Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 68, Tuesday May 19, 2009




Ochin Pakhi

Ochin Pakhi, an art exhibition of Afrozaa Jamil's paintings at Radius Centre on the fifth floor of Bay's Galleria in Gulshan, has commenced on 15 May. On its first day, the exhibition attracted a handsome crowd of Dhaka's art lovers with depictions of simple objects that carry powerful messages.

Afrozaa Jamil completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1985 from the College of Fine Arts and Crafts, Dhaka. She moved to the U.S in 1989 and studied printmaking under Martin Mondrez at Glendale College. Besides painting, she runs an arts and crafts centre for children called 'Art Attack' and also teaches art to child workers at PRODIPAN in Lalbagh.

Having majored in Oriental art, she is influenced by the form, although over the years her style has evolved. “After studying Oriental art in college, I was obviously influenced by it. After moving to America, I was exposed to a wider range of art, and that must have influenced me too. I have also developed certain techniques of my own. Now, it is a sort of fusion of styles.

“We, as a nation have very close cultural ties with birds,” said Jamil, who has come back to the country in 2005 after living in America for nearly twenty years. “Be it in our folk songs, poems or visual arts, birds have been an ever present figure in our cultural expression. That is what I hope to showcase in this exhibition.”

The image of birds predominate in the paintings on display, and with the creatures being symbolical of various emotions, they convey deep messages which are close to the artist's heart. When asked what the underlying messages in her paintings were, Jamil said, “Reform, although in this particular exhibition that may not be overly apparent, but its there. A predominant subject in my paintings is the oppression of women, and their right to be free from such oppression. Another common subject you will find in my paintings is the war of liberation.”

Her feminist beliefs come to the fore in her depictions of acid victims, and looking at these paintings one gets a clearer idea of the zest for social reform the artist bears. There are two such paintings at the exhibition, both entitled 'Ekla Pakhi'. In both these paintings, a woman stares out from the frame with half of her face deformed. The deformity is not ordinary; it carries some shock value as it is depicted in the form of actual bumps on the painting's surface. This gives the painting and the image an immediacy that brings into sharper focus the plight of the innumerable acid victims in our country. As a contrast to the image of the violently deformed woman, a bird can be seen sitting near the bottom corner. Accompanying the symbol of cruelty and oppression in the victimised woman is the symbol of freedom in the bird.

Before taking the decision to study art, she was in two minds about which among music and art to study. This musical inclination also shows up in her paintings, with some carrying lyrics of well-known folk songs, etched across the canvas. One such that is likely to catch the eye is a painting named after a folk song 'Shukhe Theko Bhalo Theko', where a bird sits in front of closed doors with the lyrics of the song written on them. The closed doors signify barriers to our dreams, to love. The lyrics deepen the emotion. Here too the bird is depicted as an ideal; the ideal of freedom from the bonds of society.

She has used birds in other ways as well, using the stigma associated with crows to good effect. This she does in three paintings entitled 'Swadhinata 1', 'Swadhinata 2', and 'Swadhinata 3'. In 'Swadhinata 1' a raised hand is surrounded by blood and crows are feasting on the blood. “These depict the struggle through which we have achieved independence,” the artist elaborated. “The crows represent those with crooked intentions who benefited from the bloodshed.”

The exhibition is sponsored by 'Gallery Cosmos'. She is especially grateful to artist Ashit of 'Gallery Cosmos', without whose help she says the exhibition would not have been possible.

The exhibition will run till May 31. The paintings are priced in the range of Tk.20,000-35,000. It is beautifully presented, and visitors are sure to be enthralled by the simple beauty of the subjects on display, and be moved by the powerful messages they convey. Art is at its best when it can induce emotions in its audience. In this respect, with their depth of emotion and feeling, Afrozaa Jamil's paintings are likely to oblige.




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