Abdul Mohammad Ismail, known as Gulgee was found dead along with his wife and maidservant in his Karachi residence at Clifton. His son Amin Gulgee who lived in the adjoining portion of the same house discovered the dead bodies, after a few days. The bodies were decomposing and the stench was unbearable. The paints and brushes were scattered all around and the artist was rotting amidst. What a terrible scene it might have been for the family members and the art lovers through out the world.
Gulgee was born on October 25, 1926 in Peshawar. He was an engineer by profession but had an urge to cultivate his artistic faculties. While getting training in America as an engineer at Columbia and Harvard Universities he taught himself the language of colours, curves and canvas. A self-taught artist reached the height of his talent and did marvelous experiences in abstract art. He was a gifted and highly skilled naturalistic portrait painter. As a portraitist he painted the whole Afghan Royal family.
He was influenced by Islamic tradition of Calligraphy and American tradition of Action Painting; in this genre of art colours are splashed on the canvas. According a critic, “Gulgee’s calligraphy paintings are abstract and gestural interpretations of letters. His sweeping layers of paint explore the formal qualities of oil paint while they make references to design elements.”
His paintings and calligraphic patterns are displayed in the famous Faisal Mosque, in Islamabad and other galleries around the world. He also worked on sculpture and used his calligraphic skills in this field of art. Some times his sculptures were based on the verses of Holy Quran.
As an artist he was showered with a variety of awards both at home and abroad. He also received awards from Saudi Arabia, France and Japan. His exhibitions were not meant for all and sundry. An art gallery was established in Clifton, Karachi near South City Hospital and Sea View Karachi.
It is hoped that Amin Gulgee the son and heir of Ismail Gulgee will continue his tradition of painting and calligraphy, which is not only an asset for Pakistan but also a great contribution to the field of art.
His mysterious death on the evening of December 19th, 2007 is a big sign of interrogation for all art lovers at home and abroad. Art and artists in Pakistan are already in a critical situation owing to the attitude of the general public and the general atmosphere which is no more conducive. One wonders how art and artists can survive in such a situation of fear and suppression!
(Published in the Aspirant, a life style fashion magazine)