A conversation with Tasadduk Hossain Dulu is like a breath of fresh air. His thoughts are deep and meaningful — as are the works of all artists from Chittagong, such as Dhali Al Mamun and the senior artist with her unforgettable delineation of women as playthings, riding on the back of a camel or floating in the river, Nazli Mansoor. Dulu brings in social hypocrisy like Shishir Bhattacharjee does; only his work is bouncing with colours. Cats appear quite often in his 52 acrylic paintings on display at his latest exhibition. The exhibition, titled “The Body and Soul of the Insignificant”, at Bengal Gallery in Dhaka began on April 2 and will continue till April 13.
One realises that Dulu paints the frightened curled up cat that stands for the average man against the Jamaat and Shibir, the peace busters of Bangladesh — who declare hartal left, right and centre. He is against the crazy burning and breaking, like most other painters who long for tranquillity and harmony.
Dulu’s paintings depict simple elements in the everyday life of the bourgeois. Through birds and dolls he presents his nostalgia for his childhood — full of simple clay toys, sunshine and unlimited fun. He presents Bangladesh, and hopes for the best.
Asked if a true artist should express his emotions or play to the dictates of the galleries in order to make a living, Dulu says he expresses what he sees and feels. Cats represent human beings in his paintings — like the ferocious tiger pouncing. There is also the cat behind the plastic curtain. Cats, says the painter, not only purr with contentment and rub themselves against you but also make their presence felt. The curtain represents relationships. Relationships, whether within or outside the family, are seeing a downhill trend, he believes. Camaraderie and bonhomie have been given a death knell. His strokes, when depicting the heavy back curtain with knots, are delightful to behold.
One sees curtains of many colours and different geometrical designs — bright reds and greens that contrast with the black. One can almost feel the plastic or the velvet material. Just as the curtains are a symbol, the nostalgia for childhood play and simplicity of life are seen in the clay toys, like a horse head. The reason why Dulu often uses a lot of jet-black is because our society is always worried and tense about the next day. When he brings in the colours of his happy childhood, he hopes for contentment to return, and remain. Hence he is optimistic, despite his somewhat pessimistic assessment of the present state of living — socio-political and economic.
When he allows his two young sons to scribble on the walls, it reminds him of his childhood. As for the woman of the house, he believes that the prevalent male chauvinism is a pity.
Dulu has won many awards, including Rashid Choudhury Prize (1994 and 1995) and Best Media Award in paint at Annual Art Exhibition (1996), University of Chittagong.