Mixing the Sacred
by Carla Power
Sculptor Amin Gulgee twines Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam in his calligraphic bronzes.
For Amin Gulgee, sculpture is a form of prayer. The Pakistani sculptor casts the divine in copper and bronze, fashioning objects in three dimensions that suggest the infinite, capturing the ephemeral in metal. His metal sculptures range from magnificent hunks of metals the size of filing cabinets to necklaces worn by fashionable women in London and Karachi. Gulgee wrestles with God in copper and bronze, and the outcome is bold, muscular, and innovative.
Gulgee draws on the tradition of Islamic calligraphy, using Koranic inscriptions not just to decorate his work but as an intrinsic part of it. Gulgee makes calligraphy into sculpture. His work deliberately mixes traditions: He draws on Hindu mythology and Buddhist sculptures as much as he does the Islamic tradition. A table-size copper circle, with interlocking Arabic script spelling “Allah”–or God–squints at infinity. The word “Allah” is alluded to in “Reflection II,” a piece built of copper and rock crystals.
If there’s a theme to his work, it’s mixing the sacred. “I create sculpture in which I am physically able to combine elements that traditionally do not belong together,” he wrote in a summary of his work. At a time where Hindu and Muslim radicals in his region are anxious to parse out what they claim are the pure fundamentals of their faiths, Gulgee pays homage to how they have been braided together.
His shows–32 of them on four continents–show his international appeal: at the U.N. in New York, The Galleria in Houston, at The Soni Gallery in London, in Arabia and Pakistan and Hong Kong. Last summer, at The Soni Gallery show in London, throngs of British Asians were at the opening–many of them elegant women buying his chunky crystal-and-metal creations for necks, lobes, and wrists.
The slim, shoulder-haired Gulgee moved among them in the tiny two-roomed gallery, energy radiating. His jewelry, whose themes are less overtly spiritual, was featured in the New York-based designer Mary McFadden’s 1996 collection.