Love for humanity is the prime pillar for an artist
In conversation with Shahabuddin Ahmed
Internationally-renowned Bangladeshi artist Shahabuddin Ahmed is a Freedom Fighter. His canvas is full of motion and movement, vigour and liveliness. His bold brush depicts the epic of our glorious Liberation War. Shahabuddin Ahmed fondly portrays the heart of Bangladesh in a magnanimous way.
Many artists work while listening to the music of Beethoven, Mozart, or stalwarts of Indian classical music. Shahbuddin Ahmed rather renders his melodic thoughts into his canvas. “Creativity or invention is the crop and legacy of world civilisation. We should make the best use of this for the overall benefit of humanity,” comments the painter, who exhibited his artworks in the same gallery in Paris where famous painter Francis Bacon's works were exhibited.
The artist hoisted the Bangladeshi flag in erstwhile East Pakistan radio at 11:30 am on December 16 when the Pakistan army was yet to surrender. But, he knew what was going to happen. “This was the indomitable spirit and I kept that up. I take pride in that,” says Shahabuddin Ahmed, in a conversation with The Daily Star.
“I fought a nine-month battle of freeing my motherland. This is the glorious part of my life. Freedom is becoming more priceless as days go by."
“I was deeply influenced by the magical motion and movement of the artworks by my Guru, Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin, prior to my entering Dhaka Art College (Now Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka). From then, it was my dream that I would become like Zainul Abedin someday. After enrolling to Dhaka Art College, I first saw the sketches of 1943 famine. There are unique expressions in those masterpieces that I don't think I can depict. I feel surprised that I have been influenced by almost all world artists except Vincent Van Gogh. The world masters -- Goya, Rembrandt, Eugène Delacroix, Michaelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci are my family. A gharana plays an important role for an artist. Without it, no one can become an artist."
“The birth of Bangladesh would not be possible without the birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Pakistani army acted as fools. They thought their plot of conspiracies and atrocities will bear fruit. But the freedom-loving Bangalees proved our victory over them.”
“The freedom of an artist is a difficult thing in the world. It is protected (by law) only in France. This is the fruit of French revolution. An artist should create their own freedom. The cranium that seeks freedom contains conscience of humanity, art, nature, history heritage and culture. It has a reflection of patriotic passion with social and political consciousness. Continuing art practice till the end is a prerequisite to becoming an artist. It is a way of meditation. You can portray anything in France, but not here. You have a society. You have to respect the desires of the collective social conscience.”
“A singer, writer and painter have much in common. They deal with almost the same things like line, colour, composition, light and shade, surrealism, harmony and the essence. A piece of music contains harmony and melody; only the language is different. A painting is not a painting without certain qualities. A family of artists, a gharana, accepts some works to be real artworks. If your works make someone think, cry or if someone can delve into your artwork, they emerge as true art. Picasso was extremely talented, sharp, and energetic, that's why he stood out among all his peers. He also had to go through sufferings. Without nourishing the beautiful pain in heart, no one can create timeless works. An artwork or artist needs provocation to move forward and to see the reaction. It helps something/someone to be granted as art or artist. If an artist cannot take negative criticism, they cannot reach the desired destination. Painters like Salvador Dali and SM Sultan were provocative in nature, but they were honest and true to their works. Love for humanity is the prime pillar for an artist, who serenades the songs of humanity and the harmony of life.”
“Bengal School dominates our combined art legacy, due to the time-honoured art heritage of this Subcontinent. Painting is different. It is a product of European renaissance. There are very few painters in the world. A painting remains incomplete without creating drama or suspense in it. Without truth, no one can go farther. Bringing originality in painting is tough.”
“The nostalgia of childhood is very close to my life. It helps an artist to assimilate their fantasy. The strength or force, anger, hunger and my masculinity always instigates me to create something bold and visionary. Now I am rather calm. I now intentionally insert the strength of our femininity in my canvas. I am observing the success and vigour of our womanhood and express my feelings towards them in my own way. The paintings that I depicted after the Liberation War were very different from my previous works. The memories of fighting to save my beloved motherland and its incumbent reflection were depicted in my works. I brought harmony between my previous styles of my art practice and the following ones. Force was there and still is, but in a harmonised form. I am the only artist who exhibited my works on Liberation War as a student in 1973. Later, I fought for establishing my intellectual and artistic place while living in Paris. That was a journey of my life. Time and space are precarious elements, and very important too. I express my feelings, love and pain in canvas.”
“Bangladesh is new nation, only 45 years old. We have many problems as well. We have limitations such as lack of an independent National Art Gallery, modern and contemporary art museums and knowledge of proper curating system. We even don't inspire divergence of art practice through welcoming new media or techniques. There are 200 art galleries in just three roads of Paris. We cannot expect things like that Bangladesh. We have to go a long way to overcome these limitations. Bangladeshi artists are very talented; they just need to nurture their genius with the proper use of time, passion and patience.”