A beauty of abstract understanding
Murtaja Baseer's empirical method
The paintings featured in Murtaja Baseer's recent exhibition entitled The Wings' enters the realm of vision through the dialectics of nature vs nurture. The conceptual framework of this series of work by the artist, who was one of the pioneers of 1960s abstract movement, is fraught with metaphorical representation of wings.
In this exhibition, wings of an insect as an element of nature, becomes the fount of expression of the artist's visual cognizance. Nature of course is whole and infinite and holds inexhaustible visual possibilities. The artist therefore opts for its parts instead of the whole, finites rather than the infinite, and finally signifies his conception using the possibility of the micro realms blown up as visual propositions. Baseer's conception is both empirical and intuitive. So, it is more of an intuitive understanding than a conception. This unmenifested but eager to become manifested understanding is finally transformed into his visual arrangements or compositions. Again, this transformation does not denote an end. Rather, the creation of a world of meaning begins from here. Thus, due to the realistic representation of wings of butterfly, Baseer's works become an encapsulation of nature and his entire process signifies nurture as true nature of nature.
Baseer tackles form and expression from an aesthetic position of ocularcentric artists. He remains engrossed in the creation of a resonance of an abstract beauty of nature which is free from all kinds of irrationality associated with nature and also the social or sociological attachments that may meddle with it representation. Again, the artist touches the ever-elusive objective which is beauty of nature, by employing what is human subjectivity. As Friedrich Hegel has said in his book Aesthetics,'…[T]he living beauty of nature is produced neither for nor out of itself as beautiful, nor for the sake of a beautiful appearance. The beauty of nature is beautiful only for another, ie, for us, for the mind which apprehends beauty.'
The oil on canvas works are abstract representations of an ensemble of colours which include white, yellow, green, watermelon-red, violet, and turquoise blue, etc. The paintings, through the demonstration of finesse, have attained such excellence in form and grace that they remind us again of Hegel's postulation: 'The form of natural beauty, as an abstract form, is on the one hand determinate and therefore restricted; on the other hand it confirms a unity and an abstract relation to itself… This sort of form is what is called regularity and symmetry, also conformity to law, and finally harmony.' What we perceive here is that the `us' mentioned by Hegel in `mind' of `us' turns into a capital 'I' due to Baseer's subjectivity that is devoid of partner (inter-subjectivity).
In the occasion when Baseer becomes a romantic by achieving the identity of a man separated from his 'other', the artist's romantic individualist spirit stands in opposition to the subaltern spirit, which is premised on commonality. As a result Baseer becomes engrossed in a pseudo-bliss usually felt by a lone being. Thus, he stands far apart from the social landscape where one relies on the cultural markers to understand the relation of nature or natural beauty in the context of the collectivized humanity. This beauty, which originates from the consciousness of an individual disconnected to his locality or habitat can be called `a beauty of abstract understanding' and this is why the nature-derived paintings of Murtaja Baseer are not really naturalistic in their constitution, they are the results of an abstract understanding of nature.
And again, this abstract understanding is an outcome of the relation between an individual mind departed and alienated from the collective mind and the unrestricted or objective beauty of nature, which, at the final analysis, nourishes the truth and reality of the bourgeois spirit of the society with a new sap.
'The Wings 2' was presented at Gallery Kaya from 25 September to 10 October 2010.
Translated by AZFAR AZIZ