Vol. 5 Num 123 Sat. September 25, 2004  

Reviving Rashid Choudhury's art
Shilpakala Academy holds exhibition and brings out book on the artist

After long 18 years since his death, an opulent display of colourful tapestries and paintings at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy has once again upheld the uniqueness of artist Rashid Choudhury's talent and his unsurpassed contribution to the modern art movement in the country. Inaugurated on September 23, this twelve-day exhibition is one of the very few ones that have taken place after the artist's untimely demise.

The display contains a total of 133 art works including 48 tapestries. Besides, a book, titled Rashid Choudhury and written by Professor Abul Mansur, was brought out on this occasion. State Minister for Cultural Affairs Begum Selima Rahman inaugurated the exhibition and the book.

Rashid Choudhury was among the second generation artists, the first having been led by Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, who helped establish the practice of art as well as the first art institutions of the country. While Zainul Abedin pioneered in practising art--considered an act of sin at that time, the following generations of artists gave it an impetus and made it populaz among general people. Rashid also contributed a lot in spreading the practice of art outside Dhaka. He was the first teacher of Oriental Art department at the Art Institute founded by Zainul Abedin. Later he joined the newly established Department of Fine Arts at Chittagong University. He also initiated the Chittagong Charukala College and an art gallery named Kalabhaban.

Rashid Choudhury completed his graduation from the Government Institute of Arts (the present Institute of Fine Arts) in 1954. He spent two years (1956-'57) in Spain on a postgraduate scholarship to study sculpture at Central Escula Des Bellias Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. However, Rashid was destined for something else yet: he spent four years (1960-'64) in France and studied fresco and tapestry at the Academy of Jullian and Beaux Arts. And this made him the pioneer in the art of tapestry in Bangladesh; and he has remained the greatest in the subcontinent.

Rashid Choudhury was a great teacher. 'Like the Euroxean instructors, Rashid never used to correct his students' faults; he would rather mark them and let the students correct them in their own ways,' reminisced artist Murtaza Bashir, a friend of Rashid.

'He was also a constructive critic,' Murtaza said.

Inclination for the abstract art, which was a remarkable feature of Rashid's contemporary artists, can also be found in Rashid's art works. 'But he was not a blind follower of abstract art: he just took the form of the style and used it to portray subjects from his own cultural background,' said Abul Mansur. Indeed, the tapestries of Rashid Choudhury depict subjects that are richly connected to the cultural heritage of the country. Tapestry works like Ruposhi Bangla, Nabanno, Utshob, Shonar Tori etc. project the epic grandeur of the rural Bangalee traditions. Western subjects like Adam and Eve also were his subjects for tapestry, but these characters too appeared in a background that is Bangalee in nature.

Besides tapestry and oil, Rashid has worked in rarely used mediums like gouache and tempera.

The exhibition will run till October 4.

Shonar Tori (Golden Boat), tapestry