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     Volume 4 Issue 56 | July 29, 2005 |

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The Archaic in its Uncanny Shades

Mustafa Zaman

The works of the last few years of sculptor Maynul Islam Paul have pushed him near the edge where formal beauty abdicates and the journey towards the unknown begins. His present works take us beyond mere visual experience. As he treads the line between the irrational and the formal, the forms that he created, unobtrusive as they are, provide a chance to peek into a world of harmless, pacified mutants. Of course it is the forms that leads the viewer to imagine his works to have a life of their own, and it is the visual impact that leads to the sense of strangeness. As a new awareness of form and its possibility informs this batch of works by Paul, it leads the onlookers to a realm that almost verges on the surreal.

"I started toying with the idea of abodes. I began to work with the forms of huts, its entrance and that simple way to put two forms together to form a roof-like construction, the transformation to animal forms was instigated automatically," says Paul. The automatism, or the process of freeing the mind of any preconceived notion of art, is something that the Surrealists used to profess. Paul has intuitively managed to discover its fruit.

The works on display at La Galarie, Alliance Francaise, Dhaka, in the exhibition titled "Silent Discourse-2," could have been produced by a prehistoric man. They look archaic, as Paul brings into play surface qualities that correspond to various mediums like wood, cement and metal. Interestingly, all of the works in this show are made of styrofoam and paper. The artist has cleverly covered his styrofoam structures with papers and coloured them in a way so that they imitate the looks of different materials.

Although a certain sense of strangeness is associated with most of the structures, as they seem like mutating animals, there are a number works that remind one of the architectonic building like Stonehenge or similar nonfunctional structures. Silent Discourse-17 is one such work.

The most interesting feature of this show is not only the varied shapes that strive to look like animals, the colours too make them give off a certain energy that intensifies the psychological effect on the viewers. The blue of the piece called Silent Discourse-12 or the brick-red colour of Silent Discourse-16, or the green of the elephant-like Silent Discourse-15 only add to the playfulness of the forms.

Paul has been making sketches of his works since last year. "I was working on them in my sketch book for a year, and it is in the last three months that I started working on the real sculptures," the artist relates. The exhibition that kicked off on July 22 has generated interest among art-lovers. The last show that the artist had was in 2002, and it was titled Silent Discourse. The present show brings the artist closer to an animistic realm, where all things are alive and have an iconic presence. The exhibition will remain open till the 31st of this month to woo more art buffs to the gallery.

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