Vol. 4 Num 232 Sun. January 18, 2004  

Harvesting of high hopes
Offerings at Eighth Asian Biennale

It is heartening to know that Bangladesh won one of the Grand Prizes in Tayeba Begum Lipi's "My Childhood-2" in oil. It has the portrait of a tired and wan Bangladeshi woman's bronzed face looking through a veil of scattered plastic dolls. The woman's face is a still as that made from terracotta while her eyes and eyebrows contain the blue of the veil through which she peers. The simple earthy features of the woman contrast with the tiny forms of the blonde and brunette dolls with their blue and white dresses. Lipi has known to question social norms over the years. Another woman to win a Grand Prize is Simin Keramati from Iran with her video "Rising or falling." Here we are presented with a figure falling helplessly in a well with no one to save her as she struggles to escape. This video is shown in a claustrophobic area so as to arouse the atmosphere of congestion and fear.

Australia's Micheal Riley with his "18 Cloud (Feather)"Ink jet on banner paper, and Lyndell Brown and Charles Green with their "Arcadia" won another Grand Prize and a memorable mention. They explore several themes: fine art traditions and the popular culture of the Australian suburbs, the constriction of meaning and the formation of identity. They present the consumer /cultural and the personal/political. The intersection of the two dynamics marks a key point in the journey of the Australian psyche from the past to the future. Riley's entry has a gray feather seen against pale blue and white clouds while Brown and Green's digital photograph has the scene of a sunset seen against a river with a jetty seen in silhouette ,with the gray backdrop of the city in the distance , in gray set against the gold sky. Within the photo are insets of four idyllic scenes taken from book illustrations.

Jamshed Haghighat Shenas, who has also won an Honourable Mention for his "Board Sketch- Imagination", has sketches from daily life of men and women, going about their work, along with mythical figures from past history, done in simplistic sketches of blue, gray and black done on a beige backdrop. This is in mixed media. Retaining a national and cultural identity is a growing concern with the modern Irani painters. Shenas is influenced by the Fauvists and Expressionists. Creating modern works of art with Iranian identity with contemporary art expression is his aim as is the preoccupation of his counterparts.

Ashmina Ranjit's "Buddha Mandala Icon of Compassion and Peace" a mixed media installation won an Honourable Mention Award too. This Nepalese creation has hundreds of bottles containing Buddha's images, arranged in a spiral form on sand, to be given away to anyone who asked for one of the tiny bottles, with the sacred image done in screen print.

The other prize winners are Mohammed Al Atiq from Qatar, with his "The miss 2" in mixed media, Saleh Bin Juma Bin Muslim al Shukairi from Oman, with "Out of time, Out of place" in mixed media, Japan's Tsubaki Noburu with his hydraulic aluminium "Penta- UN application No 7", and UAE's Mohammad Yousuf Ali's installation, "From nature to nature."

The Indian artists have a lot to offer although they haven't won any prizes.Contemporary Indian art has come a long way during the last hundred years. After their experimentation in the artistic techniques, Indian works show dynamic and rich face in various approaches and styles ranging from the figurative to the abstract. Bonoy Varghese's "No red lights on the way to hell", in acrylic, shows attractive sex workers sitting and gossiping between their work. K Murleedharan's minimized work brings in a white elephant with doodles on it and behind it in red yellow, blue and gray. Alok Sarker's "Way to school", in brass, brings in action and humour. Rameshwar Singh' "Ring master" in acrylic has human figures, animals, birds, fish and butterfly all amalgamated into a single frieze like image. Sukhvinder Singh's woodcut, "Inner reflection of human world" is full of intrigue and mystery presenting images from human form, fauna and flora.

One comes across plenty of abstract and semi abstract works in the paintings of Pakistani artists as in the case of RM Naeem's "Flower as Veil", and acrylic, which has a floating nude female form held in cubes and Ghulam Rasul's "Jacarandas playing with winds" and "Autumn" (both in oil). Farah Mahboob's "Ether echoes mindscapes is even more mnd- blowing.

Although Nepal is a small country often disturbed by political unrest, yet its artists have not succumbed to negative pressures. Shahsi Shaha's "Thanking Liberty", Vijay Thapa's "Deviation-111" in mixed media, and Kiran Manandhar's "Painting-3" are all cascading with vibrant colours.

The host country Bangladesh too has a treasure trove of fascinating art works. Mohammed Kibria's oil, "untitled" has one lost in its layers of mauve mists of washes. Mahmudul Haque's "Untitled", oil, has fascinating texture work in red, beige and black.

Nitun Kundu's "Rhythm of life " has cascading contrasting shades of blue, green, mauve and red colours forming geometrical shapes entwining with one another. "Fallen vase" by Rafiqun Nabi is a curious creation in simplified forms.

Qayyum Chowdhury's "Waiting" is a pastoral idyll, complete with a female form and birds. Murtaza Baseer's "My lady" in oil is a stylised portrait while Abdur Razzaque's "Environment" has flecks of geometrical shapes in earthy colours. Surrealistic work can be seen in plenty as in Shishir Bhattachajee's "The picture", in mixed media, which is a sharp comment on society. Atia Islam Anne's "Burn", in acrylic, and Dilara Begum Jolly's "Embryo" also tend to shock the viewer ,while carrying across messages of resentment against fixed ideas. Tapestry and wood carvings have been brought too. These include Mahmudur Rahman's "Memory create" in wood and paper, Farzana Islam Milky's "Childhood" , twisted forms in iron, and Pintu Chandra Deb's eye-catching "Childhood , pain and hope" . Saidul Haque Juise's "Untitled" in paper folding is similarly mind-boggling. Konok Chanmpa Chakma's "Shadow in mind" idolises women's world while Nasreen Begum's "Creation" and Rokeya Sultana "Earth, water, air" prove once more the power of women's brushes.

Michael Riley's " Cloud (Feather)". Grand Prize