Farhana Asad and Muhammad Ashfaq
A graduate of the National College of Arts of Lahore and the Pratt Institute of New York, Meherunnisa Asad, born in Pakistan at Peshawar, is a multidisciplinary artist and designer with a keen fascination for nature and its relationship with the human experience. Her work attempts to bring the legacy of the applied arts into contact with a subtle form of minimalism, creating a contemporary look that makes the perfect match for the traditional hardstone techniques she uses. She was surrounded by art right from a very early age: the legendary bazars of the historic city of Peshawar were just a handful of kilometres from her home, and she spent a great deal of time rummaging in antique shops with her mother and siblings. These childhood experiences fostered an interest in traditional artforms, an interest which was later heightened by her work on the prestigious Aga Khan Historic Cities programme. Having grown up in a region profoundly affected by war, with a constant stream of individuals driven away from their homes by the war in Afghanistan, her work is often inspired by the ways in which people find beauty in the midst of unimaginable difficulties. Her interest in portraying the terrible consequences of conflict and migration from a little-regarded standpoint led her to explore the topic in a series of collectors’ art and design works entitled War Gardens.
Muhammad Ashfaq is a master artisan from the Lél atelier. He joined the collective as a young apprentice in 2011, and trained in close contact with a teacher of Afghan art for a number of years. He makes complex mosaics using hardstones and gemstones and is in charge or training up apprentices and young artisans at the Lél atelier, which was founded by Pakistani artist Farhana Asad. Fascinated by the stone inlay technique, Asad set up the collective when she opened the doors to local artisans and refugees, experimenting with the creative potential and techniques of inlay work. From working in a garage at home, the atelier has grown to become a studio of international standing which has exhibited in major exhibitions in London, Miami, Dubai and Milan: her works are highly sought after and published in key art and design magazines around the world.