Afroza's <i>World of Recluse </i>
Rahima Afroz initially was a mechanical engineer (diploma in1988) who turned artist. Her track record shows that she has been busy in exhibiting her paintings even before she became a student of fine arts in 2004. She never practiced engineering nor joined any organisation related to fine arts after obtaining both Bachelors and Masters degree in Fine Arts from UODA, Dhaka in 2008 and 2009 respectively, but remained a dedicated painter at her home.
She also studied Ikebana (1993-2006), a Japanese art of flower-arrangement that emphasises form and balance in accordance with strict rules. She won a number of top awards in this art form in Bangladesh organised by the Embassy of Japan, UNESCO and others. Although she has participated in a number of group art exhibitions over the last 10 years, this is her first solo containing 33 works of art including mixed media canvas paintings, colographs wood cuts and drawings.
Rahima Afroz, a housewife and mother of two sons, not only finds in painting a means to express her love, agony and thoughts but is also passionately involved in achieving the professional quality of her finished products. In her mixed media paintings (`composition 1, 2, 3 and 4) of 2009, kitchen utensils hung from the abstracted walls are very intense but expressed with great repose. These paintings rendered with clarity, simplicity and painterly sensitivity seem to emerge from an unconscious fathom of womanhood. A kitchen wall, usually taken as a mundane subject for creation of art, in her hands is transformed with great intensity and vigour that symbolically refers to the tragic view of the existence of women at large confined within the household limit centered around the kitchen. These “kitchen wall” paintings rendered in warm and cool colours, somehow subconsciously level her as a silent feminist artist who seeks to open her audience's eyes to the need for social and psychological emancipation of women as well as their greater role in all spheres of life.
Similarly in her mixed media paintings of 2012 and 2013 (composition 5,6,9 and 10) flower vases appear against wonderfully crafted background of colour and texture. The tactile volume of the vases with strong textures and roughness against warm and cool colours of subtle grades complement and reinforce each other. Her sense of colour contrast and compositional understanding provide a bold ambiance of domesticity in all these paintings.
But the real passion of Rahima Afroz seems to lie in pure abstraction, creating illusive space emitting light, surrounded by heavily textured darker forms as exemplified in mixed media paintings of 2011 titled Desire, Ensemble-1, Nature-1, Nature-2 and Nature-3. These subtly composed paintings are capable of arousing pure aesthetic pleasure. Practically all her works are based on pure abstraction, but then in some of these she puts familiar simple objects superimposed like flower vase, kitchen utensils, vegetal forms, etc. to create a tension between the real and metaphysical.
Her colographs, titled Fish-1 and Fish-2 of 2013, are two amazing works of art. These works not only meticulously depict the underwater complex world with finesse but also could capture the fathomless aquatic mystery. The play of daylight and its dispersion are remarkably filtered within the water field. These colographs in burnt sienna (sepia) with superb technical richness created almost surreal images within the structure of captured reality.
Rahima Afroz is crafty and has the right energy and inertia, she needs now, to cultivate consistently on them.
The exhibition is on at Dhaka Art Centre, Dhanmondi in the city. It will continue till August 29.
The writer is an eminent architect and art critic.