Albemarle Gallery is delighted to present a new series of powerfully evocative paintings by the esteemed Pakistani artist, Jamil Naqsh. Born in Kairana in present-day India in 1939, he initially trained as a miniaturist, but describes himself as mostly self-taught. Over a long career he travelled extensively, before settling in London, where he continues to live and work. He has a long and fruitful association with gallery director, Tony Pontone, begun with Pontone Gallery’s precursor, the Albemarle Gallery. Mr Pontone considers himself privileged to have witnessed and exhibited the various, mature developments of Naqsh’s work.
The pieces in this exhibition are inspired by the artist’s ongoing fascination with the Bronze Age, Indus Valley Civilisation, known as the ‘Harappan’, which flourished between 2600 and 1900 BCE. It encompassed much of Pakistan, western India, and north-eastern Afghanistan and was particularly advanced. Its cities were technologically advanced, had a writing system and took part in long-distance trade. They were noted for their cultural sophistication and advanced architecture. The Harappan civilisation appeared to be particularly peaceful; there is little evidence of conflict and military organisation.
In Naqsh’s new paintings, signs, symbols and images, typical of this culture, are used as motifs and combined with passages of variegated colour, abstracted form and graphic compositional devices. Naqsh’s signature sinuous line is deployed to express the rich contour of human, animal and topographic elements. Images of naked figures, bulls and fish pre-dominate. Bright blues, reds and yellows play across the earth tones and hues. Scattered throughout the collection are mysterious fragments of text.
What is notable about this sequence of paintings, and something of a new development, is the integration of abstract and figurative components. The paintings have richly-worked, abraded and encrusted surfaces. The mark of the hand and brush is expressively evident; some images and symbols are sgraffitoed into the paint film. An almost collage-like approach to image-making is energetically evident, as is an interest in the vigorously expressive effect of paint as matter. This has transformed the motif, leading to break up and re-integration. The resultant accreted surfaces are maps of the artist’s pre-occupations, records of his cultural musings.
These divided, fragmented and incremental images make allusion to the layers of civilisation Naqsh is so fascinated by. The paintings themselves are archaeological, whereby sifted perceptions emerge from splintered and reassembled pieces of information, some of it easily recognisable as symbol, some of it abstracted, allusive and fugitive. The painter’s process is analagous to the forensic piecing together, conjecture and interpretation of archaeological enquiry. Making connections across time and space, pointing up lost correspondences, Naqsh asserts that the future may be in the past and that there something to learn from the ancient and sophisticated civilisation of the Bronze Age Indus Valley. Something is lost and it is necessary to retrieve and re- make across millennia. The paintings are re-imaginings, transformations of fractured and mysterious material, freighted with melancholy, they nevertheless delight in the sensual relish of the act of painting.