For over 50 years, no other artist has possibly been as influential as thinker and pedagogue, and as complex in his practice, as Gulammohammed Sheikh. In all areas that have preoccupied him, as curator, writer and painter, Sheikh’s engagement has been essentially dialogic: the interrogatory, even challenging, tone of his letters to modernists of the 70s is matched by his conversational engagement with art that has spanned centuries.
The Lorenzetti brothers of the Sienese school; the Mughal painters Basawan and Mir Sayyid Ali; Kabir and the poet patron Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana; the maker of the Mughal muraqqa or accordion book; the craftsman-narrator of the itinerant Rajasthani kavad: these are a few names from the fraternity of thinkers, artists and poets that Sheikh’s encyclopaedic world teems with. On his canvas, they have all found a place which is neither synthesis or pastiche, but a respectful hospitality, where they become part of a larger enactment. Into this mix, add a painterly attitude, of recapturing the delicate translucency of a 16th century Persian atelier’s brush, the poetics of a central Asian landscape that bears witness to poet travellers and Sufi saints, Christian saints and temple cities drawn in the finest detail, and the strands of Sheikh’s painterly inspirations become visible.