• Saturday, December 20, 2014

Freedom in the air

Combination of calligraphy and portraiture

Ashraf Hussain depicts Rabindranath with Nature in the background

Fayza Haq

At Ashraf Hussain's second solo exhibition that opened on the August 16 at the Shilpangan Gallery, poet Asad Chowdhury, former Ambassador Waliur Rahman and Hamiduzzaman Khan spoke as guests.

The exhibition was dedicated to Rabindranath's death anniversary. Rabindranath lives in the mind on an introvert artist like Ashraf and this particular exhibition deals with the bard's relationship with Kadombori, his sister in law, Waliur said. There has been no large exhibition of the Kobiguru's portrait of such type before, he said. Ashraf likes to be left alone with his own thoughts, he said. “Tagore's poetry, fiction and dance-dramas reflected his inner sufferings. He also painted in his old age,” Waliur added. When painting, he saw people with Nature against the backdrop. Thus Kadombori Devi and Rabindranath were seen at different angles, with Nature framing them. Sometimes the poet was seen in full length; at times he and the lady were hinted upon; at times the two were seen face to face; at others they were seen in a melange of the city in the background; at others they were depicted as embracing each other in an idyllic garden, and in others, they were holding hands and exchanging views. Some of these drawings, he said, had the strength and ecstatic imagery of SM Sultan.

The paintings were of mixed media, oil, watercolour, collage etc. When seeing his life and analysing it, one does not wish to peer unnecessarily into his personal life. As a man he gets his inspiration from various sources, Ashraf said, adding that Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin was admired for his depiction of people seen against Nature, in the same manner. Ashraf said he had dwelt with his creative painting, with feelings that come naturally.

The chief guest of the occasion, Asad Chowdhury said, “In 15 years, we have another solo by Ashraf, and this is surely welcome.” On the subject matter of the exhibition, he said “Kobiguru reigns over our thoughts. He excelled in writing, music and painting.” He brought the Manipuri dance to a classical height in his dance-drama 'Ordhangini', which was fabulous, to say the least. Rabindranath dealt with gender issues and gave equal rights to women in his plays, poems etc.; Anderson had given children fairy tales, and so did Rabindranath,” Asad Chowdhury observed. He was a poet, musician and writer for all seasons. Rabindranath saw to the freedom of music; he loved Irish folk songs that he had heard in his trips abroad, and his brother was good at Carnatic music, Chowdhury added.

“Rabindranath himself loved the Romantic poets like Shelley and Keats. He admired Baudelaire and TS Eliot for their graphic and unusual imagery. Jean Paul Sartre was anti-establishment, and so were George Orwell and Jibanananda Das. Rabindranath understood women -- his daughters and his wife. Women always played important roles in his life,” Asad Chowdhury concluded. 

Hamiduzzaman Khan said that this was a special exhibition and that the artist had done something nonpareil. The medium that he had used – oil – was unique as there is purity in this. He was delighted as the exhibition had more than he had expected. It was innovative and the artist had brought the students of art, great works to ponder over. There is something new in artist Ashraf Hossain's paintings, he said.

In one of his paintings, the poet-writer-philosopher is seen sitting while Kadombori is seen standing and speaking to him. There are words in Bangla behind her on a wall -- like a backdrop, along with her portrait. The figures are in blue and white, while the furniture and the wall-like background, and clothes of Tagore and his beloved are in white, beige and blue. In another portrait, the Kobiguru is seen walking in a full-length garb while behind him are nature and calligraphy in English, taken from Rabindranath's works. In one, we see the lady in a flowing sari, dark blue, almost black with a light pinkish border. Her face is at an angle. Behind her are imaginary panels of a wall, ranging from beige to black in calligraphy in English, in a running hand in delicate copper plating, Victorian style.

The silhouette of Kadombori crying against Kobiguru's chest and next the two thinking apart is amazing. Behind are writing in English presented in such a manner that it appears real, and as if taken from a manuscript.  There is the depiction of young and old women in Kobiguru's family and a young lad, taken from either his family or hers. Looming large in the backdrop is Rabindranath himself in burnt-sienna. The backdrop is white, touched with black, as if they were stone pillar and part of a large stone stage.

There compelling works are also in collage and pencil, with some even having a 3D effect.

Published: 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2014

Last modified: 9:48 pm Saturday, August 30, 2014

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