Call of the saint
By Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: The Sufi shrines culture appeals to the artist community for several reasons, most of which have to do with the spiritual facet of existence. Not many art lovers, and even artists themselves, realise that it is the physical side of things which, at least initially, draws them to the shrine milieu. This means that the colours, the landscape and the very soil, which are an integral part of Sufi culture, cannot be discounted when one tries to understand and express it creatively.
An exhibition of artist Ali Abbas’s water colour paintings titled ‘Lal Ki Sada’, which is under way at the Art Scene Gallery, tries to portray both the spiritual and physical aspects of such an ethos in a pretty convincing manner.
Shedding light on the genesis of his current work, the artist says it was while he was at the urs of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar that he ran into a malang. After striking up a conversation with him, he asked the malang what attracted him to the shrine. He responded it was ‘Lal ki sada’ (the call of the saint). From here on, the artists endeavoured to ‘pursue’ the answers related to the ‘sada’ in his work.
Ali Abbas chooses watercolour on paper as his medium. This allows him to impart certain kind of luminosity to the images he wishes to paint, and it reflects well the aura that one usually feels at an urs. The impressive thing about the artworks is that the artist does not draw any definitive conclusions from the journey. Rather, he makes the viewer examine the unsaid elements that are an inalienable part of any spiritual quest.
For example, if on the one hand he draws most of the figures (drums, smoke, women, children, etc) with grey being the dominant colour, on the other hand the green attire of the malang, usually the focal point of his artworks, hints at the difference in rank or position of some individuals. But that’s not the gist of the idea. The gist is the big white space that he leaves blank at which his characters stare. They seem entranced. The viewer needs to understand this blankness if he is to comprehend the mission of those who dedicate their whole lives to Sufis and their shrines.
The exhibition will continue till Feb 20.