The Trove of Art
A major publication
on art takes the art lovers of Bangladesh by surprise
book that traces the artistic growth in Bangladesh so far
seemed an impossible proposition. But the Society for Promotion
of Bangladesh Art (SPBA), an organisation bent on bringing
about a change in the field of art promotion, has made that
happen; they published a book, a heavy one at that, which
is a trove of Bangladesh art.
The Charging Bull, 1966, Zainul Abedin
book titled “Bangladesh Art: Collection of Contemporary
Paintings,” is the first major publication of this organisation.
In this country, it is one of its kind, no one ever attempted
to produce a book of such magnitude before, not even Shilpakala
Aceademy. The fact that SPBA dreamed of a project like this
and made it a reality has certainly sent a pleasant vive
through Dhaka's art-loving citizens.
On May 19, the book was launched in a ceremony held at the
grand ballroom of Hotel Sonargoan. The afternoon saw a mixed
gallery owners, art students, journalists, ministers, embassy
bigwigs and Dhaka elite were present to witness the inauguration
of this trove of art. The idea that dawned on the few aspiring
art promoters came to its full fruition through relentless
effort of many other people and artists involved in the
project. The Norwegian Embassy played a decisive role. They
along with Grameen Phone and The Khairul Kabir Foundation
made sure with their financial back up that the project
saw a successful end. The Norwegian Embassy provided the
major portion of the fund and Grameen phone not only helped
to fill out the shortfall but also invested time and energy
in making this publication a reality.The
book, print-wise, is an accomplishment. Though the quality
of print in few pages could have been a little better. Other
than this, most of the pallets seem to do justice to the
real works. And the choice of works of Quamrul Hassan, Monirul
Islam, Mominul Reja and most of the younger generation artists
is judicious. The book holds 328 pages and 293 colour reproductions
of art pieces between its hard covers. The dust jacket is
designed by Qayyum Chowdhury, and is a demonstration of
what can be done with minimum effort. It is a fitting design
for a book of this nature.
A showcase of the artworks of sixty-eight artists belonging
to a whole spectrum that stretches from the post partition
East Bengal to the present generation of independent Bangladesh,
the book took 18 months to materialise. An advisory committee
headed by Prof. Mohammad Kibria was trusted with the responsibility
of selecting the artists and artworks. One eminent artist
who does not figure in the list of artists is Murtaja Baseer.
Elthem B. Kabir, the chairman of the society, says that
this aging pioneer of the art movement of the 1960s simply
did not respond to their request for permission. The letter
that they sent to the artist asking his consent did not
see a reply. “Without the artist's consent we cannot include
him in the volume,” says Kabir.
Women at the Concentration Camp, 1973, Hamidur Rahman.
text is written by Syed Manzurl Islam. Though it seems inappropriately
short compared to the ambitious size of the book, the writer
attempts to sum up the artistic identinty of all the artists.
The short historical account at the opening charts the developments
in art of Bangladesh throughout the last fifty-six years.
And the rest of the text consists of brief profiles of each
text charts the important phases and the defining moments
in the lives of artists in most of the occasions. It is
annoying when he fails to take note that artist like Monirul
Islam broke in to the Dhaka art scene as late as in the
90s. His comments on and discernment of the works and style
of many artists, too, occasionally flounder.
Commenting on Abdur Razzak he wrote, “Razzak follows a constructivist
style”, and in the case of Qayyum Chowdhury's manner, Islam
maintains, “Qayyum Chodhury explored the traditional folk
art.” Although few lines later the word “reworking” seem
to want salvage the narrative from sinking into a total
misreading of a style.
In Search of a self Portrait-II, 1982, Aminul Islam
than these occasional stutters suffered in the region of
summation of artistic vocabulary, most of the pieces that
accompany the pictorial section of each artist are brilliantly
written, often touching up on a chronological growth of
the respective artists.
The writer is at his best when he refers to Monirul Islam's
work as “kaleidoscopic field of vision”.
This book is a volume that provides an overview of the artistic
practices of Bangladesh. SPBA had aimed to project a Bangladesh
in its creative best, and this they have accomplished with
flying colours. And by doing so it has put a stirring to
an otherwise somnolent art scene of this country where there
always was an acute shortage of books on art. SPBA with
its effort has paved the way that, we hope, will be followed
by many other organisations.