Eminent artist Rafiqun Nabi, Professor at the Department of Drawing and Painting of Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka, shared his memories of Subir Chowdhury with The Daily Star. Excerpts:
Subir Chowdhury occupied a special place in the realm of fine arts. His contributions on this front were immense. Despite being an artist himself, he found very little time to create his own artworks; rather he encouraged the creativity of other prominent and promising artists. His contribution in popularising Bangladeshi art, culture and music is unparalleled. He started his career at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy where he first dreamt of organising an Asian Art Biennale in the 1980s. Artist Syed Jahangir was the director while Subir was the deputy director of the first Asian Art Biennale, Bangladesh. The legacy of that international biennale still remains. Besides, he ignited the idea of diffusing art in every nook and corner of Bangladesh through initiating “Bhrammoman Charukala”.
Later, he joined Bengal Foundation where he organised many large-scale prestigious exhibitions all year round. He showcased Bangladeshi artists to the outside world and invited foreign artists, critics and academics to Bangladesh. His role in establishing and consolidating Bengal Foundation is great too. Subir created many art collectors in Bangladesh. He would convince many art connoisseurs to add to their collections. He also promoted young artists in Bangladesh. This was an outstanding accomplishment of Subir.
Subir felt an indomitable urge to involve our gurus--Qamrul Hassan, Safiuddin Ahmed, Mohammad Kibria and others-- in many prestigious exhibitions both at home and abroad. He would always think of them and execute the gigantic tasks of holding such exhibitions to perfection.
Safiuddin Sir was a very introverted and strong personality. He created art works with little inclination to exhibit and sell them. A persuasive Subir Chowdhury compelled him to exhibit his art works at Bengal Gallery. Subir had strong powers of persuasion. Artists, connoisseurs, collectors and people by and large held him in high esteem. Subir Chowdhury conferred the title of “Shilpaguru” on Safiuddin Sir.
While displaying Bangladeshi arts and artists in countries like Japan, Australia, USA, Canada and Maldives, Subir would single-handedly organise the logistics of accompanying artists abroad and liaising with international galleries, buyers and the media. On March 16 last, he accompanied 10 Bangladeshi contemporary artists, including me, to display their works under the title “Jonmobhumir Gaan” in three cities in Australia. When the exhibition reached Canberra, Subir suddenly felt ill and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. Bad luck reigns supreme! He left us forever yesterday morning. May his departed soul rest in eternal peace!
Subir was my student at the Department of Drawing and Painting, University of Dhaka. He was one of my favourite students too. A combination of many fine qualities, he was both prominent and popular in his student life. He was politically conscious right from his student days. He contributed much to our sublime Liberation War by organising teachers, students and many others during those tumultuous times.