Amin Gulgee’s new sculptural formations, standing tall in his gallery like totem poles or guardians, seem to carry many secrets of time and history. Pieces of copper/cast copper and bronze, in the shape of letters in the traditional Arabic script balance gracefully, one on top of the other, in what seems like an effortless dance. The work titled ‘7’, shown recently in a preview in Karachi, travels to Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Rome, in a solo show this year. It’s curated by Paolo De Grandis and Claudio Crescentini and co-curated by Carlotta Scarpa.
Amin’s work is situated within the paradox of his times. While he has referenced the Chahar Bagh, or the four-part Mughal garden, in his work since the ’90s, here there is an unavoidable disruption of the traditional Islamic garden. His aesthetics also embraces the subtlety of the Persian, Urdu and Arabic scripts and there is a harmonious continuity of lines, which becomes the form. In this exhibition, the circular Nastaliq script emerges as a delicate nuance, a veil and a formation of lines like the rhythm of a musical note barely audible.
We are left to complete the work, to wonder at the word and the object that intervene in a rhythm of repetition. These repeated letters, such as the ‘Alif’, ‘Noon’ etc, present new possibilities of interpreting Amin’s sensibility. The incoherence of the words, disjointed from the original phrase, keep the viewer at a distance. It is as if the artist intended to extract the essence of the word, as he departs on a solo flight. He may also be negotiating the ‘sacred’ within, with an insistence on creating personal spaces that defy containment.
In his latest work, artist Amin Gulgee deals with the paradox of light and dark, disruption and embellishment, in moments of rapture and solitude
Repeated within a grid, the negative spaces invoke the movement of light and vision, to look beyond the frame, in seeing what is not apparently visible. What we really seem to have before us is Amin’s garden. A manifestation of the Islamic Chahar Bagh, there is a chadar of coal spread on the floor. Is this a negative space or a shadow of the grids? It is in gestures such as these that Amin exposes himself, without ego or self-censorship. He deals with the paradox of light and dark, disruption and embellishment, in moments of rapture and solitude.
In the Mughal garden, the Cheeni Khana is a water channel which runs over a wall of diyaas (lamps) lit in the niches appearing like a sheet of light. This chadar is reflected as a source of purity and an attempt at recreating the gardens of Paradise. In the essay ‘Rethinking the Islamic Garden’ Attilio Petruccioli describes the carpet of Khosrow 1 as “depicting a garden with streams and paths, with stones as bright as crystal depicting the illusion of water, the ground worked in gold, to look like earth.”
“The Persian garden,” Petruccioli says, “looked for an order, in a means of drawing earth and cosmos together.”
In Amin’s garden, reflection is transformed in meanings closer to the artist’s lived experience. Embellishment is not opulent but in a raw form. This garden is bare and minimal. The coal is dark, and penetrates many layers of terrain — the psychological and the social — with possibilities of renewed transformation.
In a prior performance, the Chahar Bagh was left to burn in a public space and in other performative happenings; Amin’s curatorial voice came through the jarring discord of up to 50 artists that he gathered in the enclosed gallery. Amin’s narrative exists between the calm and the tumultuous and the open and free.
“7” was held at the Amin Gulgee Gallery in Karachi from March 30 to April 7, 2018
Published in Dawn, EOS, April 29th, 2018
Amra Ali – April 29, 2018
An exhibition of his works titled 7, which can be viewed at the Amin Gulgee Gallery, is a testimony to the observation.
The focus, mind you, is on the letters, the calligraphic movement of alphabets. The movement is tautological, which means, the viewer can see it over and over, repeating itself. This symbolises the power of the written word: once you get the hang of it, you will find it difficult to remove it from your consciousness. The artist, however, has employed them as, what he calls, ‘scrolls’ that come across as barriers.
Amin elucidates: “The show is called 7. It’s a sentence that I have divided into seven sections. It’s repeated throughout the exhibition. Now you can no longer read any of the text. So it becomes, sort of, my private messages and private love letters. There is also a performance element to the display in which I’ve asked people to write a message to anybody they love and put in a bottle placed by the gallery wall. It’s all private and will be destroyed after the show.
“Then there is the video, an algorithm, where the letters appear randomly on the screen. Each time a letter falls, it is associated with one musical note [sa re ga ma pa dha ni].”
This is an intriguing way of keeping the private as the private and at the same time by putting the message in the amber bottle, people find an opportunity to express themselves publicly without entertaining the thought that their love will be revealed.
The exhibition will conclude on April 7 and later travel to GAM Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Rome, curated by Paolo de Grandis and Claudio Crescentini.
Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018
KARACHI: Amin Gulgee is a seasoned artist. He has been making sculptures and creating installations for more than two decades and is a socially mobile person. His work is known to all those in Pakistan who have even a modicum of interest in art. Has that taken the element of surprise out of his work? The answer is, no. Here’s why: an exhibition of Amin’s artworks captioned Washed upon the shore began at the Canvas Art Gallery on Monday evening. While at the heart of the show are the sculptures and installations that the artist has recently come up with, the opening day was marked by performances that were developed around his pieces made of copper, bronze, glass and silver leaf. Not that the artworks needed that, but the fact that the performances were in harmony (by virtue of their ceremonial posturing) with his creative output, lent an added dimension to the whole process.
It has to be said, though, that Amin’s art vocabulary has expanded horizontally. This means that he is not aiming for a higher goal; rather he is exploring the world, both physical and spiritual, which exists around him. ‘The Empty Egg’ series (copper) is an evidence of it. The emptiness is significant because it is indicative of lifelessness that artists are always taken in by. He is not investigating birth; he is looking for it. This can be inferred from the fact that using metal to talk about something that’s fragile and readily breakable is creating a contrast which is in-your-face. So it seems.
Then there are the unmissable moons in the exhibition. Again, they are not as much a cosmic entity as they are an object through which the artist tries to examine existence. What happens, in return, as with Amber Moon (copper and glass), that the artworks develop eyes of their own and start to examine the artist himself. The result is not easy to describe.
The artists who participated in the performance on the inaugural day of the show were Joshinder, Sunil, Ali, Ammad, Zeerak and Iram. The exhibition, curated by Zarmeene Shah, will remain open until Dec 31.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2015
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