Bangladeshi expatriate painter Monirul Islam's artworks are easily recognisable as he can translate life's diverse dimensions with his signature style, techniques and innovations into captivating works, where subdued colours, lyrical lines, subtle textures and forms blend harmoniously. He controls his medium and his technique with a certain mastery.
The veteran artist's latest solo exhibition is now on at Gallery Chitrak in Dhanmondi, Dhaka.
Monir's specialty is his delicate lines and the balance between use of space and composition. Use of space is an important aspect of his paintings and the artist likes to work with unusual forms and shapes -- transforming them amazingly into tangible expressions. An admirer of nature, Monir tries to replicate colours and harmony prevalent in surrounding environment through his works. The space that is found in his works is aptly related to the perspective of the themes. In his compositions, the artist uses doodles, sharp lines, dots, tiny motifs and a lot of symbols.
After settling in Spain, Monir started using paper, which he views as a mysterious medium. It enables him to place the complexities of life before the viewers from a different angle. He makes his own paper, as it provides the inexplicable feel that has inspired him.
Over the last few years, whenever Monir visits Bangladesh, he works on (as medium) paper used in boxes of sweets. He came across this paper in Chandpur and thought of the dramatic impact of using it as a medium. He followed up on this idea and gradually started liking it. Grimy, pitted paper inspired him more than fresh white paper. Corrugated board is another pet medium which enables him to portray his desired illusion and fantasy.
At the exhibition, some of his canvases are occupied by various sized heart shapes (some are blurred), articulating romance, longing and melancholy. The artist has made a collage of different brands of cigarette packets as a part of his continuous experimentation, which gives his works a novel look. This series of works has been greatly influenced by the American pop artist Jim Dine, who is sometimes considered to be a part of the Neo-Dada movement.
Monir considers pure colour to be the most effective way to express emotions and sensitivity. He believes that colour approaches the soul directly and is able to induce profound emotions in the viewer. He applies his colours meticulously, in thin layers, and reduces the texture of the paint to its most minimal state. In the early '70s, he established a personal abstract language and maintains that style.
Monir has done several watercolours for his ongoing exhibition, which primarily focus on the lucid shades and washes. In the late 1960s, Monir emerged as an accomplished watercolourist, with studies mostly of life on land and water. In 1969, when Monir was only 27 years old, he went to Spain on a scholarship. For nine months, during his studies there, the artist worked on murals and frescos and won an award from the Spanish government. This allowed him to stay in Madrid for another year. During that period, he studied Goya's paintings and tried to comprehend the significance of light, colour and composition. Before settling in Spain, he did a few graphic works in Dhaka to get an idea of the method. Spain drew him into the enchanting world of etching, to which he later submerged his artistic faculty to gradually come out of his impressionistic tendencies and concentrate on different contemporary issues. That was a turning point in his life.
The current exhibition also features some figurative works of Monir, which have been greatly influenced by Spanish painter Alfonso Fraile. From 1972 to 73, Monir worked with Fraile, Anthony Lawrence and Anthony Sawrey at the same studio in Madrid.
One remarkable feature of Monir's works at the exhibition is that he has pasted paper on canvas in a number of his works. Then he has worked on them with acrylic, oil, hand colour, pencil and other mediums to portray varied surrealistic and symbolic images, which feature elements of surprise, perplexity, unanticipated juxtapositions and vague forms.
Monir is always driven to explore something new. It breaks monotony for him and he believes art can be enriched through changing mediums. Each medium has a special feature, which demonstrates individual light, tone and space. As part of experimentation and developing new features of artworks, he has used espresso coffee, marble dust, brick dust, burnt ground rice, acramin colour and other natural pigments.
The exhibition will continue till June 15.