Birthdays of two art maestros
Today would have marked the 90th birthday of eminent artist and Language Movement veteran Murtaja Baseer, who passed away last year. The artist, who revolutionised modern art in Bangladesh in his glorious six-decade career, had also made a remarkable mark as a poet, litterateur, novelist, numismatist, researcher, and filmmaker.
As the youngest son of eminent scholar Dr Muhammed Shahidullah, he had grown up nurturing his love for art which explored realism and the portrayal of the detailed and unadorned forms of life. He was a socially conscious artist and worked around the concepts of truth, beauty, romanticism, and spirituality, capturing the struggles of the people around him. His creation, "Wings of Butterfly", depicts the period of socio-political turmoil of Ayub Khan's regime. His "Epitaph for the Martyrs" series engulfs around the plight of our freedom fighters, and "The Wall" series portrays the ambience of suffocation felt by the people during the Liberation War.
Baseer, whose self-portraits were an interesting aspect of his work, believed that one's inner entity is the only entity that one can truly rely on, and in the attempt to discover answers, he would draw himself at least once every year.
For his considerable contribution to art in Bangladesh, Baseer had garnered numerous accolades in his lifetime, including the Ekushey Padak and the Shadhinota Puroshkar. He had written the screenplay for the film version of Humayun Kabir's novel Nodi O Nari, and published a collection of short stories called Kanch-er Pakhir Gaan, along with writing two more novels—Mitar Shangey Char Shandha and Amitakkhar. He had also studied and interpreted coins of the Bengal Sultan period with the scholarly commitment of a historian.
Today also marks the 79th birthday of the internationally acclaimed Bangladeshi artist Monirul Islam. The Ekushey Padak winner who is known for his experimental ventures and abstract language in the realm of art, explores a unique relationship between aesthetics and human emotions.
Working on diverse media including print, etching, watercolour, acrylic and oil, he creates a balance of space and composition with harmonious colours, lyrical lines, dots, motifs and symbols. Monir, who depicts human emotions and nature through non-objective ways, believes that despite it being difficult to leave empty spaces in the canvas, minimisation is an important element in art. Taking inspiration from works of legendary artists like Picasso, he established an individualistic abstract language, which went on to be recognised as "Monir's School" in Spain.
The artist, whose creative endeavours are seldom tied down by structures, never limits himself to the confines of conventional mediums, always finding a way to portray his art in diverse materials and mixed mediums. His famous "Agony" series, a tribute to the Liberation War in 1971, developed while he was away from his motherland, and was inspired from Goya's paintings on the French Revolution. He also did a solo show titled "Homage to Bangladesh" during that time at the Gallery Daniel, Madrid, Spain.
Winner of the Accesit National Award of Spain in 2013, his invaluable contribution to art has led him to receive the "Cross of Officer of the Order of Queen Isabella" in Spain and the Royal Spanish Order of Merit in 2010 and 2018 respectively.
"Art itself is much more powerful than the artist. Art, culture, literature and education are necessary to nourish the soul," Monir had said in an earlier interview with The Daily Star.
The author is a student of Political Science, and a freelance journalist. Email: email@example.com.