<%-- Page Title--%> Art <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 132 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 5, 2003

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Sojourn at Ginza

Mustafa Zaman

Halimul Islam, a ceramic artist who has very recently been dabbling into painting, has had a show of his art at Ginza, Tokyo, Japan. G.S. Kabir has been the key operator who has been arranging exhibitions of Bangladeshi artists in Japan for the last five years. The recent one was of Halimul's ceramic and painting show at the Sudo Art Museum.

“I have started doing paintings since last October. I am new to this media and I have tried to attain the textural configurations that I often use in my ceramic works,” says Halimul, a thirty-plus artist who so far had had two solo exhibitions in the home front. This was the first occasion that he ventured out to create a buzz in the outside world.

A visitor at the show at Sudo Art Museum.

“The first impression of Japan was of a negative one. I got annoyed to see people behaving in a mechanistically rigid manner,” reveals Halimul. The shock was about how they meticulously maintained the civic rules, from crossing the roads to sitting for dinner there were strict rules to be followed, which, “made me a bit uncomfortable at first,” says Halimul who soon began to realise the fruits of all these sacrifices.

Halimul went to Japan on the occasion of his solo art show. He was fortunate enough to attend another group show where several other recognised Bangladeshi artists like G.S. Kabir, Iftikhar Uddin Ahmed, Selina Choudhury and Salahuddin Ahmed participated. The event was of a transnational kind, where twenty-five artists from five countries participated. This annual event is titled CAF (Contemporary Art Festival). The Modern Art Museum of Saitana played the host, and the organiser was the Contemporary Artists' Club, of which there are 254
registered members who are all artists.

“The struggle the artists put up to survive is a universal phenomenon, perhaps abroad they have a lot of facilities, yet in order to survive there is a certain amount of struggle on the part of each artist,” says Halimul, whose perception became clearer after mingling with the artists who came from Europe. “In Japan survival results from devotion and hard work. The positive thing about Japan is that they have enough facilities provided both by the government and the non-government sector. This certainly enables the artists to work continuously and on a large scale,” Halimul contends.

A stoneware by the artist.

Primarily a ceramic artist, Halimul's painting has a very simplified, though sometimes dour, look. Texture is often complimented by black forms he places around the edges of his work to strike a compositional balance. The black forms are the impressions of wood-blocks that the artist buys from the market. “These blocks are applied with much care, as their patterns must be consistent with what I have achieved on the surface already by hand,” confirms Halimul. His idea of painting is premised on abstraction, though in many of his pottery suggestion of human torso is discernible. Though in the final contour however the interplay between abstract form and figure is obvious.

Ceramics in Bangladesh saw a new turn in its course when Mohammad Fakhrul Islam came up with structures that defied norms. The widespread use of pot-like shapes or vases were sidestepped for the first time by this young artist back in the early nineties. Halimul too started out as an artist of human form, which marked him out as a norm-defying ceramic artist. Though, in the next ten years Halimul's oeuvre became flanked by two different tendencies of expression -- one of the figure-like potteries and the other of shell-like ones. The paintings by this young artist reside in a thoroughly abstract ground; as such the expressions seem too mellow for the viewers to respond spontaneously. This area remains under-ploughed, though the artist testifies, “Many visitors who came to the show really did like what they saw, they expressed that it was something different from their previous encounters with Bangladeshi paintings.” He also adds that it was his ceramic that the Japanese spectators really fell in love with.

Ceramic cannot survive without institutional support. The artist's quest to attain his or her goal is thwarted when the physical resources are lacking. The furnace and a studio are the most important of all elements. In a country where the clay is good for this form of art, artists like Halimul needs to have access to the studio facilities to thrive.

The solo show of Halimul Islam took off on 11 October and lasted till the 16th of the same month. The show was sponsored and organised by G.S. Kabir.





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