Vol. 4 Num 327 Fri. April 30, 2004  

Fine arts
Buoyant paintings and prints
Works of five eminent artists at Haque Gallery

Five important painters -- Mahmudul Haque, Abdus Shakoor Shah, Rokeya Sultana, Kanak Chanpa Chakma and Khalid Mahmood Mithu -- have their ongoing display at the Haque Gallery. All the paintings and prints were scintillating with emotions, thoughts, memories and dreams. The entries of the exhibition speak of supreme confidence and mastery as all the painters have both local and overseas acclaim and experience.

In "Composition-11", oil on canvas, by Mahmudul Haque, the present Director General of the National Museum, one finds mind-blowing shapes seen fleetingly in two geometrical forms. Looking closely, from various angles, one realises that the subject is two women. The simple village women have been done in lines and more details in jet-black and more delicate lines. The painting is obviously not as abstract as his other work, which tend to have contemporary Japanese art influences and so are more abstract.

Mahmud insists that his subjects are taken from reality and that it is for the viewer to think what he wishes. His teachers, Zainul Abedin and Quamrul Hasan had shaped his earlier works which were comprehensive to the average aesthete.

Mahmudul Haque has held 35 solo exhibitions in USA, Japan, Europe, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. He has had eight awards from Japan, India, Kuwait and Bangladesh. He has taken part in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad.

Abdus Shakoor Shah's "Story of Mohua--2" brings in the theme of the subject confiding in her woman friend. Based on Mymensingh folk art, they have ethnic jewellery, in the form of glistening chokers, strings of pearls, tikli, earrings, nose rings and the entire range of bijoux collections from a well-to do village woman's boudoir. The colours of the sari are basic, with details of the zamin and the border. The portraits are done simply but appear striking, as is the genius of Shakoor, for which he has won a wide range of patronage and accolades both at home and abroad. There are two birds in vermilion, jet-black and pristine white to the right, while one is seen upside down on the shoulder of one of the women. A background of shades of gray, mingled with gold, purple, blue and pink hold up the portraits. At the four sides are parading folk motifs of birds, animals and reptiles. The framing bar is of pale turquoise to offset the main basic buoyant colours of the painting.

Shakoor says that while the experiment among the Bangladeshi artists is fine, yet one must not lose sight of one's roots. He is also strongly against the rampant plagiarism among the aspiring artist. He has won five awards from Japan, France, Poland, India and Bangladesh. He has taken part in group exhibitions in USA, Europe, Japan, China etc.

Rokeya Sultana Lovely, who has worked on both the theme of women's lib, preservation of environment and has held up the mirror to Bangladesh's glorious nature from the outset One of Rokeya's mother and child themes in dry points (prints), "Crucifixion" presents a female vision in shades of water-melon and flamingo pink. The subject has a tilted cute nose, cupid lips and gazelle like eyes. There are circles, lines, dots, swirls and other geometrical detailed forms to be found in the figure, complete with its curvaceous but over-sized thighs. She rests on a crucifix and so bears the burden of being home-maker, bread-earner, repository of painful shameful secrets etc. Lovely goes in for tempera painting too, as one witnesses in "Relation" in which a lithe woman in the nude, with long sweeping hair, and shapely limbs and full bosoms holds on to a dove with pale turquoise, gold and white feathers. The beauty of the Bangladeshi countryside is included in the gold and pale pink and blue background, with the curly details scattered in front, side and the background.

Rokeya has won eight national and international awards from USA, India and Bangladesh, including the National Award, Bangladesh in 2003 and the Grand Prize in India in 1995.

In Kanak Chanpa Chakma's oil on canvas, "Mru Festival" one witnesses the same element of exuberant life among the Chakmas. There is a woman drinking from a gourd while beside her is a dark and handsome man, barely clad, plays on a local bamboo flute. He has flamboyant coloured feathers and behind him are fluttering, gay buntings. Colours such as red and blue, along with ochre have been used with a lyrical slant, as in all of Kanak's paintings. Pencil lines have been included to evoke a feeling of incomprehensive feeling of mirth, which prevails, despite the abounding poverty. The moment of festivity and gaiety have been captured with subtlety and superb strokes.

Kanak has seven overseas and local awards including he won from the Tashkent Biennale, 2003, Best Personality in Art, Dhaka, 2003. Best Woman Artist of the Century, Florida, USA. She has had 17 solo paintings in USA, Bhutan and Bangladesh. She has taken part in 119 group shows in USA, Canada, Europe, China, Australia, the Middle East and Bangladesh.

Khalid Mahmood Mithu's "The morning sun", mixed media on canvas, has sand from St. Martin's Island in the background. This is in sweeps and swirls of blue, gray, yellow ochre, mixed with gray, to bring in the beach and the splashing sea. One finds, in the foreground, actual sea shells in their sepia and gray forms in front. The sand, sun and the sea have been brought in effectively. One knows Mithu to be a well-known TV filmmaker, with seven local and overseas awards for that genre, but as a painter too he has won foreign and local recognition, even though the list for painting awards are not quite overwhelming as that of his wife Kanak.

One came away from the exhibition as if one had visited a veritable paradise of paints with gorgeous and instructive themes, colours, forms and images.

Rokeya Sultana