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     Volume 4 Issue 72 | November 25, 2005 |

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Alluvial Face-2, mixed media

Dwelling on the Aesthetic and the Real

Mustafa Zaman

THE flamboyance of the man shows through the art works that he brings into existence. The bold, unadulterated primary colours and the simple arrangement of forms that often assume symbolic meanings are the defining facets of Kalidas's artistic genius. Although he is far from the abstract idiom, like many prominent abstractionists, he too is intent on the objectification of colours and forms rather then expressing through representations that refer back to reality. In that sense most abstract as well as image-filled pictures of Kalidas are self referential, they refer back to themselves.

In his 60th solo, at La Gallerie of Alliance Francaise, Dhaka, the bigger canvases that take up a central role in the show titled "Alluvial Pain and Salvation" veer towards such objectification, where colour and form mesh together to strive towards a greater aspiration of symbolism. The four canvases that adorn the southern wall of the gallery, one that faces the entrance, are consecutively titled "Alluvial Holy Symbol", "Alluvial Holy Blue", "Alluvial Holy Black" and "Alluvial Holy X". In the first coal-black canvas, in the middle lies a tabeez, a talisman where the name of Allah is embossed to stave off bad omen and usher in good luck. It is characteristic of Kalidas's work. He often incorporates religious symbols with the created space laden with colour and form. He is a master of marrying every-day symbol with the subliminal value of colours and contour.

Other than these four canvases, the rest of the show is crowded with smallish works that hinge mainly on the exploration of lines. While linearity lends strength to the work hung on the walls, morbidity thrives on the floor, where the artist puts a stuffed doll to assume the role of a corpse. He even covers it with a thin cloth to enhance the drama.

"The corpse symbolises the deaths that visited us during the language movement as well as in all the other subsequent movements leading to the war of independence in 1971. The deaths during that nine-month-long war and the death in natural calamities, I mourn

Alluvial Salvation, mixed media

them all thorough this symbolic gesture," relates the artist while trying to contextualise his presentation that may induce a sense of revulsion in many a gallery goer. The artist is aware of this kind of reaction.

So, why does an artist who is given much to the beauty of tactile quality of colours as well as its luminosity bring into view such cadaverous presentation? The artist has its rationale. He says, "I always want to relate to the reality of my time. Perhaps it doesn't make the art work beautiful to the eye, but the emotional reaction that it generates in the viewer is what I bank on." He also adds that what the newspapers fail to stir in the hearts of the readers by publishing the gory realities of our time, an art work can tap into that very sensibility with its strong message. "It can make them realise the intensity of the matters," he adds.

With this end in view he organised his main installation, cordoning off the corps with heads of clay that take their cue from Hindu icons. With gruesome reality in view, Kalidas also installs another stuffed doll that he leans against the wall of the gallery. This has a sinister masks on its face, and its message is more direct. It looks like an ill-formed effigy with paper cuttings pasted on its body. It is to remind one of the suicide bomber. And it certainly plays havoc with environment of the gallery. As for the political motive of the artist, this presentation has a news-like sensation attached to it, one that fails to create an impact that may last longer and result in the soul searching on the part of the observer.

The Kalidas who stakes his full claim to linearity still is the most interesting of them all. His drawings have become simpler over the decades, but they still retain the power to entice the inquisitive eyes of the observer for a closer encounter. As he brings in the

fervour of calligraphy to his lines, his faces as well as abstract squiggles remind one of the Chino-Islamic tradition of art making. The linear quality certainly ties his art with the ancient craft of the Chinese and Persian masters. Although the artist ardently feels the need for connecting to the turbulent realities of his time, his line has an eternal quality, one that is independent of the lived experience. This autonomy of art is what his two

Alluvial Cry, mixed media

series of smallish works titled "Alluvial Cry" and "Alluvial Salvation" stand for. This autonomy has even barred his drawing from depicting the seamy side of life, one that he strives to deal with in his installations.

Apart from all these, there is another kind of portraiture in this exhibition that verges on the expressionistic. With these faces, Kalidas is carefree and relies on gesture rather than line. These mixed-media works are painted with fingers and they best express the essence of the alluvial plain that is Bangladesh, and one that has been the inspiration of Kalidas's works of last few years.

"It is my visits to the Sundarbans that made me contemplate the fertile soil of our country and made me realise that the good things of this delta are being destroyed by political intrigue and corruption. This realisation spurred me to work on a series of faces that I called 'alluvial faces'," relates the artist. He mounted a show of this series in the Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts in 2003. And that was the beginning of his journey that branched out in many directions with the alluvial plain as its source of inspiration.

If the present show is a guide, it can be said that Kalidas is made up of two disparate sensibilities, one that is made up of visual symbols, be that a face or a tangle of lines or a dot, and the other that feeds on the social decay. At one end there is this artist that thrives on line, colour and form loaded with their subliminal meanings and at the other the populist who wants to address the woes of his time. It is with the first where his individual spirit is most palpable.

Kalidas's present show is dedicated to his recently demised mother, one who was anticipating coming to the exhibition. "Alluvial Pain and Salvation" was launched on November 17 and will be on till the 30th of the month.

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