Mian Muhammad Bakhsh much celebrated poem was the inspiration behind a series of abstract and large-scale paintings going on display at the Saatchi Gallery, London.

The exhibition Nasser Azam: Saiful Malook, follows the artist’s pilgrimage to lake Saiful Malook, a secluded paradise near the mountains of Kashmir.

Lake Saiful Malook was made famous by the Sufi saint and poet Mian Muhammad Bakhsh (1830 - 1907) in his poem of the same name, and is located in modern-day Pakistan close to the military controlled Kashmir border. 

The poem was popularised in the 90s by the qwaliyan (a genre of music based on the devotional poetry of Sufism) musician Nushret Fateh Ali Khan, who translated it into song and introduced it to the West. 

It tells the story of a Prince of Persia who starts a restless journey to the lake in search of a fairy princess he saw in a dream.

Asian Image:

Azam painting on the bank of Saiful Malook lake, August 2018 (Copyright Azam Studio Photo by Souvid Datta)

Asian Image:

Azam painting on the rock, August 2018 (Copyright Azam Studio) Photo by Souvid Datta

Inspired by the poem, Azam visited Saiful Malook in August 2018, with British Indian composer Soumik Datta and British Indian photographer and filmmaker Souvid Datta. 

Each artist created work in situ on the banks of the lake, one of the highest in the country. 

Azam’s paintings that form the exhibition in London follow the thematic journey of the poem, interweaving ideas of enlightenment, struggle and sacrifice with his own life and work as an artist.

Asian Image:

Asian Image:

Azam and the team on the Saiful Malook lake, August 2018 (Copyright Azam Studio; Photo by Souvid Datta)

Azam said,  “What first intrigued me about the poem was discovering how it was inspired by the paradise-like settings of the majestic lake, Saiful Malook. 

"On the surface, the poem can be interpreted as a fable, but when you peel back the layers - it’s a love story, and a story of humanity, passion, struggle and sacrifice. 

"Most poignant is the poet as an artist searching for personal creative fulfilment through divine intervention, seeking ways to get his audience to appreciate his quest as a social message. This is intertwined with the charm of Sufi poetry. 

"The poem is progressive and timeless, as relevant today as it was when first written. I hope my works, created in situ and on return from the trip - capture the spirit of the location and poem”.

Nasser Azam: Saiful Malook will be on display at the Saatchi Gallery from 30 May to 10 June 2019. 

The exhibition has been supported by Marea, New York, Altamarea Group and Brookland Partners.