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Muslim Legends

Ismail Gulgee (calligrapher and painter)

Ismail Gulgee is a well-known Pakistani painter who’s abstract and portrait paintings were influenced by Arabic calligraphy and are highly regarded in Islamic countries as well as the rest of the globe. Award-winning abstract artist and self-taught portrait painter involved with the Action Painting movement. Islamic calligraphy has had a significant effect.

Ismail Guljee was a very remarkable artist. His Islamic calligraphy and the vibrant hues of his paintings caught the attention of reviewers. A sliver of feeling can also be detected. Guljee became famous all over the world as a result of this. He was regarded as a multi-talented artist. He was one of Pakistan’s most well-known artists. He received a warm welcome from people all across the world. Guljee, on the other hand, was unlucky in that he, his wife, and his maid were brutally killed in their own home. On December 19, 2007, a horrible tragedy occurred.

Guljee, a reverend and famous artist, was born in Peshawar, Pakistan, on October 25, 1926. Gulgee began painting while studying hydraulics in the United States, despite having no professional training in the art. In Stockholm, where he temporarily worked as a design engineer, he staged his first exhibition in 1950. Gulgee returned to Pakistan after finishing his studies and presented another solo show in Warsak, near Peshawar, where he was working on a dam project on the Kabul River. Throughout his career, he was a talented portraitist who received frequent governmental funding and exclusive contracts. King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan commissioned Gulgee to paint his picture in 1957 and then invited him to Kabul to complete another 151 portraits of members of the royal family. Gulgee continued to paint Pakistani and international figures, including US presidents Jimmy Carter and George HW Bush, Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Iran’s Empress Farah Pahlavi.

An exhibition of American painter Elaine Hamilton in Karachi in 1960 gave Gulgee his first lengthy exposure to abstract expressionism. Gulgee applied the intensity and gesture of action painting to a Pakistani environment, creating enormous, free-flowing calligraphic abstractions that conveyed the mystical dance of Sufi dervishes with virtuoso brushwork. Later in his career, he became more interested in ornamentation, adding gold and silver leaf, shards of mirror, and vivid constellations of dots to his canvases. Gulgee began experimenting with sculpture in the late 1960s, receiving multiple requests for large-scale bronze works featuring Koranic texts and Islamic symbols, such as the sculpture he created in 1986 for Islamabad’s Shah Faisal Mosque.

He founded the Gulgee Museum near his Karachi residence in 2000. His paintings were vibrant and colourful, yet the paint was applied with considerable care, and they vibrated with strong emotion. The brush swirls are powerful and free, and areas sing with bright, thin colours. Big blobs of paint throb with fibreglass tears and thick blobs of paint pulsate with fibreglass tears. The overall impression used to be extremely loose, yet well-considered and planned. Guljee introduced a new twist to Islamic calligraphy, presenting the words of the Holy Quran in an abstract form in such a beautiful way that the paintings of Noah became highly famous in the Islamic world due to the novelty of his ideas. He also painted, albeit in a significantly different style than other artists.

As can be observed, Guljee painted everything differently and uniquely, which is why his paintings are distinct from others and also different from others. This is Guljee’s true excellence, which is why he has his own distinct identity as a versatile artist in the Islamic world and in Pakistan, and this identity will always exist in the art world.

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