An unassuming, cheerful young man, Abdul Jabbar Gull insists he has a lot to be thankful for. Currently teaching sculpture at Indus Valley School of Art & Architecture, where a lot of good work in the field of sculpture is taking place, he ushered us proudly into his office cum studio space. The Artist spoke warmly of the artists and teachers who had encouraged him through his years of learning his chosen discipline at the National College of Arts, Lahore.

Initially, like so many artists before him, including Bashir Mirza,his concern with a wage-earning career had led him to take admission in the department of Design. He found employment in an advertising company, and for three years, maintained a balance between art and the need to earn living. During these years, Jabbar continued to paint and sketch with such assurance tha this teachers advised him to join the Fine Arts department. Jabbar eventually took the bold step, which committed him to fine art. He was accepted as a second year student and majored in sculpture. The department of sculpture at NCA Focused on modeling rather than carving, but a workshop at the college, conducted by Shahid Sajjad, proved enormously useful.

After graduation in 1996, Jabbar taught sculpture at the Lahore Art Gallery. He showed his work in group shows in Islamabad and Lahore, and worked on commissioned pieces. In 1998, Jabbar settled in Karachi, closer to his family in Mirpurkhas, the town where he was born.

At the Indus Valley School, the artist’s studio was hung with striking painted portraits, and three-dimensional pieces. Jabbar demonstrated the weightlessness of fiberglass as a medium. The technique can give similar feel as bronze but an easier medium to handle with enormous durability. One of the outstanding pieces by the sculptor is the study of Dorab Patel, commissioned by Bashir Mirza.We heard how BM had strolled into Jabbar’s studio one day and looked around. This was typical of the veteran painter who was invariably elated to come across talented young artists.

Working from photograph, Jabbar produced a natural looking portrait of the great champion of Human Rights, which Bashir Mirza presented to Human Right Commission.

Jabbar’s path through life, leading to where he is now, held many un expected curves. It began with his boyhood in Mirpurkhas, and the fascination that drew him to the work of local sign writers and hoarding paintings. These were his first teachers. He practiced calligraphy on pages of his schoolbooks, sketched portraits, and when he was older, took advice from the street artists and sought admission at the NCA.

Speaking of the years as a design student and studio artist, he explained,

It dawned on me that there was little room for creativity. In advertising, you work according to the client’s wishes. It eventually became very frustrating.

Emerging from his story is a heart warming narrative of encouragement from his seniors, teachers and established artists, remembered with warmth, who were generous in their response to his work and with advice.

Currently, with an impressive solo exhibition of sculpture in several mediums displayed at the Canvas Gallery, Jabbar declares

My work is a reflection of different moods at various periods of my life. The human form for me is the most important phenomenon of the universe. It is a major source of inspiration for me in all my work. Additive processes like modeling and subtractive processes like carving behave in very different ways. I like working in both mediums to reveal different forms.

The tall, smooth forms exhibited, carved from the wood of the sheesham tree, herald the debut of a formidable young sculptor.

Source: SHE Magazine June 2000.