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       Volume 12 |Issue 08| February 22, 2013 |


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A Prince among Printmakers

Fayza Haq

Brown Image, etching, 25x25cm, 2007.

Talking of his work, Rashid Amin, sitting in his cosy Mohammedpur flat, says he does not consider himself a total minimalist, but says he enjoys simplification and the simplicity of Chinese art. Being an art student in Beijing, the rocks, rivers and trees of China left an indelible impact on his mind. He feels that Chinese art often contains spiritual elements and is also minimalist. At the same time, Rashid Amin admires Anthony Tapis along with Kandinsky in European art. His teachers back home like Mohammed Kibria, also influenced him greatly while he was studying at the Dhaka Art College Institute of Fine Arts DU.

"The mountains and waves of China, which is adored by Taoism, teaches that we come from Nature, and go back to it. Confucius taught the same philosophy of life. Nature for the conventional Chinese is monumental and huge.” says Amin. “Confucius tried to bring discipline in the sate, and did so at the time of the old empire. The practice of ethics was vital—such as being good to parents, and good to the people. Harmony with Nature and people was also considered important.”

When he works, Rashid Amin says, he takes some essence of Chinese painting—this deals with line work “At times the work is linear. I have this desire to bring a mixture of the east and west. Matisse, Picasso and Kandinsky all introduced a new trend. These artists themselves were influenced by eastern art-especially the Japanese prints. One sees that Picasso was influenced by African masks. Anthony Tapis, a Spanish artist was very much influenced by Japanese art, specially its calligraphy. In the late 20th century this was modern art. The western artists combined the west with east, and so formed what at the time was modern art. For artists from the east we should search our own roots. Abstract art exists in eastern art too. Edward Munch brought in fantasies, which didn't quite appeal to my sensibility.

“My idea of simplification was like Picasso's cats and girls or members of a circus with their multi-coloured clothes, the harlequin, that is. His stage props, his “Guernica”, the anti war creation with braying asses and human suffering. It remains a simplification. There is no confusion. He brought corpses and the dying. He brought in allegory and metaphor. His message is direct and clear.”

Touching the subject of the Language Movement and Ekushey February he instantly thought of Murtaja Baseer whom we know for the flamboyant wings of flying creatures and portraits of women. “Murtaja Baseer did a lot of sketches on this theme. Safiuddin was more or less indirect, metaphoric which he brought in the angry, watching eyes—seen as cubes of protests. Safiuddin brought in the floods and famine but there were gentle rivulets and people escaping in boats. They did not jar you like Zainul Abedin's sketches of the hungry and starving people of Bengal. When Safiuddin was in Kolkata, he was surrouded by many leftists. He, like Abedin painted the Santals to bring them to the notice of viewers. Labourers were brought into his prints. When he came to Dhaka, it was 1952—and people protesting the onslaught an their cultural identity .”

The artist says Murtaja Baseer was a well-known activist of that time. He was present during the shooting and took up the cudgel in protest. The experience of the shooting was always in his mind. Keeping that in mind he made many sketches. This was pen-and ink effort. Bijon Chowdhury, Qayyum, Chowdury, Aminul Islam made impressive posters to stir up the mind of the average person—who may not have been politically oriented. Murtaja Baseer joined in too, although he went to India, and operated against the generals and the brutal Pak Army.

The different moments in our country, says Rashid Amin, such as the Language Movement, the Democratic Movement against the Pak Army, had all artists, making their own protests through their art. Hamiduzzaman for instance–when he got back to the country, depicted fighting young men and symbolised freedom in birds with outstretched wings in the corporate buildings and the public places. Hamiduzzaman Khan, an artist of 70s and 80s, did a lot of sculpture, inspired by the 1971 war for freedom.

It is Shahabuddin who dedicated his paintings of corpses and Freedom fighters on the ground, who excelled all perhaps in his dedication to the Freedom Movement

“Shahabuddin, if evaluated, a Freedom fighter himself. expressed what he knew best. Monir of Spain was overseas at that time. He did print-making, in which he made a breakthrough for younger painters like us. In the 80s,when Monir came back to Dhaka, he did some work with the young artists, and taught them to use to ingredients around hem to make colours such as reddish- orange crushed bricks and gray burnt grains of rice. The new techniques inspired and awakened the creativity of the young Bangladeshi artists. The painters learnt that they could use multi-colour in print making. This brought a new dimension in our print–making history,” says Rashid Amin, tracing the part played by the Freedom Movement in the works of our artists. “Monir is abstract, with a lot of linear work and colour – so that we had a new trend in our country.”

Asked if he preferred teaching to print-making, the printmaker says, As a professor of University of Development Alternative, where for the first time, in a private university, this is the second time, after the Fine Arts Dept in the DU that fine arts is taught. The students are hard-working, dedicated, and are encouraged to something nouveau and avant garde.”

In'71, I escaped to my home district Tangail, from where we escaped to the village with my parents and my siblings. When the Pak army occupied Dhaka, we remained hidden in the village home.

Asked if he felt that Zainul Abedin, Qamrul Hasan, SM Sultan Mohammed Kibria, and Safiuddin Ahmed have been given the right place of respect and admiration -- as being the icons of our fine arts movement—he says that if the government had built a museum containing the works of these mentors for the students of art to learn from, it would have been excellent.

Rashid Amin has begun print making since 1988, when he was in China, with a Chinese government scholarship. He returned to Bangladesh, beginning with lithography. When he began his Masters, he was attracted to etching. Acid is used on the copper plate and zinc plate for etching. Lithography uses limestone with preparation with Arabian gum. This is the origin of off-set printing—which was something new in the newspaper world, forty years back, one believes, as the print –maker nonpareil puts it. At the moment, he is doing etching and dry-point. In dry-point, with a needle he works on the metal sheet, which could be a copper or zinc plate. Professor Amin, with his thick wavy hair and fashionably thick framed, teaches art history, aesthetics, print –making and drawing.



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