Recently, a water colour exhibition titled, ‘Lal ki Sadaa’ by Ali Abbas was held at Ejaz Gallery, Lahore. The outer area of the gallery was beautifully illuminated with diya lights, colourful garlands and flags; thus created an ambience of mystery and mysticism. 

The exhibition was inaugurated by distinguished painter Dr Ijaz Anwar and attended by art lovers and media personal. Most of them wore colourful garlands and multi-colour caps and seemed to blend with the spirit of Sufism.  While talking to Sunday Plus, Dr Ijaz Anwar commented, “The mystic works of Ali reflects his strong command over colours and textures; he has used the colors in a limited manner but knows the art of using them. In other words, his paintings carry ‘maximum impact with minimum use of colors’ and minimum style in any form of art is always the best. He has presented the culture of (Sindh) Lal Shahbaz Qalander in a captivating style and has done full justice with his work. We hope to see more of his work in future.” He also stated that Abbas is the Chugtai and the Saddeqain of our modern era.

The exhibition was a tribute of Ali Abbas to Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalander and was arranged in the view of annual Urs held every year. According to Ali Abbas, “‘Lal ki Sadaa’ (Call of Saint) reflects my inspiration of Sindh which is a land of spirituality. The pursuit of mysticism has given immortality to many, like Shah Bhitai, Sufi Shah Inayat and Sachal Sarmast etc. but perhaps the name of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar tops the list. His annual Urs is the cornucopia of colours and characters, each bringing with him a new anecdote to tell as how Sain Qalandar made him a seeker.  During my visit to the Urs, I bumped into a young malang and asked him what made him leave everything behind. He only said, ‘Lal ki Sadaa’ (Call of Saint) and moved off. I felt drawn to the mystery that surrounds the whole phenomenon, and decided to pursue the answer in my own work.”

He further commented “I have made many paintings of sufi malangs who seem to be controlled by a strange magic. Of course they are real, but somehow belong to a very unreal world”.

Currently, Ali Abbas is working as Assistant Professor/Head Department of Fine Arts CEAD MUET, Jamshoro. Recently, his solo exhibition was held in Turkey and his work has been a part of many group shows in UK, UAE, USA and Pakistan. Grateful

It was an interesting experience to see the paintings of different characters talking in groups, dancing or sitting under a tree lost in their own world of ‘Lal.’ The mystic ‘Call of Lal’ seemed to attract people from all walks of life and inculcated a spirit of peace and religious tolerance among people. The artist has competently captured the moods and moves of the shrine culture; he has used light and dark tones of red, blue, green yellow, orange and black to express the emotional experiences and existence of people, who have devoted their lives to serve shrines of Sufis. One finds various faces of Malang ready to swirls on the rhythmical beats of the dhol. Most of them were shown in long loose shirts, playing horn instrument and smoking. The prices of his paintings ranged between Rs 70,000 to Rs 200,000.

Another prominent artist Dr Khalid Mehmood also attended the occasion and appreciated the works of Ali Abbas. “He has portrayed the shrine culture in a fascinating manner and one of the most important highlight of his works is the smoky affect which enhances his artistic abilities and shows his control over colours,” stated the artist.

Saeed Akhtar, celebrated artist also attended the show and complimented the artist over his work. Students and art lovers from different walks of life enjoyed the spiritual blend of art and culture which has kept the bonds of brotherhood and unity alive.  “The paintings of Ali Abbas are unique and vibrant and convey a message of love, peace and harmony,” stated one of the admirers.

Another art lover and advocate by profession Salman Ali Mohsin said, “Ali Abbas has portrayed the local culture of the Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalander through different ‘malang characters’ and this aspect is the most distinctive feature which attracted me in the whole exhibition. The daily life of an ordinary Malang has been depicted in a way that you find yourself in the surrounding area of the Shrine.”         

The exhibition will continue for a week and inspires everyone to come and celebrate the culture of the Shrine.