Miniature is More Than a Technique - I Talked with Aisha Khalid

Topping off the Fortress structure during the final days of the Summer Academy, there is a quiet classroom of mostly women sitting on floor cushions, painting on their knees. This is the miniature painting class of Aisha Khalid, a renowned artist from Pakistan. Squatted, concentrated paintresses, dotted along the walls of the long room all seemed much too involved with their work, which reminded me of old times, 1001 night, or Indian traditional imagery. Their equipment small and their hands steady, they kept weaving marks of the present into those ancient pictures.


Aisha Khalid explains the technique of gilding "It's very special."

Greeted by Aisha’s co-teacher, Heraa Khan, I inquired about the differences between miniature and regular painting technique.

We use opaque colors,” Heraa said, continuing, “Students prepare their own surface. It’s called a wasli, meaning - to join. They take some sheets of watercolor paper and create their own glue with flour, and then join the surfaces together. It gives us this hard cardboard kind of a surface. It’s a very strong and resilient surface, you can do anything to it, you can wash the painting under water and the surface will remain intact. That’s the basic difference with painting, you make your own material,” concluded Heraa.

Aisha came into the room, so I approached her with a few questions about the class. After learning that this is her first time in Salzburg, but not the first time teaching, I wondered how does she compare teaching her experiences.

This is amazing because the course I’m teaching here has what we learn in almost three years! I’m happy because the students have a background in art, they know how to draw and they have a sensibility of art. They are very much into this learning, so I’m amazed that they have covered almost everything.

Still, no student has a background in traditional miniature, so I wondered how she structured such a demanding course.

When [the students] came, they were quite updated about the miniature painting. They have seen it on the internet and were familiar with miniature painting. I made the structure then since there is a [certain] process of learning. I cannot miss any assignment out of that. I have shortened the time of the assignments, but they are going through the same process students go through in two or three years in National College of Arts [in Lahore].

After asking if the students will be able to do a miniature after, independently, I got the answer that miniature is more than a technique.

There’s a whole tradition - how to sit down, how to behave with the paint, understanding of color senses, and the whole environment is not a usual studio environment. In Pakistan, miniature painting is not only a traditional technique, it’s contemporary, it’s on the mainstream art field, artists who do it are shown internationally in the mainstream art, they are accepted. Because it is revived, it’s now evolved with the vocabulary of the new time. So, I think in the same way the students are taking it. They have the previous experience of art and they can collaborate with miniature and can create something very interesting in the future.

Approaching the end of the course, Aisha is “more than satisfied” since her dedicated class has done “more than [her] expectations.” At the time of our conversation, they were starting their fourth assignment, an experimental collage, which will be on show at the final Open Day.


Tomorrow’s the last day. I am wondering what Paulina Olowska’s students have made, having seen a lot of color in their classroom in the previous weeks.

Before we part, stay with me.


Miniature painting working area
Painting barefoot
Seashells are a traditional palette in miniature painting
Color, seashells, drawings and floor
Gilded waist. When it dries, the artist will brush the excess gold off
Minute work in miniature
24/08/17 12:38 Summer Academy 2017

The Value of Gesture in a Magazine


The Value of Gesture was one of the opening courses at the Summer Academy, taught by Melissa Gordon and co-taught by Ines Hochgerner. As Melissa told me during our talk earlier in July, one of the goals of this three-week class was to make a joint publication, a magazine.


After the course was over and the class dismissed, the group continued working together and they succeeded in creating 32 pages describing their work, the experience, their concepts and ideas. What is left of their gestures has taken another form, which could be printed or digitized. I present you with the entirety of the collaborative publication created by students from Melissa Gordon's class, as I received it.


The only gesture required of you is to keep scrolling. 



Andreas C. Steindl
Andreas C. Steindl
Andreas C. Steindl
Ekaterina Muromtseva
Ekaterina Muromtseva
Ekaterina Muromtseva
Lilly Kroth
Lilly Kroth

Lilly Kroth
Uwe Castens
Uwe Castens
Uwe Castens
Sabine Joder
Sabine Joder
Sabine Joder
Michaela Putz
Michaela Putz
Michaela Putz
Zita David
Zita David
Zita David
Performance - A Gesture in 10 Acts
Performance - A Gesture in 10 Acts
Performance - A Gesture in 10 Acts
Fabio Cirillo
Fabio Cirillo
Fabio Cirillo
Ljubomir Popovic
Ljubomir Popovic
Nils Simon Fischer
Nils Simon Fischer
Nils Simon Fischer
23/08/17 13:32 Summer Academy 2017

Filmmaking is a Complex Thing. I Watched Distruktur and Their Students


Over the two final weeks of the Summer Academy, a group of fifteen people is exploring the art of filmmaking. In a course run by Melissa Dullius and Gustavo Jahn, aka DISTRUKTUR, they will learn about both technical and conceptual ways of film creation, shooting scenes with a 16mm camera. The final outcome of this course will be presented in a form of a collective film, showing a rather abstract and visceral vision the 15 authors poured into one large bowl.


The screening today


When I came into their classroom at the beginning of the course, everybody was grasping their practice cameras and light meters, measuring every move and change and setting up the lenses continuously. One of them is always in charge of taking notes. Highly concentrated, even serious, they all got down to the business of learning the fundamentals as Melissa and Gustavo guide them did actively and patiently with the help of Viktoria, their co-teacher.


After one week, I joined DISTRUKTUR again, hoping to walk around while they shoot their film, but got a much better experience - a screening of the previously shot and processed material and a lesson in film rolling! In this relatively short time, I was seriously amazed by the 3-minute pieces the students have done, some of which could be cut out already, standing as videos in their own right. I must mention that this crew is responsible for every step in the making of their joint film, from the idea and screenwriting, over acting and costume design, to post-production.


As Melissa turned a wheel (there are hundreds of them and I don’t know their proper names), I learned that 10 meters of film equals roughly 1 minute of screening. She continued to explain how they are connecting films shot with two different cameras, and that this was their editing process. There is no professional editing table at the Fortress, so everything has to be done by hand, but this is also a planning challenge for the crew. “We need to mentally edit first,” and they have to, so they would make fewer cuts after. I ask do they know what the film will be like and get the answer that they “don’t know how long the film will be in the end by [they] do plan the shooting days. It’s a very complex thing, filmmaking,” she concluded, as I moved to the miniature class cinema.


After the screening, I joined a group of students in the dark room. Gustavo was explaining how to roll a film into a spiral, a process that must be done in the dark. It seemed touchy, but as he said - the speed depends on the person doing it. “At first, Melissa was rolling everything, I didn’t like this at all,” he told us, explaining how he would spend an hour helping someone learn the way in the dark, while some people who have a better sense of touch or are perhaps craftier with their hands get it immediately.


Leaving the filmmakers to their art, I went to my own task of wording the experience. Honestly, I don’t think a person can know everything about film by just popping into a class now and then, but if there are people who knew nothing about it in the beginning - they are now doing a very good job!


Cannot wait to see their film on Friday. What a last-day treat it will be!

An honest binge-watcher, aka Ana

An early practice
Studio shooting
Light? Focus? Check!
Circles and wheels and rolls
The treasure
Going out to film
Props and costumes
Recreating Courbet 
Gustavo explaining the film rolling process
Film developing
A frame from the film
Curious yet?


22/08/17 19:00 Summer Academy 2017

Working in Different Ways - I Talked to Michael Beutler About His Class

Strolling through the Fortress corridors, one might hear how the installation classroom looks a bit chaotic. Although this claim might appear true at the first sight, the seeming chaos is actually a picture of perpetual creation. Taught by Michael Beutler, the installation class has turned into a symbiotic organism in the first two weeks of existence through which the students are introduced to the idea that through the material, through the process and through making things they can connect to each other. Even though the collaborative approach is welcome and encouraged, it’s not obligatory. Still, everybody is responding to it and sharing visions, while still preserving their own ideas and approaches. It’s about “making your world a little bigger than it was,” said Michael Beutler in a short talk earlier today.


Tools on display at Beutler's classroom


Known for artistic creations that reexamine the space, Beutler admits that his previous teaching experiences were smaller and different. This is the first time he is not conducting his idea via community, but enforcing other spirits to react. One of his major observations is that the level of dedication and concentration is exceptionally high, as he happily observes the ongoing work, looking forward to taking home the good experience.


Shorter workshops, not long like this. Everybody is very dedicated and focused, he hasn’t seen this level of concentration in other workshops.


You not only have cozy areas, you mostly have places to work in different kind of ways, and to think in different kinds of ways, to work with your hands in different kind of ways and to eat, to feed yourself and others,” he told me, explaining the studio space.


After the first week of solo experiments and presentations, the group has changed the entire room by introducing new furniture (I see a new kitchen counter), and storage-like units. “This storage is for all the objects that are coming off the table, like products, experiments, and try-outs. There, they find another presence in this structure somehow, they’re like the collective brain of the workshop,” Beutler explained. The display enables everybody to learn about others’ work and to find parallels and connect. “It’s important that everybody tries to leave their zone a little bit and to pop out into other people’s zones,” he continues, emphasizing the importance of openness in this generally “process-based workshop.”


Guiding a group of 23 people with the help of his co-teachers Ida and Martin, Michael doesn’t see himself as a leader, but rather an organizer. Looking towards the end of a three-week experience, he says that he hopes “that everybody leaves with a really high density of new experiences and maybe also revelations.” He hopes that his students will continue to ask different questions, about their work as well, and learn from the interactions experienced during this class, feeling that they have played a role within this group of creative people.


Workspace with storage shelves behind
Inspirational mess
Spinning thread 
Spinning thread as a form of meditation
Ida and a student
Watch your finger!



Today is the start of my last week at the Summer Academy. The day was good, the weather really nice and I enjoyed the classes and the evening talks. Tomorrow I might actually get a glimpse of Distruktur's filmmakers shooting outside. Keeping my fingers crossed!





21/08/17 22:45 Summer Academy 2017

On Energy and Excitement from a Blogger's Perspective

Since the beginning of my six-week adventure in Salzburg, I have heard many teachers at the Academy mention that energy changes throughout the course. “The energy does wear off,” said Grace at some point and these words echo in my head, this week especially.


Off to forge new sentences...


It’s the week five of my following of the Academy activities, getting to know people and engaging in countless conversations. Although I enjoy learning about artists, different practices, and techniques, looking at their work grow or listening to lectures, my energy has started to wear off. Simply, the excitement and the interest are there, but the strength betrays me. As I look forward to the final week, new talks and exhibitions, I am even more happy that today is Friday and I will have a bit of off time.


Readers of my blog here might have noticed that I find Untersberg completely mesmerizing. The charming quarry at its side is where I’ve spent a better part of my day today since the stone sculpture class was celebrating their Open Day with an exhibition and a welcome choice of Mediterranean simple finger foods. Before that, I popped over to the Open Day of the jewelry class at the Künstlerhaus. Both of the classes prepared serious presentations of their work and I was stunned. Marc Monzo and his jewelers cleaned out the small workshop and made a lovely presentation of various pieces they produced. Students led by Andreas Lolis transformed a room below their dormitory into a gallery and I was sincerely amazed by the quality and amount of work they have managed to create during their month.


The gathering at the quarry soon turned into a friendly mixer, a place to hang out, chat, eat and drink, and connect over improvised bbq or spontaneous dance moves. As I danced my way out of there (dancing out is a thing now), I was lucky enough to beat the storm. Because tomorrow, I will move out of this one and visit another city, just to freshen up my energy levels.


Until we see/read each other again, enjoy a few photos from today’s exhibitions!


Have a great weekend!



18/08/17 23:00 Summer Academy 2017

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