The Balancing Act (2013)

Catherine Benz (Delmar Gallery):

Jewel-like Mughal miniature paintings are writ large drawings in Abdullah M I Syed’s self-portraits as a young poet/artist in love and a mature warrior in conflict, travelling amidst the wandering sun and moon.  These shimmering works are arrived at through a labour-intensive process which the artist likens to Mashq, a restorative and cathartic activity.  The figures are drawn on the archery paper and then the paper is covered with acrylic inks. Sanding it back partially reveals the underlying grid, archery target design and drawings. The line drawings are then painstakingly carved out with the tip of a blade and, finally, the paper is stamped to create a veil of lotus or rose. 

Encircling the seated men are motifs borrowed from Persian, Renaissance and Mughal painting that accompany them on their celestial journeys.  In the paintings of the sun and moon, the reference of the target motif to Pop Art fades to the background, and instead a South Asian mandala comes to the fore.  In the artist’s Islamic tradition, a father should ensure that his son develops both mind and body, through instruction of practices such as the ancient art of archery.