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        Volume 10 |Issue 11 | March 18, 2011 |


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A Passionate Sculptor

Fayza Haq

The Force, wood.

Rebecca is one of those artists who have had the opportunity to study both eastern and western influences on art from close quarters – and not just in the pages of books or on some slide or screen show. This is because, as a child in Kolkata, her parents seeped her in cultural activities. This included examining art from cave drawings, to the studying of Muslim art dating back from the Sultanic and Moghul times. This was followed by studying colonial art – of the Portuguese, Dutch and British period. Rebecca had ample chance to examine and study at leisure. Both as a girl, and the wife of an expert, working on behalf of the British managed tea gardens of Sylhet, and belonging to the upper echelon of the Bangladesh society, she had ample opportunities to have studied the past masters of fine art overseas, as in Europe and the Middle East.

Today, she is an artist who has spent years studying under such icons of fine arts, such as Razzaque (the first sculpture professor at the Department of Art, DU) and Sayeed Ahmed (who taught history of art at that time). Earlier on, she had undertaken significant art courses, which were run by the Shilpakala Academy, in the early sixties. Thus this senior female sculptor has years of professional sculpting under her belt.


With a cosmopolitan outlook, a very good knowledge of what is in vogue globally, Rebecca is an outgoing individual for whom many influences, styles and mediums is “all is grist which comes to the mill”. She is a person who is open minded about the “isms” that float in the art world of the 21st century. To her the aspects of culture– books, music, drama and dancing –weave through every day existence. Philosophies and religions affect her too – as they do the thinking artist – who is well read and well travelled. With a mature mind and sensitive hands, she has sculpted her way through the years. Soft-spoken and gentle, she has always been open to mature ideas and view points. Quick-witted and charming, Rebecca has been a warm person to know.

“I've been fascinated with sculpting since a child. The craving for drawing and painting was there as a child. I used to examine the curves and curls of any item of interest, be it something small and ordinary, as a breakfast cup or a tiny flower bud, or the wings of a wasp or butterfly. As my father was fond of travelling, as a child I got the opportunity to go to places of cultural importance. When I came to Dhaka, my dream of studying fine arts was fulfilled. I got the scope for sculpture with Founder Professor Razzaque from 1999-2002. Learning from the US, European and Middle Eastern galleries was not difficult to accomplish either, as I always had the backing of my husband and others in the family – who supported the concept of learning through visits to far off places with their treasure trove of fine arts.” Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are some of the names in her list too. The art from Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Samarkand, Bokhara and Kiev offered her more ancient

delights of superb craftsmanship in brilliant sculpture to study from and keep in mind, and emulate in time. These places, seats of ancient cultures, with their beauteous collections of visual art had its store of stone and semi-precious and precious gems to admire and keep in mind for reference, guideline and inspiration.

Broken Moon, wood.

Rebecca's daughter plays an important role in the way she has clung on to the world of fine arts. Her inspiration from her is a great help. The art books and equipments, sent from overseas by her son have also been of tremendous help. The 'Silva Method' of meditating over the journey of life has also aided her to overcome pitfalls. Now she's been a sculptor for three decades. She says she loves her work immensely. The time she's spent in the pursuit of this passion is the best time in her life.

Touching on the various subjects she's dealt with, Rebecca says that it's Nature, which has given her so much of joy and comfort. She also adores working on the human figure. She's past master in cement, plaster of Paris, clay and wood, the last being her favourite medium – as working with that, she expresses best her feelings, desires and dreams. “It may not be so easy to handle but it expresses best what I feel.” It takes muscle work, concentration and imagination. She has to prepare the wood for a long time. It has to be soaked in “toot”; she has to employ someone to hold up the heavy medium while she chisels away on the body of the wooden sculpture piece. A shine and a finish have to be added.

Speaking about the state of art in general, Rebecca says, “One way or another, fine arts, today and even before was a commodity, depending on the patron and everyday art buffs. People are not necessarily moved by matters of intrinsic beauty. I think neo-colonialism does dominate our art, and that artists are governed, very often by the buyers. The artist can't work unless his \her work is backed, with a future in the art market.”

My Celestial Sphere, wire.

“The triad of giants, Zainul, Safiuddin and Quamrul Hasan have inspired their students to do work based on the Liberation War. The eventful 1971 gave impetus to senior artists, who range from 50 to 60 and over like Hashem Kham, Hamiuduzamman Khan, Biren Shome – to paint and sculpt ad lib. on images and colours based on the struggle of patriotism. Women like Priyobhashini, have used the 'birongana' theme repeatedly. 'Guns and roses', bullets, bloodbaths, scattered limbs of the dead and dying were spun into images of the past that brought into being a free country with ideals of its own. Even artists like Mrinel Huq, based in Paris and Wakilur Rahman living in Berlin, repeat the theme of a separate homeland for the Bangalis. They do not get blasé despite repetitions. A lot of work on the same subject by Shamim Shikdar has won acclamation. 'Bengal Gallery' and 'Chitrak' patronised Shahabuddin – who has taken part in the War himself– like so many of the senior artists of the country.”

Asked if the historical remains as in Paharpur, Mahastangarh, Sonargaon, and British colonial remains in the Rose Garden are not enough for sculpture students today to learn about figure work in clay and stone, the sculptor has her own opinion. Rebecca says that they should inspire the sincere sculptor who combines his imagination with grilling field work – and not just the camera and video or online images. Palaces, temples, churches and mosques are a definite source of learning, the senior sculptor says.

Seeing Rebecca's work, several times at exhibitions, and at her studio at Old Airport Road, near The Daily Star, one admires mostly the rich, curling giant leaves that have the sheen of autumn oak leaves. Shimmering and cascading in buoyant reds and gold, they remind you of the childhood 'Radiant Way' books, with their innumerable images of dreams of nostalgia. The artist has done woodwork that look like old wood, something her tutor Professor Razzaque felt proud of, in his student who drank in each word that the icon of sculpture uttered. Happy and dedicated, she has brought in many themes in many glistening colours and varied shapes to include various themes and images – both in realistic and semi-abstract forms. She's tried her hand at abstraction too – and has been a sure success. She's risen above the weariness, fever and fret of modern cosmopolitan existence, reading in between, to give her respite.

Voila Woman power!


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