Artist in Focus: Muhammad Atif Khan

Muhammad Atif Khan is a visual artist who lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan. He graduated with distinction from the National College of Arts (NCA), Lahore


Muhammad Atif Khan

Art practice: By and large, Muhammad Atif Khan’s work pays homage to Pakistani popular visual culture, paying tribute to its amalgamation of Central Asian/Persian aesthetics and a local South Asian blend of expressive storytelling. Borrowing from and building on a gamut of images and iconography across hundreds of years of Mughal culture and miniature paintings, to Pakistani truck art and a diverse range of visual materials from his everyday life, Atif creates a unique imaginary universe. Juxtaposing eclectic images in contrasting environments subverts their original contextual meaning and opens windows on new stories that speak of his concerns about spiritual and physical worlds, simultaneously. Atif's expression on harsh social and political realities resembles sugar-coated pills, sweet on the outside but bitter inside. To express his thoughts, he incorporates a diverse range of mediums and materials such as traditional Block printing to modern Digital printing, and from handmade delicate mixed media collages to giant sized sculptures and public art installations.


KB 19 work: “Looking at the increasing level of awareness about ecology in Pakistan, I'm quite convinced that it will create its own space as a major theme in the works of many established and upcoming artists. Karachi Art Biennale (KB19), under the curatorship of Muhammad Zeeshan, has dedicated the upcoming biennale to the theme of Ecology, an appreciable move because it will provide a larger platform for artists to think about ideas other than politics. KB19 will play a defining role in turning Pakistani artists’ attention towards ecology as a theme to work on, in the future.


I believe that politics and ecology are intertwined. Ecology cannot be expressed properly without a deep understanding of politics.

Both topics are directly related to people, giving them equal potential for artists to show their creativity and expression through them. Since the last few years, my work has gradually moving towards the larger theme of ecology, with elements of politics. I believe that we face several ecological problems due to the incapability and lack of interest of politicians. Artists should raise their voices for a better environment, through their art work, using their own medium and style.”


M Atif Khan with his KB19 work in progress

Preview of Atif Khan's KB19 work


Previous work: An illustrious career spanning 20 years has seen a plethora of international awards, residencies and workshops including the Commonwealth Arts & Crafts Award (2007) and the UNESCO-ASHBURG Bursary (1998). He was appointed Artist in Residence at the Swansea Print Workshop in Wales (2005-06), London Print Studio in England (2008) and Glasgow Print Studio in Scotland (2008). Khan's work has been exhibited throughout Pakistan, India, the USA, several European countries, Australia, Dubai, Jordan and Hong Kong, including exhibitions at the Bradford Museum in UK, the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto, Sharjah Art Museum in UAE, Taliesin Arts Centre in UK and the Islamic Museum of Australia in Melbourne. Additionally, he has been a faculty member at the prestigious National College of Arts, Lahore since 2005.