Seven contemporary South Asian artists to look out for in 2024.

Whether you are a young collector searching for your first purchase or a veteran looking for something fresh to invest in next, these artists bring you a slice of new storytelling, unique mediums, and some old school nostalgia gone missing. 

Suleman Aqueel Khilji, Modern and Contemporary Artist

Artwork titled ‘Figure in a Transitional Space III’ by Suleman Aqeel Khilji

Suleman says he “wants to be a filmmaker through painting.” His practice is filled with various influences that are exciting for the viewer to uncover. Influenced by the Indian cinema, Suleman often depicts a protagonist who represents the common man. However, while showing these stories Suleman does not want to impose a message on his viewer, instead he wants the viewer to attach their own interpretation and story to each work. As a student of the National College of Arts, Lahore, he was first introduced to Bhupen Khakhar, an artist who continues to evidently inspire his practice even today. His work is currently on display as part of the Premium exhibition at the Royal Academy, London.

Zaam Arif, Contemporary Artist

Artwork titled ‘Fear and Anxiety’ by Zaam Arif

Zaam’s large-scale works are an idyllic representation of the cross-over between western influences and his South Asian roots. In 2021, he was the youngest Pakistani artist to be featured in The New Yorker magazine. Zaam’s works incorporate a blending of his South Asian heritage with a European style of painting. Each work includes a South Asian subject often looking wistfully painting with the smoothest of brushstrokes, reminiscent of the old European masters. His works have been showcased in India, the United States and the UK, most recently at Frieze London in 2023. Zaam’s first solo show is set to take place at Vadehra Art Gallery in February 2024.

Maha Ahmed, Miniature Painter

Artwork titled ‘Unbound’ by Maha Ahmed

Maha Ahmed’s fantastical works are rooted in her academic and practical understanding of Persian and Mughal miniature painting, which she received while pursuing her BFA in Miniature Painting from the National College of Arts, Lahore. Each work is a representation of her own experiences and feelings and every animal painted reflects a phase of her own life. Most recently she has incorporated the tigress, which represents her journey as a mother and the protectiveness that she feels for her daughter. Maha recently had a public retrospective at the Leighton House Museum in the United Kingdom.

Sanket Viramgami, Miniature Painter and Katha Artist

Untitled artwork by Sanket Viramgami

Sanket learnt Rajasthani miniature under the traditional guru-shishya style of education. The incorporation of Rajasthani miniature style of painting is undeniable in his practice, which is based on an unlikely combination of painstaking attention to detail and whimsy, yet somehow Sanket makes it work. His works are inspired by the stories of Gujarati writer and poet Jhaverchand Meghani, which he depicts through a revolving representation of characters. As his practice has developed, Sanket has begun including stories of his own with new characters. Each work is almost meditative for the viewer who gets lost in his details, but there is also a child-like joy when one notices a new character or finds his favourites from previous works.

Purvai Rai, Multimedia Artist

Untitled moli and thread artwork by Purvai Rai

Purvai is a multimedia artist whose practice critiques and questions post-colonial and contemporary socio-political practices in India. Her ancestral village in Punjab, one of the most-affected areas by Partition, plays a pivotal role in her practice. Her works span across mediums with a focus on textile and weaving. The evolution of her practice is evident in each series of work that Purvai executes, with the successor being distinctly different from the previous body of work. Purvai is currently pursuing her MFA in painting at Yale College of Art.

Maya Vardaraj, Interdisciplinary Artist

Artwork titled ‘Adequate and Suitable’ by Maya Varadaraj

Maya’s practice examines the role and perceptions of femininity in South Asian culture. Starting from the time of her senior thesis, as a student of the Rhode Island School of Design, where Maya used bangles as her medium of expression, her practice has consistently held women at the forefront. Maya’s recent body of work has taken a more intimate turn after her own experience with personal loss. She no longer feels like an outsider looking in. She questions, “what are some of the ancestral packages that I can pass through visually?” In 2024, Maya intends to bridge her personal history within a larger social context by merging her original collage-based practice with her current paintings. Maya will be showcasing in Los Angeles for the first time this February.

Thamshangpha Maku, Painter, Sculptor and Performance Artist

Artwork titled ‘Pleasure Over Matters’ by Thamshangpha Maku

Thamshangpha seamlessly weaves, quite literally, contemporary art techniques, which he learnt as a student of MSU Baroda, with tribal embroidery influences from Naga tribal culture. This eclectic mix of techniques is a reflection of the duality that he perceives as his identity as a contemporary artist with a tribal background. He hopes to bring his culture and heritage to the mainstream through his works, which were showcased at the Kochi Students Biennale in 2023. Thamshangpha’s upcoming projects involve a group exhibition with seven other FICA grant awardees and a solo show with Anant Art.

This article originally appeared in the January-February 2024 print issue of Harper’s Bazaar India. 

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