An exhibition of the latest work of the acclaimed sculptor Abdul Jabbar Gul, was recently held at a local Gallery. Viewing the work was a deeply satisfying experience, the art of a gifted talent. The collection of Gul’s work should rightly be mounted in an art museum in Pakistan, for visitors to appreciate for all time to come. One was actually spellbound by each individual piece reflecting images throughout the gallery. Gul is an artist who has worked consistently since his student days, and traveled widely to much acclaim and appreciation.
One discovered that each segment of the artist’s work on show was glowing with light and delicacy, with artworks combining wood and brass shining above visitor’s heads. Some pieces consisted of a profusion of single strands, others delicately created ornamental shapes. Around the gallery, winged creatures flew from a wooden surface, and sculpted heads were formed of brass, wood and gold leaf.
In a number of unusual sculpted pieces the artist had used brass, resin, and gold leaf, one exquisite piece coated with amethyst stone. Some of the artist’s sculptures were formed into panels, but the piece that held one in thrall was the sculpted head of a man of middle years. One discovered a great deal of meaning in the work. The thoughtful expression of the portrait dressed in a western suit with tie, reflected perhaps the thoughts and feelings of the artist. There had been no model for the work, but Abdul Jabbar Gul owned that it had reflected his thoughts. The delicate lines falling over the face of the portrait could have represented anyone of us attending the show, with our hopes, thoughts and often forgotten dreams.
In conversation with the artist he explained the work on show and the diverse material used. “My work is a combination of metal, resin and wood. I have used molding and casting, lathe machine, gas welding, electric welding, grinding, repusse, sanding lacquering, and staining to produce this body of work. All were done manually and with power tools. The metal used is gold leaf and steel, aluminum, brass and aluminum, and various types of wood. The technicality involved carving, sawing, smoking, sanding, glueing and waxing”
One has visited the artist’s fascinating studio where he creates and assembles his components for his work in hand, assembling them together to create both relief and round sculpture in diverse sizes. In his work, Gul creates exciting inventive treatments of surfaces. Often with him one discovers young artists who seek his advice on their work. Discussing his work Gul explained:
“For me the main sources of inspiration are Humanity, Spiritual belief, Politics and human beings, especially `Ordinary people.’ I refer to them as ‘Ordinary souls’ and I am one of them so I endeavour to express the common suffering of humanity; grief and relationships on individual and collective levels. Exploring different religions, I tried to understand spirituality and Sufism. In politics I have tried to address local and global issues.
The artist explains his work as an outcome of his shared impressions. “But the more I tried to explain the mysterious link of the corporeal world to the ethereal world, the more my thoughts fly on delicate wings of imagination.”
Abdul Jabbar Gul began his art education at the National College of Art, Lahore, in 1990. There for two years he studied design that included ceramics, printmaking and photography. He continued to study for a further four years before graduating from NCA, Lahore in 1966. That year he won his first award for sculpture from the Artist’s Association of the Punjab. His years of design were not wasted either, as much of his work reveals including the brilliant designs of the mural highlighting various coins, installed at the State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi.
Viewing the work of the artist one remembers the excitement with which Bashir Mirza first saw Gul at work. It was a time the artist had just arrived from Lahore to teach at the IVSAA, and he was working on a sculpted portrait. BM was so delighted with the artist’s work, he immediately commissioned Gul to create a portrait of one of his admired heroes.
Gul went on to travel, and to win awards and to work. ‘The Bag Factory’ in Johannesburg, brought Gull in contact with artists from all strata of society. And he came away with a deep impression of the poor artists he met in Africa who created stunning sculpture without facilities and hardly any tools. The experience gave emphasis to the`anonymous majority’ a viewpoint he had already began to explore.
Another important event in his life was the month long sculpture symposium held in South Korea in 2011. There Gul was one of ten sculptors from different countries who carved large scale sculptured figures from the granite stone of the Boryeong Mountains. As the Director told Gul, “In one thousand years. People will come to see your work.”
An invitation to a working symposium in Spain in 2013, gave Gul the opportunity to experience the great museums and galleries of cities he visited throughout the country, and he recognized the influence of Islamic architecture and design. Through the years, Gul has never ceased to work. He has a well set up studio with several rooms for various tools and media; there one may find him at work explained by the artist as his ‘feelings and impressions shared’. “But the more I try to explain the mysterious link of the corporeal world to the ethereal world, the more my thoughts fly on delicate wings of imagination.”