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<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 144 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 5, 2004

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Dream of Future
Mustafa Zaman

GS Kabir has been the artist with a penchant for innovation. Back in the eighties his large, squire paintings on polyvinyl sheets were his signature block of space where all things technical and artistic intermingled. When in 1991, he was awarded the Monbushu scholarship in Japan, his works veered to a different direction. "There are two conflicting attitudes towards painting that I developed during my stay in Japan," says Kabir.

He was a painter from Bangladesh who had already earned fame, received the highest award -- the gold medal in the Asian Biennial, by successfully combining the socially concerned thread with the dominant abstract idiom. "In Japan, I could not remain untouched by all the modern ways that I was confronted with. During last ten years of my study I simply tried to meld the new experiences with what I lugged with me while going to Japan." says Kabir, who has been living in Japan since 1991.

The artist has been instrumental in trying to bridge the gap between Bangladesh and Japan for last ten years or so. In the regime of art he has, so far, introduced a series of exchange programmes of sorts by organising exhibitions of Japanese artists in Bangladesh and Bangladeshi artists in Japan. As for his own artistic journey, he has come a long way from his early days of skewed humans and screen-printed images that became his signatures. 'Rejection' seems to be the template of a title that now stands for his work. With his tendency to create series, Kabir's Rejection took many dimensions. One such variants is "Rejection of Earth" series. "In Rejection of Earth, I have incorporated the elements that are essentially a reminder of my homeland. The rusty nails, the scraggly patches of tin that we see in hulls of launches or boats often sees their entry in my images, " reveals Kabir.

These elements, which Kabir calls signs of bond "as they hold together ramshackle structures", make his otherwise abstract colour-field paintings retain a deshi look. Now, the same artist is out to reach newer heights. New, in a sense that with the series "Dream of Future", he goes back to his early works during his study in Japan. His white synthetic canvases are back. Now, alongside the old familiar black pools of colours, hard-edged rectangular coloured fields find their place. The artist opines that he is trying to go back to the beginning as now he would be able to shore up all the experience of the work of the last ten years.

His ten years work has been encapsulated in a big book titled "Voice of Future". As for his works in the last three years during his Ph.D. course in Oil Painting in Tokyo National University of Fine Arts, these are the ones that regurgitate the works on white ground.

He is the most prolific painter of his generation and has received numerous awards during the last ten years. The recent award puts him in the rank of the top young artists presently working in Japan. Kabir fetched the Foreign Minister's award in the grand show organised by International Artists' Association where works of varied medium was on display. The show titled "RENTEN" was the 30th show of the organisation.

In this time of unbound germination of installation and postmodern practices, Kabir remains faithful to the retinal language of art. He fervently believes in the experience of colour and form. His art speaks adequately of this.


Monsur Ul Karim
Explores the Social Conundrum

Mustafa Zaman

Though Syed Manzoorul Islam, the art critic, sees the artist as a chronicler of time gone wrong, Monsur UL Karimís recent solo exhibition may look like a homage to the power of colour and line to many. The bond between humans and nature, and even among themselves is exteriorised expressing boundless passion for colours and forceful application of line. These two elements have merged into a purposeful communion in many works.

He has been linear since the late 80s, but had never been as vigourous in terms of colour as he has now become. The enticing environ of the rural is given a voice, in his recent yield. Birds in flight, banana leaf swooping from behind, defining green and ochre patches or even a dash of green provides the cues to the presence of natural elements. In fact the backdrop of many of Karim's paintings are rural Bengal. However, the scenes are transformed into a suggestive relay of shocks of colours and sketchy shapes.

Karim has always had this habit of creating a vortex of colour and forms. In the recent show the tendency to soothe the eye has been given a new lease of life. This time, Karim has intentionally invaded his domain with the uneasy element of human relationship. Nature recedes to the backdrop, and the social being surfaces, becomes the main component. They are out to express their conditions in the context of relationship among themselves. The natural setting, in Karim's work, so far has scarcely been meddled with. In works like "Chatting with the Shadow," "Virgin in Black lines," relationship is given a psychological twist. The inner turmoil -- the mental disquiet is exposed and is being examined in the context of the society as a whole. Both in rendition of his figures and in treating the individual with such existential effect, Karim is beholden to Jatin Das, a famous Indian figurative artist.

As for the works that take a leap forward and strive to express the human condition in its mind-boggling obscurity, Karim relies on colour. One such work is "Aimless". The artist dehumanises his otherwise expressionistic figures -- so much so that the effect is of a nightmare of colour taking the shapes of splinters of forms. The humans are broken down into haphazard brush strokes. The azure blue backdrop and the exploding red figure leaping out to land on another brown figure in movement, with all its disturbing meteorology, brings into mind the works of Matisse.

The social mores are given a tangible form in works like "The return", and "Destination." Karim is more into an expressionist panorama of his own reality than into observing social maladies. His comments are oblique and inconclusive. In this respect, too, he is an expressionist with a marked indigenous inclination.

The figures in his paintings are not in charge of their own destination. They simply are a party to a greater puzzle as components of a series of paradigms that the present society has become.

Many laud Karimís idea to present images against the backdrop of nature. Manzoorul Islam too is of the opinion that the artist's recent yields "promote organic forms that are premised on the fact that change of flux is a vital principle of nature and art". This lends support to the fact that Karim's imagery is existential in nature and is presented in a gestural manner to make his themes look like fleeting images fraught with disenchantment. But the vigour that his colours bring to his imagery, are a sign that despair is one thing he avoids. His works tend to inspire a primordial passion for life. Perhaps this is the reason why Karim sticks to the pictorial solution that thrives in colour and resonant line. For him the social conundrums are thus seen through an individualist's prism.

 

 
         

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