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     Volume 8 Issue 77 | July 10, 2009 |

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Art - Calligraphic and Composed

Shamim's Attempt at Embracing Nature

Mustafa Zaman

The turn of the 20th century art veered towards an idiom of cold classicism. It moved away from the tradition of representation that often expressed pictorial grandeur and a conventional sense of beauty. Modern artists felt that earnestness was not in representation, nor even out there in nature, but on the surface of the painting waiting to be mapped in few defining lines and shapes. The Frenchman Cézanne was the first to start this cabala of artists sporting a disinterested bend of mind by casting a cold, dry eye on reality. His intention: transformation of what is plain visual into a form of utmost plastic simplicity. Artist Jamil Akbar Shamim too has fashioned a language of his own steeped in such simplified vocabulary. Yet, he is a romantic in his heart, trying his utmost to emulate a call which best represents what is wild and natural.

By emptying the canvas of naturalistic volume, nuance and hues, essential to achieving illusionism, Shamim attains a flatness absent in reality. His goal is not to represent the real but to allude to it by engaging a constellation of lines to its service. Akin to calligraphic scriptures, freewheeling compared to writings, yet collected in composition as an image, Shamim's imagery solemnly employ a personal method that attempts to recreate the contours of the corporeal nature, ones that he had seen or experienced.

Reducing visual experience to forms and structures for the sake of reductionism alone is not what Shamim has set out to accomplish in this show which he calls New Crop. Rather he is more inclined to formulate a mental echo of what he had been eye witness to, the account of which he heaps-- as does a child in love with discarded matchsticks and postcards, the element of child play-- as he pleases.

The retinal pleasure which we often derive from nature is linked to the splendour of colours, patterns and textures that spells out its matter of factness not in prosaic but in poetic terms. Shamim has chosen to amplify the effect of the pattern or rhythm by effacing all traces of the rest. He wants to ensure that his calligraphic interpretation breathes life on its own, independent of the felt or seen experience.

In this show, alteration, options and variations on the calligraphic principle has been showcased with a kind of religiosity only found in obsession-driven individuals. Yet one realises while vis-à-vis the series New Crop, or the batch that comes under the rubric Adda, that the scribe possesses the rational craving to be understood.

Communicability joins hands with organisational soundness in this exhibition; these are also the elements that has created the brio by which Shamim the artist attempts to become known.

The ambiguity, or the sense of 'otherness' that marks certain images seems to originate from his tendency to be spartanly sparse with colours. His oeuvre is mostly monochromatic-- black and white galore. When colour seems to surface, it does so in hints and traces most silently exerting its role partaking in the subtlest of all choreography one has had the chance to encounter. In Abstract Expressionism-- where colour rules-- this coolness can never be found.

The sublimity achieved through the devaluation of colour is the most unique aspect of Shamim the artist, whose another mighty achievement is the clusters of lines that suggest primordial form of vegetation. In Bush-2 we encounter it in its warm emotional equivalent and in Bush-1 its balmy parallel.

Shamim is at his best when his unpeopled compositions make one aware of a world before the anthropoid's invasive presence tempered with pristine nature. However, in the myriad versions of the singular vision one senses an obvious equipoise as the expansive negative space of the surface of the painting (mostly thick paper) is being reconciled with the marks or lines spread out like webs. Because of this, in many an occasion, Shamim's propositions comfortably avoid the tension usually associated with man/woman's passionate encounter with nature, or even with art making. If this is an indication that his aesthetic system is not causal but anticipative, than it certainly raises some concerns. This characteristic is common in the works that stem from alpana.

However, the flipside of his clement take on nature is also found in the same show. The Tortured Tree series seems to reverberate with an unrestrained passion for another life, somewhat freeing the images of the manipulative force that leads to a well organised imagery. Likewise, in the two large composite pictures subsequently titled Hiden Face-1 and 2, one witnesses another form of rhythm which is psychic in origin. He accomplishes this with repetitive human portraitures extremely expressionistic in character in both cases. Here too what gets showcased is what is unbound in human experience. However, this particular vocabulary needs to travel further to arrive at its transcendental height.

All in all, New Crop takes us back to an arcadia via personalised signs and marks, and in turn revives a sense of the natural, one which has been subjected to slow, uninterrupted erosion at the behest of modern living.


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