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     Volume 11 |Issue 43| November 02, 2012 |


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An Artist with Dreams and Hopes

Fayza Haq

Abul Barq Alvi

How does an inhabitant of Old Dhaka, a land like an impressionist painting of the Bahaus tradition, with only forms and abstraction to tell that it is houses and fields that the artist is aiming to depict? The artist, Abul Barq Alvi, is a teacher who is well loved, and is often seen at the garments and accessories outlet Piran in Dhanmandi at the Women’s Complex. He is seen gently guiding the other young artists and the trained craftsmen working under them. The fresh young artists make fashion bags, jewellery, masks, lamps, ashtrays, clothes and what have you. Whether one is at the Arts College Dhaka, or at Dhaka Art Centre, or even at Alliance Francaise, Alvi ‘sir’ is often to be found there, speaking carefully and patiently with the other artists, as he is often known to do. As a member of the Kochi Kachar drawing and painting competitions , like ‘Shankar’ with leaders like Zainul Abedin, Alvi took to art at the Dhaka Art College, although he studied Science at the outset. He was influenced by his teachers, amongst them Safiuddin Ahmed, Mohammed Kibria and Mahmudul Haque ‘sir’, who worked on nature and its six different seasons – bringing in different delineations of branches, trees and leaves. For Alvi, the modern aspects of nature, as we have it in installations, sculpture, video films, and unbeaten paths of art – carried out by Britto leader Tayyaba Begum Lipi and her adventurous husband Rahman – is just another chapter in experimentation with colour, form, sound and light. They are all manifestations of visual art, and we should be able to accommodate all – with an open mind – he feels. Ronnie Ahmed and his work should not deter us, or overwhelm us. One should take him and his likes in one’s stride, he says. Dots, lines and curves. They lead to items in our minds and imagination, which blend and mix in our ‘memories and desires’. They lead to plants, animals, humans , fish and creatures of feather – everything that meets the eye between the skies, mountains and water ways, Alvi feels.

Small sections of land play on the artist’s mind. Nature inspired the artist. Hashem Khan, Rukunnuzaman Khan (Dada Bhai) Zainul Abedin (Kochi Kachar Mela).

Should he aim at selling or keeping the buyers happy? What should a ‘true artist’ aim at? The artist must please more then himself, for pleasing himself alone is not enough, says Alvi. Fifteen years back, the art market was not as it is today. The number of art galleries and art shops were few. Art connoisseurs, in their true form, were limited. Only those who have made a name for themselves are financially well off. Even Abedin and Kibria hardly sold at the outset, said the artist. It is today that they are greatly in demand. Those who had had many friends prospered. Many went into illustrations, firms of commercial art, a generation before mine, says Alvi.

One progressed from the board to the canvas. Different artists used different mediums. When man first painted his reindeer and horses, it was on walls. This led to canvas and colours. Some artists go for nature. Others, still life. A painter may take and present a figure in the manner he wants. One may go in for narrative. The artist goes in for his own feelings. “If everyone painted in the same manner, this would bring in boredom. The techniques and medium vary with user and time. Sculpture, paintings, video: the medium changes with the artist, and his mood. As he sees and thinks, the subject changes. Sculpture is not a painting, but it is used as it pleases the onlooker. As there are differences and changes in thinking patterns, there is change in Shilpakala”, says the artist.

From the Nature, acrylic on canvas, 2012.

How was the Art Fair in the recent past at the Shilpakala academy? Alvi says that he hasn’t had the experience of so many artists at one go. As there were no prizes, each artist expressed himself in the manner that he felt best. As a consequence, there were variations in the work. He certainly liked the way the new artists thought of life and living. Feelings, hopes and dreams change with time.

Asked to trace the changes in his own paintings, Alvi says, “My student days brought in realistic academic work. When I passed out, the subject was exaggerated a bit. Later, the forms remained, and the subject slowly disappeared. Thus, form got the importance. I don’t know if I will return to my original style.”

When presenting the roots in forms such as masks, cattle, fishing, the artist says that anything may become the subject. One cannot bar any subject. Whatever the artist paints becomes the theme and the subject, says Alvi. “I love still life,” says the artist. “Anything can be the subject, anything in passing, say a happening may become the focus,” he says. “The trill of the birds, the sunlit skies, the hum of the bees, the waving trees, the golden fields. Anything can be suggested and an become the subject.”

Speaking about his own style, Alvi, who was trained in Japan, says “The Bahaus Group in nature from Germany influences me most. Painting, architecture, sculpture – they all influence me. This is called ‘kosai’ (composition, construction, art and design). We have our composition, and with time we might break them and move away from them, the grammar of fine arts. Even in literature, there is the stream of consciousness technique, and combining laughter with tears is a melange in which life operates in the journey of work, life and living.”


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