Creative endeavours of Aqeel Solangi, displayed at Tanzara Art Gallery, are substantial representations of his probing of the intangible. There is enigma, mystery and silent roaring of the spheres, he is mutely searching for. The use of a variety of symbols from the tactile world bespeaks his craving to delve deep into the insubstantial truths. At a glance, his expressions appear to be surreal but not linked with incomprehensible fantasies of the dream world, rather thought-provoking, though enigmatic yet specify his sojourns. These emerged out of his visits to various lands, the latest been Dubai and China. But the entire journey from Sindh that is Ranipur, his birthplace near Tharparkar, to Lahore and then to Islamabad along with short intervals outside the country has enriched his vocabulary of symbols. His intellect seems to have been engaged throughout in restless queries, viewing an object of the alien land and associating it with some anecdote or an established code of civility of his native place. This is usual in his paintings because of being abstractions of his ideas and also specifies his deep rooted love for his homeland.

His works invoke poetry or narrate some incomprehensible anecdotes, though apparently placid yet decipher his inner dialectic, based on commotion between the thesis and antithesis of intelligible and unintelligible realities, faced by his sensitive soul. All this emerged from his love for classical music, poetry and literature, which is usually a choice of the mature brains.  Pandit Jaseraj, the Indian classical vocalist of the Mewati Gharana, Ustad Fateh Ali of Patyala Gharana, Ustad Fateh Ali of Gawaliar, Amrita Pritam, along with Kavitas of Kali Das of Ashokan Period are his inner sources of inspiration. Besides this, his soul is delved deep into the aesthetics of life promoted by the Sufi saints of his land; he is instilled with the teachings of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Bulhay Shah. Wisdom of all is synthesised, and worked as a motivational force for his artistic pursuits, leading him to evolve his individual symbols or metaphors to articulate his abstract conceptions.

In this context, he appears to be a follower of the “Perennial Wisdom”, not restricted to one spring but attracted from multidimensional sources, from the entire realms that can inculcate or reinvigorate his powers of creativity. He is actually indulged in the penetrating investigation of phenomenon of life that his soul is continuously struggling for. Sometimes, he absorbs a symbol of the Forbidden City of China, or views Alam in an anonymous flag fluttering near the bank of Rohri Canal, Mehrabpur, Sindh.  Thus, he seems to be a follower of Ishraqi Madrassa of Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, who unified wisdom of sages with traditional philosophies. Wisdom for Solangi, like Suhrawardi, cannot be confined within the bounds of past or present, or of one clime or another, any source can evoke corresponding thought in man. It may be a fence of pilasters topped by small solid dome-like structures, placed within infinite darkness. But The Forbidden City is optimised by cloud messengers bringing flowery disc, even to the prohibited lands of aristocracy. Thus, prescribing that bounties of nature are flowered even in the interdicted domains, when interdictions are imposed by men.

Symbols used by Solangi are highly individual, for, his thoughts are unrestricted. Most frequently used symbols are clouds, water, flowers, circles or medallions also decked with flowers; all comprised of five petals only. Five-fold symmetry, which is the most complex of its kind, was used at the earliest in designs by Muslim artists, and then followed by the others, though attributed to Pen Rogers by the western critics. Most of the floral patterns of Aqeel are composed of five petals, arranged within a round or an elliptical circle. Circle seems very dear to the artist, delineated in many different ways in his works. Half circle, full circle, or an oval are part of his symbolism. One may take circle as a dot that keeps the whole cosmos in it, and Aqeel’s circles are nowhere empty rather contain something within.

The most enigmatic seems to represent cracks of arid earth, reminding Tharparker but closer view turns them to flowers; white, blue, pink, earth-brown or red coloured with thorns in various of his paintings. Scarcity of water in aridness of desert seems to hover in his mind but always attached with hope, a cause to turn arid into flowery land. Icons of clouds and water also promulgate optimism, which are rendered clear and fresh, neither ominous clouds nor stagnant water, for their link with purity.

Sindh, the land of Sufis, where one can view vastness not confinements of rugged mountainous terrains, similar to the classical and Sufi music. Shahjo Risalo of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai defines thirty sur (musical compositions), including Sur Sarang and Maig Malhar. While working on clouds, the artist used to hear the latter, rhythm of which is reflected in the forms delineated by him.  Magh Doot, the Sanskrit cloud-messenger, is most pure in Aqeel’s works, attached with most pure water having clear reflections of the surrounding objects. But all of his works are carefully thought out, resulted from his deep concentration on the concept or belief represented, not naive or spontaneous. It shows his concerns with the careful not care free, the aspects of his personality; composed and balanced.

The works of Solangi resulted out of a dichotomy between the tangible and intangible. Viewing images from the terrestrial world, by passing through the sieve of imagination, these are synthesised within the subconscious and remerged into tactile forms, even at places water has gained solidity of metal. In his quest for the pure and candid reality, Aqeel knocked at every door that came in his way. The kalam of Sufis, literature of the erudite, symphonies of lasting music, travels to various lands of aesthetes, served as backbone to his aesthetic discourse.  By grasping all from literature, art and artefacts, along with realties hidden in the subconscious, for, Sigmund Freud describes the subconscious as four times larger than the conscious mind.  

Hence, he represented tactile imagination. In that realm of man, half-circle or a circle cut into two-halves or fragment of a rock in the shape of half-circle is associated by Solangi with the miracle of Shaq al-Qmar.  It seems his soul is wandering for truth, and in the sojourn his inner world does not seem to be shallow busy to unveil some mystery through a synthesis of his knowledge  and fascinations.

    —Dr Mamoona Khan, the writer, is a professor of fine arts at Government Postgraduate Women Degree College, Satellite Town, Rawalpindi.