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Art fiend: The primitive wayfarer

Art fiend: The primitive wayfarer

Every time that the inimitable virtuoso Tassaduq Sohail makes a comeback, it is with a renewed vengeance to blatantly project his inner soul. While painting, it is not only the composition and technique that come under willful aggression, but also the concept which receives a share of the artist’s nightmarishly ingenious wrath. His recent exhibition, titled Once Again with Tassaduq Sohail at the Art Chowk Gallery, Karachi is a stark reminder of the artist’s unrelenting boldness underpinned by conviction.

The exquisitely bizarre elements and figures animated with accentuated movements narrate untold mythical allegories that emanate from Sohail’s inner mind; the deeper subconscious. His paintings depict the most common aspects of human feelings, behaviour and character; be it sorrow, happiness, malice or goodness. However, the overwhelming factor that grants these paintings a special genre is their ability to engage the viewer into a visual dialogue.




In his 20 untitled oil-on-canvas paintings, Sohail’s expression is remarkably candid and unleashes the unspoken nuances of human suffering, struggle and survival. The manner in which he portrays the prevalent society and its taboos and tribulations is comprehensive, tangible and thought-provoking. In some of his segmented larger works, the layers of chronicles that dwell on the canvas are like the evocative episodes of life’s arduous challenges and how the ghastly demons of misfortune prey on the weak and disadvantaged.

The paintings with familiar portraiture by the wondrous artist are equally moving and leave the audience awestruck owing to their outspokenness. The bold imagery of overemphasised lips in gaudy red combined with the devious smirk and dubious eyes is reminiscent of some haunting dream or an experience that may have touched the viewers.

These portraits also act like mirrors to people who want to explore their inner soul or for those who are penitent of having wronged their comrades and contemporaries. In many ways, during his painterly discourse of over six decades, Sohail expresses that there is perhaps redemption in acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

His distinguished work is his hallmark, where he boldly confronts his inner soul and scrapes the subconscious to reproduce the visions that narrate the current milieu of the nation. The artist’s compassionate paintings are extremely touching and have a deep-rooted empathy, which can move the most apathetic individuals in realising the gravity of the distraught environment. The result is a thousand-word story that emerges flawlessly from one canvas to another! It is the viewer who draws most of the pleasure while the artist joyfully recuperates from the physical exhaustion of working relentlessly on the canvases.

The artist’s surreal haunting nightmares are often documented boldly in his customised hieroglyphics and a unique visual vocabulary. He speaks an unusual pictorial language through which he recounts the unending exodus of souls and spirits and portrays a divine choreography of heavenly symbols, humans and animals.

Sohail’s probing mind knows no limits when it comes to imagining the universe; hence his paintings tend to emulate a microcosm of his visions beyond the cosmos and his dreams. The cavalcade of souls, spirits, ghouls and trolls that he composes are a synthesis of a physical life that he considers needs reconciliation to redeem the soul.

By virtue of his amazingly wondrous concepts and an impeccably rich track of creativity, Sohail remains to be a pivotal component of the country’s contemporary art.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, March 20th, 2016

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