Ali Azmat received his BFA from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, in 1997. He then went on to complete his MFA (in painting), in 1999, and his M. Phil in Fine Arts (studio practice), in 2015, from the same institution. His work has been shown in numerous group exhibitions, and he has mounted several solo exhibitions, both nationally and internationally. Azmat received the National Excellence Award from the Pakistan National Council of Arts in 2003. His artistic practice embraces the aesthetics of both the figurative and landscape painterly traditions of the Punjab. He frames this traditional sensibility within a truly contemporary and relevant oeuvre of subjects, exposing existent social hierarchism and exploring the concepts of the ‘local’ in a nuanced manner that subverts current artistic trends in peripheral visual culture toward pandering to notions of neo-exoticism.
Dangal, Azmat’s painting for the Karachi Biennale 2017, derives its subject matter from his father’s obsession with Akhara culture throughout the artist’s formative years. Azmat explains: “The influences, inspirations and even the morals of the Akhara culture were in practice in our home. In this context, the psychological patterns of my youth developed into series of symbols and metaphors that I have subjectively interpreted and furnished in my artwork.” The work is fecund with dichotomy and contrast, representing the inherent contradictions in societal stratification. Azmat’s depiction of a strident, muscular and rigid figure is a visual embodiment of masculinity, and the Dangal’s placement in an antithetically contemplative and emollient setting highlights the inherent chauvinism of such a sub-culture. The painting, however, transcends such a specific critique, metonymously manifesting the hypocrisy and multitudinous contradictions imbued within any form of structuralised misogyny.