Crying call to Connect
Maksudul Ahsan, Dream, acrylic on paper.
One knows Maksudul Ahsan to be a painter, print-maker and a curator. He is the only Bangladeshi curator that one knows of -- who deals with artwork internationally. He concentrates on "Epar-Opar Bangla", dealing with artwork in New Delhi, Kolkata and Dhaka. He also deals beyond that subcontinental horizon -- bringing in other parts of South Asia and Europe. Concentrating on "Shilpangan", Dhanmandi, as the setting, he chooses the finest of art pieces of Indian masters such as M. F. Hussain , Souza and Subrahmaniyam. He also gets senior Bangladeshi artists like Rafiqun Nabi and Hashem Khan to participate. Thus he creates a rapport and an exchange of ideas between our country and our larger neighbour.
Lack of patrons can be totally stultifying for painters. "From 1994 to 2004 , I was in New Delhi. During this time there was the emergence of a circle of Indian artists. I was connected to a number of well-known local galleries there. This included "Art Today" (affiliated with "India Today") -- who did my first joint and solo show in 1996. Next,"Dhoomimal Gallery", the oldest gallery in the subcontinent, helped me too. This had F. M. Souza, M.F. Hossain, Raja and Ara and Guada (from Maharasthra) affiliated with it, and who began the movement -- modern Indian art; and who even began the first revolt again the British in the 1940s. These senior artists were always conscious of the needs of the times, and the urge to reflect one's own environment, rather than aping the masters of the west."
The Modern Movement in Bengal, says Maksud, was a traditional one. "Basic Modern Art" in India had Amrita Sher Gul and Rabi Barma as their icon. This was Bombay based, says Maksud , explaining the need to connect with artists in India. Souza , Akbar Padamsi, Anjali Ela Mennon, and Krishan Khanna had many contributions here, says Maksud, pointing out his urge to connect with our neighbouring artists.
Maksud also formed an organisation called 'Bandhan Art and Culture Society'. The target was to work with South East Asian artists and their particular visions. “In India, except for Zainul Abedin, the Bangladeshi artists were not quite known. Shahabuddin is known only recently, and only because he's had a few exhibitions in India. I felt that this was a sorry state of affairs for our country. With this in mind, I organised a number of exhibitions, such as the one at 'Shilpangan' in 2004, M.F. Hussain, F. M. Souza, Jogen Chowdhury and K.G.Subrahmaniyam were the artists whose works came from India. The artists from Bangladesh at his exhibition were Qayyum Chowdhury, Rafiqun Nabi, Hashim Khan, Shamarjit Roy etc. The youngest artists included Ranjit Das and myself," says Maksud.
Maksud, for many years, since then, has been concentrating on his next solo -- which is due in June at National Museum. Earlier on, Maksud's paintings, exhibited in India and Bangladesh, contained symbols, ideas and icons. His figures and his delineation of nature had been lyrical, quite often. But lurking through them was the fear of violence and anomalies. Jealousy, mass destruction and negative approaches to life was what the artist railed against. Religion and class barriers blinded human vision and this is what the artist lamented. Mindless and egocentric "medieval" outlooks are what still pains Maksud.
This time, Maksud brings in both paintings-- in acrylic and mixed-media-- plus prints. They are based on the poetry of a close friend of his. As such, in order to represent emotions and passions, the painter has gone in for abstraction. His colours, lines and textures are therefore minimalised and simplified. He deals with human relationship -- specially love -- and nature. Through forms and colours, he has tried to present feelings.
His teachers, mainly Rafiqun Nabi, Shafiuddin Ahmed, and Mohammed Kibria have always guided and encouraged Maksud. Again, Zainul Abedin and SM Sultan -- the master artists of Bangladesh -- have been his icons for all time. His contact with painters from New Delhi and Kolkata have also opened his horizons.
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