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Young artist Abdullah Qureshi has been contributing to Lahore’s art scene for almost a decade now. He initiated the gallery-cum-studio space ‘39K’ in Lahore — when he was studying at the Chelsea School of Art, University of London — from where he completed his postgraduate studies in 2011. Qureshi actually converted his home into a studio space and opened it to artists who could explore and experiment with paint and other materials. His prime concern always seems to have been with the process of creativity and self-expression and he has given numerous opportunities to young artists to push the boundaries of art practice without worrying about commercial concerns.

His own art practice has been rooted in Abstract Expressionism and his preferred medium tends to be enamel paint on canvas. His earlier work was often very colourful and riotous, but with time, a ‘less is more’ approach has emerged. In last year’s exhibition at the Canvas Gallery in Karachi, the abstraction was still of the ‘pure’ variety, with no overt symbolism or figures. Though the typical spontaneous and gestural quality of his work was evident, the strokes were much bolder and minimalist than before.

Qureshi’s latest body of work was recently displayed at the Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery at the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore. Large canvases painted with enamel paint were supplemented by smaller watercolours and displayed a new dimension of the artist’s style and mood.

Still spontaneous and bold, his new work has a sensitivity and self-revelatory quality that is more obvious and overt. The human figures, even though without any detailing, form a biography of his personal preferences. The show titled “The Story of Myself and Some Friends in These Fragments of Daily Loves”, a title he borrowed from the Mexican writer Ernesto Banuelos Enriquez, is a ‘painted visual diary’ focusing on ‘masculinity, intimacy and desire’ and represents a willingness to share personal space in an overt and almost visceral way. The faceless figures are almost larger than life on some canvases and bold colours are not only aesthetically powerful but also symbolic in the sense of rebellion they invoke.


Abdullah Qureshi’s latest work displays a willingness to share personal space in an overt and almost visceral way


Conversely, smaller watercolour paintings displayed in small group settings along the larger canvases seem to invoke a sense of intimacy and even vulnerability. The fluid but blurred figures seem to dissolve into their assigned space, and here the artist’s quintessential spontaneity emerges in a soft and lyrical way.

Qureshi’s prolific output of paintings seems to have been part of a deeply cathartic process. Moreover, his willingness to share his thoughts in paint and also in detailed conversations with viewers indicates a positive outpouring of inner angst as well as an acceptability of his identity as a person. The artist is clearly more interested in ‘self-expression’ rather than the nitty-gritty of aesthetics. Though formal concerns of image-making do seem to have been addressed, the body of work is both an amalgam of finished paintings and those that could be categorised as ‘works in progress.’

“The Story of Myself and Some Friends in These Fragments of Daily Loves” was showcased at the Zahoor ul Akhlaq Gallery, NCA Lahore, from March 24 to April 6, 2017

Published in Dawn, EOS, April 16th, 2017

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