Old school artistry: Intricate carvings of a niche in mainstream architecture

Wood craftsman Saleem Mughal exhibits his collection at RAC.

Sehrish Ali April 18, 2012


For those who spend hours in front of computer screens perfecting building designs, Saleem Mughal’s work might seem archaic. But through his minute and intricate detailing of architectural models chiselled on wood, the artist has carved a niche in mainstream architecture.

In an exhibit held at the Rawalpindi Arts Council on Tuesday, the artist showcased some of his works tailor-made for select clients. Encased in glass, the works include models of buildings designed with the clients’ particular vision in mind, as well as those of entire towns and housing schemes detailed to the last streetlight.  The chief guests, Senator Najma Hameed and Member National Assembly Tahira Aurenzeb, said they were awestruck by the fine detailing of each piece.

Working with wood since 1973, Mughal started building architectural models after a client asked him to make a wooden model of his house. As word spread, engineers and architects alike thronged to employ the expertise of the proficient craftsman.

But what is even more interesting is Mughal’s photographic memory. When enquired, the artist said he rarely has to sketch or take pictures of the site. “After I see something it is stored as a picture in my mind forever.” Given the elaborate details of his works, his claims don’t seem far-fetched.

Architectural models are not his only forte -- his collection features wooden musical instruments, a bouquet of flowers carved to read Allah and Mohammad in Arabic, ships, calligraphy, and even some everyday objects such as the cap of a motorcycle engine.

Always attempting to create something different, Mughal puts his firm belief in his “God-gifted talent” to create. “Nothing is impossible. God has gifted everyone with talent, but people need to constantly push themselves to achieve excellence,” he said. Mughal said when one thinks of a wood artisan, the first thing that comes to mind is furniture and decoration pieces. He too creates furniture, but only pieces that are infused with individualism.

“I once created a wooden bed in the shape of a large eagle with his wings spread out for an Arab customer.” Another piece he made is a tall frame with the first Surah of the Holy Quran carved separately onto it. “This was perhaps my most favourite piece as each letter was hand carved and dexterously glued onto the wooden frame.”

This one-of-a-kind exhibition will be on display at RAC till April 18 (today).

Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2012.


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