Clinical coolness of an abstractionist
Kazi Ghyasuddin's recent solo exhibition in Tokyo
Wassily Kandinsky, the inventor and theorist of abstract art, is also credited with creating one of the first completely abstract paintings exactly a hundred years ago. It was in 1910 that he visited an Islamic art exhibition in Munich and was deeply impressed by the highly decorative art style that does not allow the showing of images of human beings. It was in the same year that he created his first abstract painting. He also published an essay entitled 'Concerning the Spiritual in Art' later that year, which described his journey from drawing naturalistic landscapes to painting abstract works. There he wrote that painting, like music, should not be a description of the external world, but rather contain the own reality of that world coming from the 'inner necessity' of the artist, an act of spontaneity that he termed the inner artistic vision.
Artists all over the world have ever since being influenced by this idea of inner artistic vision indulged in the pursuit of portraying the realities of the external world from their own perception of inner necessity that Kandinsky had defined. The wave reached the Indian subcontinent at a relatively later period and is still influencing our artistic world. If Mohammad Kibria can be given due credit to be the pioneer of this trend in Bangladeshi painting, Kazi Ghyasuddin can rightfully proclaim his place to be at the apex of this unique artistic style. It is indeed quite significant that both refined their own techniques of playing with colours not at any European school, but in Japan.
The Western influence penetrated the world of Japanese art much earlier than what we have seen in the Indian subcontinent. Why this happened is rooted deeply in Japan's pursuit to copy and follow the West, a practice that the leadership of the country initiated soon after Japan opened its door to the outside world following the Meiji restoration. Once the door was kept wide open, it didn't take time for new trends rocking the world of art and culture in Europe to blow eastward. And here it sometimes got entangled with the already existing rich tradition of the oriental art, resulting in new experiments, widening the scope of artistic expression.
As for Kazi Ghyasuddin, his years as an apprentice at Japanese art institutions simply helped him to find the right tone of his inner artistic vision that was already taking shape during his student days back in Bangladesh. The years following his completion of PhD saw further refinement leading to a distinct style and a definitive form that now stands as a standard bearer of his artistic creation, a feat that remains elusive to many who pick up brush to leave a stamp of their personalities.
Art demands devotion from those who indulge in the vocation and flourishes only when there is due patronization. Kazi Ghyasuddin has devoted himself completely to the world of art, taking the work of creating paintings to the heart, and he had also been fortunate enough to be in Japan during the period when there was no lack of patrons of paintings. Japan in her boom years was seen as a generous patron of art with new art museums and galleries emerging virtually in every corner of the country and thus opening the opportunities for aspiring painters as well as the established one to readily market their creations.
With the collapse of economic bubble in early 1990s, long gone are those rosy days that painters in Japan enjoyed. The galleries that popped up here and there have mostly gone by now, except those that could spread the roots deep enough to survive in a difficult time. Miyuki Gallery situated at the heart of Tokyo's fashionable Ginza district is one of those survivors that have the reputation of being choosy in selecting the artists whose works are to be displayed, and Ghiyasuddin had always been one of their favorites. The exhibition held at the gallery showcased recent works of the Bangladeshi artist who is also a well known figure in the world of contemporary Japanese painting. Thirty two of his recent works of mostly oil on papers are on display for two weeks. One striking feature attracting the attention of those who are carefully following the trend of the artist is the new approach that he had taken in displaying the combination of colours. Ghiyasuddin had always been a master in playing with colours. His paintings tell us of the lyrics that we know so well from the lines of Tagore, Jibananada Das and Shamsur Rahman. The only difference is; he recites the same poems with the combination of colours that he uses on papers or canvasses and keeps us spellbound by the beauty his works reflect.
Joan Miro once famously said, 'I try to apply colours like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.' The recent display of Kazi Ghiyasuddin's painting tells us more vividly how correct the famous Basque painter had been. Incidentally, Miro is Ghyasuddin's own favorite and thirty-two works that he has been displaying at Miyuki Gallery in Tokyo are all wonderful reflection of poems that sound so familiar in our ear. Nature, particularly the colourful surroundings that we are so familiar with -- the dark evening sky of late spring, the looming beauty of the piercing sky hit by thunder bolts, or the refreshing colours of plants and flowers washed virgin-clean by the heavy rainfall overnight -- all have found their ways in the works of this master painter.
We also find the traces of a new turn in his use of colours and that too is extremely soothing. A Lighter tone, as well as the use of colours like red that his earlier works seldom depict, has been an important feature at this new exhibition. And here too we find the skillful technique of an artist who knows extremely well how to control the use of colours and how to make a combination to reflect the beauty that his eyes see around.
All these recent works that have mostly been painted during his stay in Bangladesh also tell us of his heart and his soul that hold so dearly the natural surroundings of the place where he was born and where he rushes whenever he feels the urge to take up the brush in his hand. This once again reminds us of what Miro said about the artistic work of painters, 'The works must be conceived with fire in the soul, but execute with clinical coolness.' Clinical coolness is indeed what we find in those thirty-two works that are now on display at Miyuki Gallery. They are no doubt conceived with fire that burns in his soul, inspiring him to continue working as long as beauty keeps his surrounding world alive.
The exhibition began on September 20th and continued until October 2nd.