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     Volume 6 Issue 26 | July 6, 2007 |

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The Eternal Cycle

Ashna Ali

A Girl, River and the Cycle of Life, Soft Pastel, 33" X 35", 2007.

Muna Mahmud's Chowdhury's first solo art exhibition in ten years opened at the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts on July 4, featuring a philosophically ambitious series of works in chalk pastel conceived over the last three years. The title encapsulates the conceptual theme that ties the pieces together; the constant evolution of the eternal cycle of life.

Kites, rivers, anthropomorphic figures of humans and animals are repeated motifs, floating within compositions of swirling bands of colour representing the interconnectedness of all life in the cycle of time. Kites, even within the amorphous worlds of her paintings seem to float with the freedom of movement and vitality that they symbolise. While most of the works feature elements from nature with stretches of green pasture or blue sky, small residential buildings pop out of the mix with small faces visible in the windows and floating outside of them, acknowledging urban spaces where the endless rhythm to which life moves and evolves is the most concentrated and viscerally felt. “Threads of Time Flow” shows an urban landscape with a group of buildings through the windows of which various figures live out their lives. Children fly a kite from one of the rooftops and it comes to float in front of an enormous tree that rises in the center of the painting. Nature is always privileged as the ultimate holder of freedom.

River Flows to the Relentless Rhythm, Soft Pastel, 36" X 25", 2005.

At the foreground of the centerpiece of the of exhibition, of the same name, another motif common to her work bears the most recognisable signs of Mona's surrealistic bent. An amorphous, blue-green Picasso-esque profile face extends outwards, speckled with pink, and a hand stretches out in a globular five-fingered formation flushed with colour. The faces appear in many of the paintings, their dream-like, shapeless quality rendering them universally relatable to the viewer as they resemble no other face, and therefore, somehow, every face there is. Each painting is vivid, high intensity and high contrast, allowing the eyes to play across and around each composition where detailed shapes are spread and layered across large spaces. Quick pastel strokes create bright night skies or leaves like pieces from a colourful glass mosaic reminiscent of “Starry Night”, set against stretches of blue representing the river of life. In some of the pieces, small boats carry people along its flow, another of many elements that come together to create multi-dimensional and multi-layered though refreshingly uncluttered compositions.

The decision to use chalk pastel could not have been more appropriate, as the allowance to make colours blend and diffuse into each other seamlessly, effectively portrays the fluidity of time and life, and creates the rhythmic, poetic movement she desires. A short poem accompanies the exhibition written by Mona and her husband, Shahid Chowdhury:

River and the flow of life.
Life is all encompassing as Nature.
Nature evolves through the passage of time.
Human beings, birds, animals, all creatures evolve to the beat of an endless rhythm.
The rhythm is a mesh of different thoughts of the eternal cycle.
Each thought is a trickle, then a stream, which finally becomes the river and the flow of life.
There are many rivers and each has its own life.

River and the Flow of Life, Soft Pastel, 47" X 31".

As the paintings were being organised in the gallery, Mona explained in more detail: “Each person has one thought, and that thought leads to another thought, and it all extends towards a larger concept that is only one in the many ideas that create this big swarm of ideas. It all moves and evolves over time, and it never ends.”

The Enlightened have all the Fun, Soft Pastel, 2005.

Though the titles of the paintings clearly strengthen Mona's message, she claims that the images and not the names play the largest role in resonating with the viewer. The desired effect is most definitely achieved by this series. Mona has worked under a long line of other eminent artists the likes of Partho Protim, Dev Robin Mondol, Dharmanarayan Das Gupta, Jogin Chowdhury and Sanat Kar. Mona's path and talent was never unclear, having studied at Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, earned a Masters in Fine Arts from Biswa Bharati in Shantiniketan in 1994, and gone abroad for a post-graduate diploma in Advanced Painting from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London in 1996. When asked about how she feels about this exciting stage in her artistic career, her reply is deeply embedded in the philosophy she is presenting to the public with her exhibition. “I am where I am now, and later on I will change and evolve, just as I have so far. I cannot know how that will be, but everything changes and flows as it will.”

This all-encompassing view of life and time awaits distilled in Mona's series at the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts, until 15th July, 2007, every day from 12:00 to 8:00 P.M.


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