Of a never say over artist
He is 83 years old, diagnosed with a lung disease. To survive each day, he inhales oxygen for six hours and spends another three hours pumping out carbon dioxide trapped in his lungs, using a respiratory machine.
Murtaja Basheer, one of the most renowned senior artists of the country, has been beset with such critical health conditions since December last when he was hospitalised. He, however, remains far from surrendering to old age or aggravating physical ailments compounded by excruciating, regular medical procedures.
With oxygen cylinder following him like a shadow, Basheer's brush keeps on stroking carefully nuanced textures and lines on canvases for an art exhibition next week.
“I have to make money. My treatment is very costly. I had some plans like conducting some research at the fag end of my life. But I have put these on hold. All these now depend on my painting,” said Basheer, who celebrated his birthday on August 17.
Basheer, who has been painting from the early 1950s, is a master in expressing his feelings and thoughts in different forms and sizes. His latest health condition, however, puts a restriction on many aspects of his talents and artistic preferences.
“My doctor has asked me not to work on large canvases to avoid exhaustion. He has also asked me to use a mask while using turpentine oil so that its fume does not reach my lungs,” said Basheer.
Consequently, the veteran artist is working with oil pastels on modest size canvases, presenting figurative drawings -- mainly female faces and expressions.
“I finished 14 new works in June. I had plans to do more back then—but my wife fell very ill. I was afraid of the situation. It wouldn't be possible for me to move out of my house and stay with my children if anything happened to her. So I had stopped working and focused instead on her well-being,” he said while inhaling oxygen from a cylinder.
“I have enjoyed drawing these non-abstract figurative paintings. I have blended east with west in them. I have combined our colours and styles with western art conceptions,” he added.
Afterwards, he went on to draw one more oil pastel, one charcoal on canvas, two oils on canvas and eight new drawings.
“I am also putting up nine collages which I composed back in 1991. These have never been exhibited before,” he said.
The exhibition is set to launch on September 12 and will continue for two weeks at Galleri Kaya in Uttara Sector 4. It will also showcase some of Basheer's drawings and portraits from the 1950s.