To walk through the doors of an exhibition and pause is a telltale sign of grand work. Such is the case for the calligraphic exhibition ‘Inshaye Tahayyur (The Oeurve of Perplexity)’ by Shahabdullah Alamee. And it all started from the roots itself.
The content is much to adhere to. It demands your attention and deservingly so. These selections from the Persian Poetry of Bidel by Mirza Abdul Qadir Bidel Dehlavi paint the state of mind of the entire exhibit. In fact taking a few moments of your time before wandering in to Alamee’s strokes and reading the poetry researched by Fatima Fayyaz sets the tone perfectly. Once you’re in, there’s no turning back. For ‘The Oeurve of Perplexity’ is a three-pronged attack on your senses and disposition. And going back to the mention of roots, this third wave supported by Fayyaz and Alamee, comes from Muhammad Hussain Kagzi, who (if you hadn’t guessed) supplied the paper for the works through Hussain Papers in Rajasthan. His name Hussain Kagzi comes from the Arabic, Urdu and Hindi word for paper, Kagaz. He is probably one of the last of India’s traditional papermakers. Handmade papermaking is a traditional art that has been has been passed from one generation of craftsmen to the next. Hussain Kagzi is the son of Azim Bakhsh Kagzi and has been making paper since 15 years of age. He learnt this art from his grandfather Allah Bakhsh and is part of the extended Kagzi family.
Fayyaz is a teacher at Hast-o-Neest in Tehran, Iran. Currently a PhD candidate at Tehran University she started her journey with Farsi from Oriental College, Punjab University. Through a spark set off by one of her professors, Dr. Nizami, she discovered Bidel’s works. His remark on how Divan-e-Bidelcompletes Rumi’s Diwan-e-Shams instigated an obsession to Bidel’s poetry. As she got more and more involved with Bidel’s works, she was left awed. She remarks about Bidel as “a wordsmith of spiritual flight and ecstasy who was not only a match for the Maulana in ideas and at times even excelled him with his utter mastery of the poetic craft. With Bīdel I entered his world to become a ‘Be-dil, myself—the one who gives away his/her heart.” Thus in the same way Alamee decrees Bidel’s poetry through his calligraphy in much the same way, absorbing us into the same world.
One of the pieces entitled Travellers on a Compass-linepersonifies this world in an instant. The poetry reads:
عمرھا شد بر خطِ پرگار، جولان می کنیم
رفتنِ ما آمدنھا، آمدنھا، رفتن است
For ages we have been travellers on a compass-line,
[Where] our departures are arrivals, and arrivals, departures.
The green and light brown ink sets the earthly tones of the poetry in a resplendent way. The method to the chaos pulls the eye to a point of no return. Where the viewer is at the mercy of the poetry that is depicted through the calligraphy. The abstract shapes provide a tangible evidence of three art forms that are in perfect cohesion in a world that sends and receives your state in a constant loop – one where both sets of travellers acknowledge each other.
Another piece entitled What meaning am I serves another state of mind that is yet on a similar tangent. The poetry reads:
نہ شادم نہ محزون، نہ خاکم نہ گردون
نہ لفظم نہ مضمون چہ معنیستم من؟
Neither happy am I nor sad, neither dust am I nor sky,
Neither word am I nor sentence, what meaning am I?
The magenta ink paints the calligraphy in an air of subtlety. The ink hangs at the top of the paper with necessary drips adding the aesthetic effect of the conundrum the poetry reads. It strikes a calming yet absolute feeling within the composition as if the work has the power and unmistakable tendency to draw you in to your own doubts. Such strong emotional connect is adamant as Alamee has left no second chances in depicting its meaning. Like a memory it stays with as you move through the rest of the pieces.
You may find yourself at Silence Possesses a Voice, which is preceded by Faqr – Spiritual Poverty followed up by Hear without ears… see without sight! These three parts in black ink swish and swirl your inclination and nature. The true form of perplexity and its frame of mind is as evident as it could be.
And yet still there is more; beauty in Separation, aggression in Qurbane Tau Bashad!, and contrast in the exhibit titled Inshaye Tahayyur I and II. And when you are finished what more can you do but leave in awe of what magnificence and devotion has transpired in a world you entered.
Shahabdullah Alamee: ‘Inshaye Tahayyur (The Oeurve of Perplexity)’, Koel Gallery, Karachi, 17 March 2016. Photo credit: Jamal Ashiqain. Courtesy Koel Gallery.
Osama Khalid graduated from Indus Valley with a Bachelor’s in Design and Falmouth University (UK) with a MA in Creative Advertising, in 2011 and 2014 respectively. He is currently crafting ideas at Lowe Pakistan.