Exhibition: Paradoxical pleasures

Updated October 05, 2014


Certain categories of ‘mystical experience’ have the power to challenge and ultimately nuance our traditional understandings of that term. Nature mysticism and mystical states triggered by sublime sensuality cast doubts on the generally accepted axiom that mysticism is an inherently religious experience. These forms force us to broaden our perspective on the possible range of mystical phenomenon. The nature mystic, like other mystics, experiences states such as blessedness, added meaning and value in life, and selfless love.

This is how one would describe painter Aqeel Solangi whose paintings are characteristics of his personal experiences. Solangi’s solo show mounted at the Tanzara Gallery in Islamabad are symbolic of nature and are layers of acrylic on paper and canvas with hints of gold and silver leaf.

Solangi completed his BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore in 2003 followed by his MA (Honours) in visual arts in 2005. In 2006 he was awarded the Charles Wallace Pakistan Trust Art Bursary and then continued to the Prince’s School of Traditional Art in London.

Aqeel Solangi’s artworks show his skill, dexterity and conceptual awareness

In this solo exhibition titled “Tactile Journeys” Solangi’s content and technique are both awe-inspiring and absorbing. Time and memory, collective wisdom and rituals are what connect human beings to each other. This responsiveness is an apparent sensibility in the visual concerns of his paintings. Symbols such as the Mandala, flowers, stones, water, the consistent usage of clouds and trees are repetitive attributes within the images.

It is fascinating to learn that the artist has photographed depictions of several locations of his travels within his homeland of Sindh, his residency workshop in China, Dubai and his city of residence, Rawalpindi. All these places etched in Solangi’s memory and he amalgamates them to form a new and perhaps an unknown location.

In his work the periwinkle flower makes a continuous appearance in the form of the Mandala or as a carpeted formation on the floor and in the sky. This particular flower symbolises benevolence, compassion and also expresses to respect the independence to be true to one’s self.

The Mandala, meaning a circle is a representation of wholeness, a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation with the infinite world. These are an essential part of Solangi’s overall imagery. His curiosity in the magnificent aspects of nature is his way of admiring the world and the universe. His comprehensive brushstrokes in the far distance to finely detailed objects in the foreground prove he is a painter with skill. The textures of the clouds and the reflection of the water, his profound appreciative demeanour towards tonal values and colour provides the viewer with an insight into the artist’s world.

A show involving symbols, history, nature and boundless beauty along with skill, dexterity and conceptual awareness is what makes Solangi an avant-garde painter within the contemporary world of art.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 5th, 2014