Looking for the Magic Center: Amin Gulgee

February 25 - March 12, 2009

A diverse and moving exhibition of contemporary sculpture, innovative selection of works by the Pakistani artist Amin Gulgee titled ‘Looking for the Magic Centre’ from 25 February to 12 March, 2009. 

Amin Gulgee‘s works use traditional forms, drawn from Islamic art, to create thoroughly modern sculptural works in metal. Inspired by the varied and rich spiritual history of his native Pakistan, his work ranges from the purely abstract to creations inspired by Hindu mythology, Buddhist civilisation and Islamic calligraphy. Although diverse, these directions influence and nourish one another for they all attempt to depict the spirituality of man.

Abdulla Bin Sougat, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Lifestyle Group said: “By taking elements from historical Islamic art and reinterpreting them in a modern way, Amin Gulgee has created unique artworks that celebrate both tradition and modernity. As part of creating a vibrant lifestyle experience within the Dubai International Financial Centre, we are keen to support exhibitions of artists like Amin Gulgee that serve to enhance the creative and cultural ambience within the financial district and offer opportunities for audiences to engage with the very best of international contemporary art.”

Saeed Al Nabouda, Chief Projects Officer of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority said: “Exhibitions of artists such as Amin Gulgee will serve to enrich and invigorate the artistic scene in Dubai, which is witnessing a heightened interest in various forms of contemporary art. The Dubai Culture and Arts Authority is keen to support and promote events, like this exhibition, that foster the appreciation of art from across the globe. Exhibitions of accomplished artists such as Amin Gulgee will also support Dubai’s larger effort to develop into a global hub for art and culture.”

Well-established in Pakistan, the artist has also exhibited extensively in the USA, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. In creating his sculpture, he does not sketch or draw the work. The sculpture is conceived through a fluid, intuitive process, in which shapes appear in his mind. These shapes are then translated directly by the artist into sculptural creations. The entire process of creating the work is an absorbing and highly-charged personal journey. Joanna Shaw-Eagle, Chief Art Critic of the Washington Times, wrote in her review of the artist’s one-man show at the IMF on 1 January, 2000: "Mr. Gulgee is an artist to watch both for the originality of his ideas and the sensuous, handsome quality of his work."

For nearly two decades, Amin Gulgee has been creating metal sculptures to explore and express his life, religion, and extended environment. In his words, “I work in order to understand myself. It is a highly personal journey in which I try to discover a balance with my inner self, my culture and my God.”F F The stability that he attempts to achieve is one that moves beyond false divisions that exist among life, art, and religion. Out of his self-evaluation has emerged a formal practice that strives to be visually compelling and innovative, while, at the same time, conceptually meaningful to viewers. It possesses a complexity that cannot be explained simplistically.

Amin Gulgee’s work represents several aesthetic contradictions. These dualities coalesce to produce multilayered objects that depict the intricacies of life and art. For example, while he uses elements from tradition,  his work is grounded in modernist concepts and visual languages. Guljee draws forms from Islamic calligraphy to create his sculptures, but the material he often utilizes —metal— recalls the choice of well known sculptors like August Rodin and Henry Moore, who embraced the revolutionary and anti-academic spirit of modernist art.

Amin’s sculptures create three-dimensional representations of Arabic calligraphy in Naskhi and Kufi scripts. The Naskhi script is composed of rounded, flowing letters while the Kufi letters are more rectilinear and do not posses the lyrical movement of the Naskhi script. In many ways, Kufi text is more appropriate to building a sculpture — its blocky tendency easily results in holistic shapes. Yet, neither of these writing styles were rendered three-dimensionally until very recently. Islamic calligraphy was relegated to manuscripts or as decoration on architecture or objects. Its use as an object itself is a radical break from past practices. By updating the form that calligraphy can take, while at the same utilising the styles from the past, Amin Gulgee adopts a postmodern mindset and brings together traditional and contemporary art.