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     Volume 10 Issue 01| January 07, 2011 |


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Idyllic Dreams in Gentle Washes in Water-colour

Fayza Haq

Gathering, water colour. photo: courtesy

Saeeda Kamal's recent water-colours at Cafe Mango brought soft colours and muted lines. She dealt with flowers and scenes in a manner which was a world apart from the present trend to bring in harsh objects and raw colours. An element of tranquility and harmony pervaded over the washes and strokes. One was removed from the humdrum of everyday existence of noise, squalor and speeding machines of the city to softly tinted flowers; and gently flowing streams – of some idyllic dream, or contented moment of nostalgia. The "slings and arrows" of life are forgotten in gentle. Romantic, poised lines and colours. "Pax" through paints: that is Kamal's focus. Kamal, speaking at her residence in Dhanmondi, over lemon tea, "bakhrkhani" and Dhaka cheese slices, on a cold winter evening, says that she concentrates on nature. She says that nature works like some shelter for us, when we are going through so much of suffering, restlessness and frustration. She is a great believer of the healing power of nature. "If you turn to nature you're bound to find peace," she says. She goes to sights like the riversides, the paddy fields and gardens to get her inspiration. In water colour landscape and nature delineation, it is best to paint what you see, she feels. With this she combines her memories and imagination." I sit for a long time absorbing nature around me and only then do I paint," she says. She prefers water-colour as it has a definite challenge. "In oil you can always do and undo, changing what you don't like at first go. Also, water colour has its texture and transparency, which fascinates me no end."

Some where Farway 2, water colour. photos: courtesy

At times Kamal does the sketch of the scene that has inspired her and then sits in the studio and completes the painting. Kamal also teaches painting at a school and says she enjoys both her creative work and her teaching.

Coming from a culture oriented family with the poet Sufia Kamal, she was not questioned when she wanted to study fine arts. She had good teachers like Rafiqun Nabi, who inspired her greatly. The other artists whose works led her to take up painting were Zainul Abedin, Qamrul Hassan, Safiuddin Ahmed, Mohammed Kibria. The next generation of artists like A. Basset also had impact on her work. European master painters like Vermeer, Rembrandt and Van Gogh inspired her.

After the Institute of Fine Arts, DU, she studied at the University of Boston and did a residency course at Vermont, US. She also did a course on design at Santiniketan and took part in workshops overseas. This is her fifth solo. Apart from this she has participated in numerous group exhibitions. She has been working professionally for three decades.

In "Offerings" we see a bunch of the flame of the forest. In another painting we see "madhobi lata" in a gray jar. She has made a collage of a dry plant next to a water colour depiction of a spray of flowers. Apart from her preoccupation with floral depictions, she has done many moving scenes taken from nature around her. Her work is certainly a definite step away from the depiction of complex city life. Peace and harmony pervade her world of flowers, leaves and gentle river banks.

It is the next generation that Kamal has in mind, when painting her lyrical pieces. "What are we leaving behind for them? It is not enough to have the 'concrete jungles' that we have today in the cities. They should have some greenery to see and play on. They should know what garden flowers are. Otherwise life becomes unnatural and mixed-up," says Kamal.

In the Lap of Mountains, water colour. photos: courtesy

At this point, one recollects that even the rickshawpullers in the city are concerned about the lack of the steady downpour of rain. Even they tell you the blowing of private car horns can affect the mind badly. They comment on the lack of planning by the road authorities, who begin to dig roads, and cover them with tar, in the rainy season. As for killing heat waves, mum is the word of the silent 'chariot-drivers' – the Ben- Hurs and Massalas of Dhaka. The clouds of Dhaka were so exotic, with the sun pouring through, 20 years back. This beauty of Bangladesh is found only if we go out to the Hill Tracts, Sylhet, Rajshahi etc. Similarly senseless killing of birds, and animals must be stopped. Conservation of nature is a global issue the world over, and for decades together. Kamal is not painting without a purpose.

Kamal is also well-known as an art teacher at "Sunbeams" for students up to grade five. She teaches the aspiring artists elements such as drawing, painting, print-making with flowers and coloured papers. She also teaches crafts such as tie-dye, paper mosaic, bead making and clay modeling. In this she includes making of traditional dolls with earthy colours of muted red, green, black and white.

"I can't protest on the street with banners. My painting is a silent way to cry out for a peaceful, beautiful world," says Kamal.


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