- Tuesday, 14 April 2015 11:52
By Ambreen Saleh
Shortly after the success of his performance art exhibition entitled “Dreamscape”, I had the privilege of meeting with the sculptor Amin Gulgee.
We spoke at length on a number of topics: what brought him into the field of sculpture and influenced his choice of colors and mediums, his relationship with his father (legendary artist and calligrapher Gulgee) and his view of contemporary art.
Amin is artistic, but practical and earthy, which is visible to some extent in his large copper and bronze sculptures that simultaneous reflect great intricacy.
“Copper and bronze are the first metals worked on by mankind”, he says of his desire to be part of this river of life through art.
These metals have longevity and thus have been part of nearly every human civilization.
Whereas his father Gulgee’s work reflected the power of the pen, or rather the paintbrush - through colorful, energetic strokes of calligraphy on a canvas - Amin has taken art to the third dimension. He entered the world of art in the 1980’s through jewelry, which became renowned among the elite for its bold and eclectic quality. His jewelry was made of gold-plated copper, colored glass, stones and rock crystal – it represented the beginning of an exciting journey.
“Every piece of jewelry I made was something I made for myself”, says Amin.
For Amin art is very personal, and perhaps even an extension of his own soul and its explorations.
From jewelry he moved to bigger pieces, i.e., sculptures. He exhibited his pieces around the globe, from Italy to Kuala Lampur. With this new medium of artistic expression, came the increasing spiritual influences that were also present in his fathers work. Amin sculpted lines and words from the Quran. Some of his exhibitions reflected Islamic mystical concepts, such as the ‘Charbagh’ (four gardens). He continued to include objects such as cubes, spheres, wheels and leaves in his art.
Describing his father’s entrée into the daunting world of art as ‘unapologetic’, Amin feels that he too has the freedom of expression he needs to succeed. From a sculptor, he has expanded the boundaries of his work to become the curator of art exhibitions, in which he has worked with teams of upcoming or established fellow artists. His house has become the platform for new forms such as ‘performance art’, which is a mix of message-laden acting and dance to the backdrop of images, videos and other props. By working with artists from outside Pakistan, both in their countries and inviting them to ours, Amin’s greatest message has been that of tolerance.
“Everybody feels welcome in my space” he says, of his attempts to “bring different worlds together” and invite as large a group of people as possible to his exhibitions.
Whereas his exhibitions in India represented a dialogue amidst the complex relations of the two countries, his show entitled “Fresh” (curated in March 2014), placed youth on the stage; 64 Pakistani artists of the age 30 years and under were given a chance to help relieve tension with this often-misunderstood group. His exhibitions entitled “Love Marriage” and “One Night Stand”, in 2012 and 2013, respectively, gave dignity and space to sensitive and often taboo topics such as birth, marriage, relationships and death.
“My approach is to bring things that are ‘underground’ above the ground”, said Amin.
Art stimulates the senses into questioning our daily routines and what we define as ‘ordinary’: Amin’s selected pieces at the 6th Karachi Literature Festival in February 2015, represented “an endless journey where questions have no answers but only lead to more questions”.
“My father was the strongest man I know”, he says. Although his father did not encourage him to be an artist, and even sent Amin to study Economics (along with Art History) at Yale University in America, Economics gave Amin ‘discipline’ but could not take the legacy out of his soul.
The legacy remains strong, as Amin finds new partners such as Zarmeena Shah, with whom he has curated several highly successful exhibitions.
Gulgee, Amin’s father, brought the word of God to audiences of Pakistan. His brilliant and often passionately painted calligraphy, and portraits, reminded us of the oneness of our Creator and the potential dignity of mankind – His representative and manifestation on earth. Amin takes his audience to God. He makes us question the society and norms surrounding us. As his soul journeys, it takes its audience on the journey.