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       Volume 12 |Issue 01| January 04, 2013 |


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The Maestros at Gallery Athena


Mohammad Iqbal, Blue Space, oil on canvas, 2012.
Jamal Ahmed, Going Home, mixed mediums on Paper, 2012.

Athena Gallery of Fine Arts in Uttar Badda, presents five well-known artists of repute. This includes Mohammead Eunus, Jamal Ahmed, Ahmed Shamsuddoha, Sheikh Afzal Hossain and Mohammad Iqbal back from Japan. The exhibition which began on the 22nd of December, will end in mid January.

Sheikh Afzal is famous for his realistic work, which is as close as painting can be to photography. His paintings project adults and children, as did the great artists like Goya of Spain, Van Dyke and Rembrandt, who painted “Saskia” and self portraits or even Gainsborough of England or Renoir of France. The women and children in his paintings are surrounded by dead leaves, running water and pebbles. Combining nostalgia with optimism, the pictures are buoyant with life and know little of hunger and poverty. Faces and limbs take up most of his canvas. His magic and mystery depends on his fine contrasts and balance of colours and lines. The maestro is reckoned one of the best portrait painters of the country. Sheikh Afzal studied at the University of Tsukuba. Here in Bangladesh, he gets his subjects from the life of society around him. His figures acquire high “tonal effect” to express the moods of the subjects.

Jamal Ahmed, born in 1955, presents with easy charm and defiant depiction of burnished copper- like women and endless waves of the river with dark brown and black boats in “Face of a girl and “Buri Ganga”. Jamal is also known for his white pigeons and doves. Jamal has always taken up the cause of the poor and the downtrodden and as well as domestic workers. His colours are dark brown and earthy. Peace and tranquillity are also found in his depiction of birds and the riverscapes. Due to the elongated canvas that he uses, the eye wanders on the water, sand and the people the Nature depicts. Jamal is bold and powerful apart from being confident and clear. His use of colours and lines are sparing. The streets and the nude women that he paints are lively and have a life of their own. As for his water-colours, they too are peaceful and full of joie de vivre.

His portraits appear as if carved of wood, with sharp noses and curved, defiant lips. The eyes are large and expressive. The jet-black hair is unending—fall of a fountain of black. Nose-stud and rounded earrings are not forgotten. Jamal mingles realism with passion and flare.

Mohammad Eunus (1954) is another individual who is refined and pleasant. He remains kind, understanding and jocular. He is imaginative and hard working- producing numerous solos. A teacher of the Institute of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, he got his MFA from Tokyo University, Japan. He went a second time to Japan to do his fellowship. His training in Japan helps him to be innovative as regards to space and colour.

Shamsuddoha, Sundarban-2, 2012.

What Mohammad Iqbal has stressed on is the present society, in which the child is not given the necessary care and warmth, which is essential for a child's upbringing. He points out that this was there in his childhood, and is still prevalent in most villages. He does not consider only child labour in the cities in homes, but also in commercial places – such as the shops, factories, streets and docks. Where there should be games and education there is sweat and grime: More importantly unhealthy exposures as in the cement factories. There is a mad rush of our commercialised existence, when people and their children are being trained to get ahead like robots, says Iqbal. The villages are being destroyed and the trees felled to make room for multi-storied buildings – containing factories and buildings for banks, insurance places and other corporate outlets. Offices and malls crowd residential places like Dhanmandi. Parks and playgrounds are being bought up with “black” money. This is the lament of the artist, with his delicate, but flamboyant brush sweeps and strokes.

“It is global anti-humanism that is thrust upon the children, in general, that I cry out against. This is specially so during man-made and natural calamities. When I was four years old, the Liberation War took place in Bangladesh. I still remember the fearful experiences of that time. I felt the contrast very sharply – when I paused and dwelt deep on the Buddhist philosophy and the wonderful education system, in Japan, where I enjoyed my final stage of education. Being curious of world news through the mass media, I realised that problems faced by children were not limited to the so called “third world”. Even though poverty does not cripple the home and hearth of those in the US and Europe, nevertheless, as in case of both the parents rushing to work in the west, the child is not given the attention he needs. There are cases of abortion – even in the progressive metropolises, such as New York and Paris, as is well known. I don't want to criticise any country. This is the effect of the mechanical routine of modern existence, which stresses on a 'single child family'. Even when the family is 'free from want', there is no true joy, warmth or love in it.”

Sheikh Afzal Hossain, Baba's Affection, acrylic on canvas, 2012.
Mohammad Eunus, Image, oil on canvas, 2012.

The seven oil paintings of Ahmed Shamsuddoha are buoyant and brilliant. They are as if from a dream of blues, greens and browns. They all depict nature in a way only Shamsuddoha can do. They are remarkable for the absence of an image of mankind. The sequences are like that of a dream, although they depict realities such as the Sundarbans or Bangladesh or any place of conflict, called “After the War”. A bird and a flower do occur in his two last works – and these too occur in pristine Nature.

The bare branches of his trees and bushes are eloquent; giving Nature its graceful place on earth. His cliffs, aerial roots and barges with four-storied decks, accompanied by boats with oars, have speckled blue red and gold kingfishers looking on. The aerial roots appear like giant anthills – or like stalactites and stalagmites which are often found in caves. They are green and turquoise in form. One feels as if one is peering at them from a distance.

The artist's boulders are ovular and placed against each other. They appear like pendants, or beetles' backs, painted like some uncut gems from South African mines, blue and green in hue. Shamsuddoha also uses grey, mauve, jet-black and sea green for the background. The rocks, boats, barges, flowers and birds are all eye-catching. There is brightness in the mauve of the iris flower, which gets the attention of the viewer. One can almost feel the draft of the waves of cold water as the artist uses mauve and white curls to depict nature's “iris” which he brings in as the hibiscus on a delicate twisted branch, enveloping imaginary white petals. Pale turquoise and burnt sienna forms the back along with layers of dark brown.

The works of these five remarkable artists give a glimpse of the sophistication and innovation that has come with years of dedication and the acquisition of new skills through their artistic experiences at home and abroad.



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