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     Volume 8 Issue90 | October 16, 2009 |

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Breaking Barriers

Fayza Haq

While some artists in their forties, with years of rigorous training overseas, ponder over whether to have an exhibition or not -- not being quite sure of the outcome an exhibition -- others like Tayyeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman, have sped ahead with experimenting and roped in young avant garde artists with nouveau ideas. Their themes deal with ideas concerning their persona, environment etc. and bring in artists from various parts of Europe and the Subcontinent. Lipi and Mahboob hope to have their exhibition at the Bengal Gallery and the Shilpakala Academy this month. The two artists have created a name for themselves for their questioning mind. Their unconventional efforts -- dealing with hypocrisy, and presenting mind-whirling installations --- are more than merely iconoclastic.

Lipi and Mahboob have won national and international acclaim. Basing on the BRITTO Trust, they have had workshops and exhibitions that speak well for the questioning mind of Bangladeshi artists. They bring in video art, music art, installations with mud, curtains of razors, display of rag dolls, and many other outlandish forms of visual art to present their prying minds.

Asked if they wanted to move away from conventions or search new paths in modernism, Lipi says, "It's not as if this mode of work is something new for us. Since the mid 90s Mahbub and I tried to move away from the stereotype on purpose. We searched for fresh and untrodden paths, new angles and new approaches. Way back in 2002, we had, for instance, tried to shock viewers out of their complacency with our installations of the animal market with rose petals, cattle skins. This had dramatic sounds and lights in the backdrop. Rose petals and splashes of blood-like colour covered the ground.

Other images of covert glances of women from behind the veil also haunted people and influenced younger painters in their work. This was after the world encompassing 9/11 Twin Tower phenomenon in the US and dealt with the identity crises of the Muslims, says Lipi. "In a few years, following the incident, we notice a marked change in the way we dress. In the Art College, for instance, students would come in even skirts, in our days. Today, even if female students sport jeans, they also flaunt the 'dupatta' and the 'burqa' has become common. This speaks of an identity crisis."

"The world is moving ahead technologically. Lifestyle is changing too. Why should we limit ourselves to the formats of oil on canvas or wood carvings? Artists today can create visual art out of innumerable types of materials. Art should not be 'market based'. The way we practice our art should be free and unfettered. Art work should not be aimed at the tourists and galleries. Buyers and galleries should gather their experiences from us. The thought processes, materials and thought-contents should all be free. Viewers too should be made free of any binding frames that this is art and this is not," says Mahboob.

In order to widen their understanding and experience, says Lipi, she and Mahboob have begun their quest for wider horizons by studying books as students learning through the internet and visiting all the Biennales . They've travelled to the UK, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, the Subcontinent and the Far East. Visiting art museums and taking part in festivals also helped develop their enquiring minds. "While the art work of Bangladesh is gaining a foothold in many capital cities, at the same time, we should not be contented in churning out canvases on cows, kites and cloud- laden skies. We should move on with the flow of development that takes over the entire globe. By experimenting, we want to add to the rich collection of our possible productions in the visual art world, " says Lipi.

Among the Bangladeshi artists who are taking part in the experimental thrust "Britto New Media Art Festival" at Bengal Gallery and Shilpakala Academy is Imran Hussain Piplu. This young artist has animation work which includes work which he has digitilized in Photoshop. The forms are characterized and transferred into animation. the prints will be accompanied by animation. Yasmine Kabir's film "Shipwreck" is there in the exhibition. A sequence from Mollah Sagor's film about a dumb gypsy girl and her society will also be presented. Raihan Ahmed Rafi's cartoons which includes his lonely birthday in Dubai. This presents him as cutting an enormous cake, surrounded by outrageous caricatures of himself.


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