Lél,a collaborative space between artisan and designer, revealed its latest collection in the exhibition “The Heart of Stone” at the HSY Mansion in Karachi from 5th till 7th of January 2017. The “Heart of Stone” is a comprehensive showcase of exquisite handcrafted pietradura works by Lél. Founded by Farhana Asad almost two decades ago; Lél is now run in collaboration with her daughter, Lél’s Creative Director, Meherunnisa Asad.
Curated by Zarmeene Shah, the exhibition straddled both past and present, in keeping with Lél’s ethos and larger vision, coming together within three categories of aesthetic: Heritage, Contempo and Lazhward. Lél through this exhibition showcases its work thatis not only involved in the act of preservation of this rare art but also simultaneously plays an integral part in its progression.The ancient art of pietradura is not only disallowed from being forgotten but is pushed into contemporary evolution.
Speaking at the exhibition “The Heart of Stone”,Meherunnisa Asad, Creative Director at Lél said, “Lél is dedicated to preserving traditional stone inlay techniques and reinterpreting it for the modern connoisseur of art.”
The art of pietradura, or stone inlay – also referred to asparchinkari in South Asia – originated out of the ancient Roman opus sectile technique, later finding its revival and highest panicle of development in the hands of the Florentines during the Italian Renaissance of the 16th Century. Within the century, pietradurawould find its spread extending to Russia, Iran and across the South Asian region into Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, under the patronage of the Mughals.
Speaking about her journey exploring the art of pietradura, the founder of LélFarhanaAsad said, “In the early 1980s, I found myself mesmerized by a small box that I found in the antique bazaar in the city of Peshawar. It was this box that would lead me to a master artisan, from whom I would learn the skill of pietradura, and develop a passion for its preservation, simultaneously viewing it as a bridge between the past and the present, both through the exploration of traditional and modern design, as well as through the artisans from Afghanistan and Peshawar that I would subsequently train.”
Lél’s palette includes a range of semi-precious stones (Onyx, Jasper, Agate, Jade, Serpentine, Sandstone) and colored marble (Mardan pink and Ziarat white) sourced from the mountains of Pakistan. Lapis Lazuli is sourced directly from the Badakhshan province in Afghanistan, Malachite from South Africa and Turquoise from Iran. The palette is a discovery of the natural wonders, which are artistically shaped and customized to create handcrafted pietradura works.
About Farhana Asad
An autodidact, FarhanaAsad, has dedicated nearly half her life to the study and revival of the traditional arts through a host of mediums. Lél is the collaborative artistic space where Farhana’s creative expression meets a contemporary audience’s desire for original and timeless works of art.
Her interests in the arts of stone were sparked by a chance encounter with a small jeweled stone box, displaying an eagle. With her curiosity piqued, and learning that the medium was mostly a man’s field of art, Farahana undertook the challenge by learning to seek the mystique inherent in discovering the locked hues and patterns of stones she worked with.
From one point of view, Lél was the natural progression of a journey undertaken by Farhana many years ago when she embarked to explore the medium of stone.
About Meherunnisa Asad
After graduating with a bachelor in Architectural Design from the National College of Arts, Meherunnisa Asad studied at the Pratt Institute in New York where she received a Master of Arts. On her return to Pakistan, she went on to practice as senior conservation architect on the Conservation of the Lahore Walled City at the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program.
Having been inspired with working in conservation at the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program,Meherunnisa realized the importance of preserving the traditional arts, and began training with her mother Farhana to learn the art of handcrafted pietradura or inlay, an art form Farhana had been working to conserve for over two decades in her hometown Peshawar.
At this juncture in her career, Meherunnisa is now exploring the convergence of her passion for the preservation of historic architecture with that of preserving classical traditions of the decorative arts. Through this convergence, she continues to experiment and seeks to build bridges between modern creative modes and traditional crafting techniques, all in an effort to showcase the wonders of natural stone.