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    Volume 9 Issue 7 | February 12, 2010|

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Destined to Draw

Fayza Haq

Habibur Rahman, based in Kolkata, held his exhibition at Chitrak, with great expectations from art lovers, both local and expatriates, from various walks of life. Art buffs had seen his metamorphosis, from (Drik) 1981 to (Chitrak), and now, when the month of "Phalgun" is near at hand, after almost a decade, "once more with feelings"; at Chitrak again. All arrangements were being made with due fanfare and enthusiasm at the venue, since 9 a.m. that day. Art admirers and enthusiasts, of various ages, buzzed to and fro at the venue, with their eyes sparkling with hope for something new and something fresh. Nature is the only healer of mankind, believes Habibur Rahman -- as did the German philosopher, Nietzsche.

The exhibition contained linear work of fine precision -- proving the fact that lines are the basis of all visual art -- ranging from sculpture to paintings, prints, collage, etc. Soft water-colour washes were included in the backdrop to lend eye-rest and a spark of lingering hope. Although done in stark black and white, the impression was a dramatic one which left an indelible mark on the mind of the viewer. Weary of fever and fret -- that exists today, and through "the sands of life", Habib believes that what we now exist in is like some overwhelming holocaust, following the two world wars, the cold war, and now our global existence. This, as Rahman sees it -- covers all the continents and seas, and which goes on to the global warming and imbalance -- in all sectors of living and lifestyle.

Pen and ink drawings by Habibur Rahman.

It was bad enough, Rahman says, in the days of the ancient past, when lines recorded warfare in places like ancient China, Japan, India, Egypt, Sumaria, Mesopotamia and Scandinavia. High point of culture is seen today in the Dhaka metropolis, with a pessimistic vision. Rahman, a graphic expert, who did his Masters from Barodha, India, got bright results, with the guidance and exchange of views. The same university, one knows, had excellent turnouts of Bangladeshi artists, such as superb teachers of fine arts, like Dr Farida Zaman (based in Dhaka) and Dr Alok Roy (based in Chittagong).

Rahman adds that his colleagues, like Fareha Zeba and Saidul Haq Juisse along with his somewhat seniors -- like Jamal Ahmed and Rokeya Sultana -- too added his fervour for fine arts. On tracing the origin of his encouragement and egging from his family, he names his maternal grandmother in Rajshahi -- while he himself is based in Kolkata today. He adds quickly, with enthusiasm, his nonpareil teachers like Safiuddin Ahmed, Mohammed Kibria and Rafiqun Nabi. It was normal and natural, Rahman says, that in his time, with careful guidance and gentle cosseting, what now ensues from his pen and ink sketches is seen today -- their amazing, bewitching power. This is undoubtedly a true depiction of the folly of man and his fellow creatures -- seen against ravaged nature. No longer is Rahman's vision lyrical.

It is but natural and unavoidable that he sees death and devastation. Many European master-painters in the past, have had similar visions. including those like Goya, Michael Angelo. In the east too, warfare, death and destruction, have been the aim, says Rahman. The tete a tete, incidentally, ended at the home of the two artists, Ahmed Nazir and Nahida Sharmeen in Dhanmondi. Rahman also points out frenzied visions of artists, as seen at Mainamati and Paharpur. The depiction of a crazy haste of life, to get power quickly, in one mad rush ended in death and destruction. This is the depiction of true, dedicated artists through the ages.

The change, over the decades in Rahman's works, is that it moves away from a scintillating optimistic vision; and moves on to that full of pain and fear. His drawings are replete with skeletons, skulls, and bones of mice, rats, cats, dogs and other animals and birds of prey, and their hapless victims. This is along with that of their helpless onlookers -- like gentler forms of horses, cats, domesticated birds. Carrions, like snakes and vultures are included in the overwhelming flow of pen and ink, that create Rahman's unique drawings of the 21st century. Is there any hope at the end of the tunnel?

Yes, Rahman's teachers, both in Dhaka, and Barodha, would surely be proud of this graphic artist with enormous courage and willpower, who goes on teaching differently-abled artists for his living in Kolkata. His passion and aim at presenting his work for the world to pause and gaze at, should surely bring admiration from the sea of gallery visitors at Dhaka. Such perfect drawings, with an eye for detail and balanced composition, recalls those of Leonardo da Vinci in Renaissance Rome, and those of Zainul Abedin, the Rock of Gibraltar for Bangladeshi art. Rahman's brilliant work is surely rare in "Epar-Opar Bangla", his unmatched genius rare in this time and age.

Rahman's nostalgia, that bring him relief even now, is an element of escape that is often seen in creative work, the world over. Rahman escapes into tales of the past, which was seen in his Klimt- like creations, as regards the theme, style, composition, focus etc. Yes, the romantic creations of his presentation at Drik, ages back, were based on his dreams and hopes for the world. Today too, compositions of many serious artists, of all age groups, base their creations on nostalgia of happy holidays in the countryside. They bring in boats, ships, trees, dream-like clouds, gliding birds, cows, contented human beings of their childhood days. Bewitching and beauteous statuesque profiles and figures were found in Rahman's work. After the grind of daily routine in the metropolises where he studies, and where he now teaches and paints, include concrete jungles and their inevitable claustrophobia. Fear of thieves, bandits, bag-snatchers, and even actual cut-throats are there the world over.

One finds that industrialisation in both the east and west has brought in more evils, from which one cannot escape, no matter the manner of defence man tries to shield himself with. When cholera, swine flue, plague through rats, are feared by man. Snakes, vultures, spiders, centipede and millipede, and other creepy crawly creatures like roaches are there to be the honey in the ointment of our existence today.

Will there be respite from man-made and natural disasters? This is the mind-boggling question in Rahman's mind. This oppression and nagging fear cannot be overcome in the near future, fears Rahman. People basking in the recent past euphoria, should be woken up from their complacent existence, fears this bold and brave artist, with thoughts overwhelming his mind. He is not dribbling a game ball or dithering. His bold, sweeping lines speak of total confidence and prognosis of the near future. This is his clarion call for guards to rush to the rescue.

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