Shah Abdul Alamee (b. 1990)

Shah Abdullah Alamee graduated from the National College of Arts with a B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Art) in 2012. He was a recipient of the Haji Shareef Award, the college’s highest accolade of achievement in miniature painting. His paintings blend Mughal and Persian artistic traditions, while simultaneously adding a contemporary freshness to them. His calligraphy, too, is informed by classical styles, with frequent usage of the Siyâh Mashq technique.

Alamee has painted under the curation of several acclaimed artists, including Imran Qureshi, Nazish Ataullah, and Noor Jahan Bilgrami. In 2018, his paintings were displayed at the Lahore Fort as part of Maktab, a collaborative project between the Lahore Biennale Foundation and the Aga Khan Museum, Canada. His artwork titled Aad Sach, Jugaad Sach was featured at the Fifth International Faiz Festival 2019. His major works have been displayed at galleries across Pakistan and abroad. Among the most notable hosts of his works are Art Junction, Delhi (2014); Satrang Art Gallery, Islamabad (2014); Koel Art Gallery, Karachi (2016); QUAD Gallery, Derby UK (2018); and O Art Space, Lahore (2020).

The artist teaches Persian Miniature Painting at Hast-o-Neest (Institute of Traditional Studies and Arts), and calligraphy and drawing at the Faiz Foundation. He also organizes art workshops frequently and recently organized a miniature painting workshop titled Thinking of Flight in Mind, the Bird will Die, in Hazara Town, Quetta. He resides in Lahore and is currently working on a project inspired by Mehrgarh, the Neolithic and Chalcolithic civilization site in Balochistan.

I have always had a special interest in the works of the great poets of the eastern world, and have often sought to use them as subjects of my work as an artist. In the past, I have undertaken various projects collaborating my own style of work, with the poetry of Iqbal, Rumi, Bedil, which involved the creation of compositions in the genres of miniature, painting and calligraphy. This time, I have selected the works of Rumi, Bedil, Iqbal, Faiz, Ghalib, Ameer Khusro, Mohsin Naqvi and Hilal Naqvi. Thusly, my current work is an additional collaboration with the motivational and inspirational ethos of all those literary figures that I have mentioned earlier. So, I have used their rich and everlasting words to create various calligraphic compositions based on the special technique known as siyah mashq.

Siyah Mashq is a style of Persian calligraphy that was originally used by calligraphers many years ago in Iran as a tool of practice.  Siyah means “rough” and Mashq means “practice”. Students of calligraphy, in order to practice their skills, would write and rewrite words over each other, and in doing so, would fill up the entire sheet in this manner. Subsequently, calligraphers elevated this technique to the status of a recognized style of Persian calligraphy, and gave it the name of Siyah Mashq.

I have made a humble but sincere attempt to present the great poets’ work in an innovative and unique style using the siyah mashq technique. In doing so, I have not only focused on the calligraphy itself, but have also borne in mind the meaning of those words, which I have tried to portray and depict through my work, by creating the compositions embodying the emotions and the message expressed in the subject poetry. Moreover, my work is presented in such a manner that it not only expresses itself as a work of calligraphy, but also appears to go beyond this into the territory of the genre of “painting”, by taking on some semblance of a painting.