A bed of coal – Amin Gulgee

“My work is an attempt to free a particular line from its meaning and let its letters dance like a Sufi, moving upwards in joy and freedom.”

In his unrelenting exploration of form and space, Gulgee engages with Islamic calligraphy to create sculptural works that reference the spiritual and the ethereal. Privileging form over content, Gulgee’s Ascension sculptures are comprised of one particular script from Iqra Ayat of the Quran, which translates to “God taught humankind what it did not know.” Whereas his earlier works saw the phrase rendered in Nakshi script, easily readable to the viewer, the new works emphasize form rather than content. Standing at six feet all and placed upon bases that measure three by three inches, the sculptures use every dot and letter of the Quranic verse, but are structured in a way as to render the phrase unreadable. In attempt to free the line from content, the letters balance precariously upon one another, flying upwards into the heavens. Far from being a decorative use of the text, the sculptures reveal the complexity of the Quranic text, which are layered with meaning, constantly inviting the discerning eye to search for deeper interpretations. The unreadable quality of the text also refers to the artist’s belief that interpretation of text in an individual act. In times when interpretation of Islamic text is being hijacked by extremism and dogma, Gulgee’s sculptures could be seen as a reaction against this misconstrue of texts that has led to the demise of countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the artist’s own home of Pakistan, all of which are regarded as centers of Islamic art history.

Arising from a bed of coal, the installation is comprised of five copper Ascension sculptures. An organic path is created allowing the visitor to walk through the installation, where deconstructed copper letters of the same works also lie embedded in the coal. For Gulgee, materials are elemental, in a constant state of flux, and always evocative of nature and energy. In using coal and copper, the artist navigates the contentious notion of energy. Coal and copper have always been interconnected. They are also a source of war in a world that is always in conflict with itself over natural resources. The bed of coal, then, becomes an arena of fire — a place of creation and of destruction.

In juxtaposing unconstructed letters with sculptures, Gulgee reiterates his original intent — the focus being on having the work resonate spiritually, rather than be interpreted literally by the viewer. In a world where energy is weaponized and religion distorted, A Bed of Coal attempts to de-commodify the notion of energy back into its ethereal essence.

A bed of coal will be showing from 14th February to 10th March 2018 at Wei-Ling Contemporary.

Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at RT01 Sixth Floor, The Gardens Mall, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7pm. Please call +60322828323/ +60322601106 or email: noel.weilinggallery@gmail.com for more information.