Vol. 5 Num 1082 Sun. June 17, 2007  

Of feminine forms, memories and expressions

Tayeba Begum Lipi's ongoing exhibition at Bengal Gallery deals with feminine subjects and is also titled "Feminine". The works are in oil, acrylic and mixed media. She draws from both her imagination and surroundings. Past experiences have become the subject of some of her works. Lipi says that although there are relatively few women artists in Bangladesh, they are far from being suppressed. Artists -- male or female -- are bound to receive recognition if they persevere, says Lipi.

"My husband Mahbub always encourages me. My teachers including Rafiqun Nabi, Abdul Baset and Aminul Islam have guided me. Works of Nisar Hussain and Shishir Bhattacharjee inspire me too," she says. A lot of her work involves symbols, for instance when she painted with the Mithila artists in Janakpur, near the India-Nepal border of India, her art brings in the Modhuboni style. Motifs of flowers, birds and animals are included in the canvas along with inclusions of torsos and hips. Quite a few portray the artist herself.

The paintings bring in myth, religion and pastoral life cycle. The female artists, with whom she has worked, have done their intricate paintings on walls and floors. Lipi was also greatly moved by the tattoos on their hands, neck and chest. She has elaborated the motifs. She had gone there earlier last year, to attend an art camp with Mahbub, Jupiter and Sunil, the latter two being Nepali artists. She went there again in February this year.

Paintings of Queen Elizabeth I, and Queen Victoria, bring in the artist's portrait too, symbolising the people of the Subcontinent. These were once a part of a painting-based installation on indigo cultivation in India during the British Raj. She painted these while doing a residency in UK. She brings in Elizabeth I as the East India Company was formed during her time; Victoria becomes the subject of another painting as the British power over India was at its peak during her reign.

The work, which won her a Grand Prize during a recent Asian Biennale, is included at the exhibit too. The little dolls are from her childhood. The face of a girl is covered with glass as Lipi feels that when one grows up, the past is preserved in memory as in a showcase. The girl's face appears to be floating in the watery memories of childhood. The painting of Madonna, has floating cupids in the backdrop and three swirling foetus in the front along with a growing plant.

When Lipi deals with female images they delineate charm and sexuality. In the installation of fibreglass, "bindi" and matchsticks, distortion of the human figure is meant to shock the viewer. The installation with the double imaged bodies and inverted heads convey a strong feeling by which one can't help but be moved.

The exhibition, which ends on June 25th, is interesting and thought provoking.

Madonna, an Artwork by Tayeba Begum Lipi