections of inner states. These works of mine were inspired by the Pahari stylistic language associated with painting from the Punjab Hills. This school of painting sets an inspiring precedent through its uniquely dynamic and abstract interpretations of the natural world.