“Reflections” by Hussain Jamil at Dastaangoi


“Reflections” by Hussain Jamil at Dastaangoi

Dastaangoi has been focused on delivering rich indigenous stories and visuals from across the country enchanting audiences since its conception in 20

Present Reinventions
A Jumbo Alteration
He Said. She Said.

Dastaangoi has been focused on delivering rich indigenous stories and visuals from across the country enchanting audiences since its conception in 2020. Their passion and commitment to growing an arts community span multicultural borders inviting international artists as jurors and open to forming alliances for art projects. The Dastaangoi Gallery is a physical space hosted inside Dastangoi’s Founder, Amad Mian’s residence in Islamabad. Lined by green rolling hills and lush green grounds, the farm hosted an artist residency in 2021 for dynamic emerging talents showcasing miniature painting, print, and a wide range of interdisciplinary art explorations within their mediums. 

Their latest art gallery showcasing was a solo presentation of Hussain Jamil’s works titled “Reflections” that opened on the 3rd of June, 2022. On opening night, visitors entered the driveway of the estate, welcomed by a pathway lined with clay oil lamps illuminating each step of the way to the gallery. Amad and Waleeya Mian hosted the opening night for their visitors, curating an enchanting walk-through experience of the display. The deliberate removal of artificial lighting from the venue instantly transported the viewer back in time where the act of viewing was only possible through candles and oil lamps. Viewers were handed a Dastaangoi beeswax candle paired with a handcrafted lamp holder to be used as a flashlight on entering the gallery space. Jamil’s work had been installed salon-style with symmetry of three lines across all the walls. 

Art forms such as mosaic art, geometry, miniature painting and welded steel shield engravings could be associated with these visuals created by the artist. The images evoked sensibilities of festivity and feasting at the royal court. The enchanting display of using steel as an artistic medium to create stories depicting Mughal emperors and the paraphernalia belonging to a royal brigade. Jamil uses gentle finesse to create these gilding pieces with the intricacy of embroidered and embossed tiles. The curated experience included multisensory elements that each played an essential role in creating an interactive art installation. Accompanying the artworks, there was melodious instrumental music that was constantly playing in the background. The water fountain placed inside the gallery space had a fragrance that was being released to complete the sensory stimulation of the viewer. 

Holding the candle close to each artwork distorted and revealed details within each intimate frame hanging on the walls. The act of seeking and discovery were activated within the viewer connecting them to each image separately as they walked through the space. Jamil’s steel designs appear to be portals that allow the viewer to step into another reality across the reflection. The experience of viewing reflections is a part of Jamil’s art practice involving steel sculptural objects. The pixelation, elongation and distribution of the self-reflected can become the gateway into a more introspective and psychological dialogue with the work.  

Historical marvels of the Mughal era like the Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort use the interaction of light and architectural design to create sensory experiences. The elegant romance and air of transcendence are intertwined to create an atmosphere of mysticism. Once the viewer has set eyes on each of the pieces by Jamil, they find themselves at the centre of the gallery space where the ceiling hosts a large-scale abstract shield that brings to the surface a fractured reflection. After close examination of the stories, characters and environments laid into each piece, the viewer is faced with the sublime vastness of seeing themselves reflected back from the ceiling. 

The movement of the viewer’s body is in conversation with the artwork as the pieces are hung at various levels. Raising and lowering the body to view the pieces hanging within the space, the act of moving becomes a part of the installation. These naturalistic elements come together to create an experience that can be placed centuries back in time. The warmth of the fire, the perfume in the air, and viewers gathering under the moonlit night create an old-era atmosphere that is unique to Dastaangoi. As visitors move from piece to piece they start to create an orbit around the room further amplified by the depth of field added by the ceiling reflective pieces. There is a back and forth between the clarity and distortion of reflection creating an analogy of the self in evolution. 

The artist’s selection of steel that is modern and industrial is balanced by the naturalistic elements of beeswax candles and oil lamps lit with fire, the fragrant fountain of water, and heritage instrumental compositions of music set to a background of green farmland landscape lit by the moon. create a whimsical art experience. The curation of Dastaangoi explores complex visual syntax created between the art history of the region, ancient architecture, and the classical arts of music and dance seen through a contemporary lens. Dastaangoi manages to transport its visitors to a timeless era of classical viewing of modern art.