Some of the artworks put up on display in the exhibition.—White Star
Some of the artworks put up on display in the exhibition.—White Star

KARACHI: Aqeel Solangi is an artist steeped in culture and tradition. At the same time, his art pushes boundaries in a subtle way; so subtle that the viewer doesn’t even realise that what s/he’s just witnessed is a breathtaking combination of contemporariness and convention. An exhibition of Solongi’s latest body of work titled Distant Fields is underway at the Koel Art Gallery.

The show once again reinforces his noteworthy ability to effortlessly meld the above described two worlds.

Here’s a measure of how he approaches his art: “I used to write takhti in my primary school as it was an essential practice in schools to write on takhti (wooden tablet). The repetition of flowers in the Fasl e Gul series, in my opinion, is like the repetition of letters that I used to write in my childhood. It was sort of a ritual to write a takhti everyday and clean and coat it with Multani Matti, like a mandala or rangoli ritual is being performed everyday and dismantled every day. The repetition of writing the same letters was to get perfection over the alphabet/language, but besides that I think there is a spiritual side to it, we use to recite and repeat verses everyday without realising its repetition for our spiritual gain.”

Some of the artworks put up on display in the exhibition.—White Star
Some of the artworks put up on display in the exhibition.—White Star

It is such a delight to know that in this day and age, where technology reigns supreme, there is someone who is talking about the age-old gray slate on which young children in schools and madressahs used to write to have a the right feel of the alphabet, and not just learn their shapes. Then his deep association with matti (soil) enables him to have a dispassionate view of the developing world and allows him to see it with eyes that look for nature and its munificence in everything. As a result, beautiful artworks such as ‘Chandol’ (acrylic on canvas) and ‘Titliyon Ka Des’ (acrylic on wooden tablet) along with the series that Solangi mentions in his statement come into being. Simply stupendous!

The exhibition concludes on Dec 1.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2021

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