Finding one's foothold in the universe
Aminul Islam Soyel's utopian vision
'We simply do not understand our place in the universe and have not the courage to admit it.'
– Barry Lopez
As painting in Bangladesh is often defined as a self-conscious means, and that too for one to explore primarily the tactile factors (the physical qualities achieved through the application of paint), what gets sacrificed are issues that cast and even recast the human characteristic and tendencies often foregrounding the vacuity that rules over the very act of art making in this country. It is heartening to recognize, in this context, that Aminul Islam Soyel has, so far, successfully distanced himself from this quagmire by attempting to leave behind footprints that are subtle but which convincingly connect us to an impersonal narrative.
The paintings of Aminul Islam draw their energy from human relations, their act of being in awe and inspiration vis-à-vis the aesthetic existence of the entire humanity against the backdrop of an unknowable cosmos. The energy manifested through the relationships between man and nature, women and men are what nuance his esoteric world. He attempts to lend these relationships a distinctly cosmic dimension, setting them against an imaginary backdrop with vague references to the heavenly bodies. This gives his painting its conceptual frame. But to say that his narrative has deep roots in the collective unconscious of a nation that has a strong tradition in cosmic thinking will be an exaggeration. His is an ideal world where a sense of longing for a global community that has successfully set aside its differences to elk out an ideal living supersedes all other pragmatic or spiritual concerns. .
The imaginings that he conjures, one that inform his sparsely populated canvases, seem to spring for a personalized vision. The sense of airiness echoing the unfathomable emptiness of the world that lies beyond, is a capacious space that is in need of more elements, especially of magical, mythical and metaphysical origin. Though each picture, in the most compelling term, stands proof of a vast uncharted expanse that invokes a sense of absence – an entire world yet to be brought within the grasp of language or knowledge to inaugurate rational understanding, Soyel hardly ever plumbs the conceptual 'outside'. Thus, his language can be seen as an attempt to connect to the unknowable universe of silence and perpetuity in a rational humanistic manner emphasizing the longing for harmony and peace. And due to his off-hand execution, the works seem to reside in between the worldly world and the 'otherness' this very world craves.
With Soyel, the stillness associated with the out-of-the-world experience that he strives to showcase is grounded in the reality of space and time, and from the technical perspective, in his use of colour and form. The diaphanous iridescence achieved in each imagery speaks of the emotional thrust towards a wholeness that actually defies the manipulative force the artist employs to work the signature hues to an ethereal luster. Perhaps this is the mark of an artist who privileges the sanctity of the world and humanity over anything else.
His palette – mostly made up of blue-green or sapphire-blue is testimony to his metaphysical intention, in relation to which the artist builds his landscape-like plateaus inhabited by otherworldly humans. What thrives on the terra-firma – or what is physical reality, and what lies beyond – or is metaphysical reality, concern the artist and their unity is brought into view through twinned vehicles of passion – colour and anthropomorphic form. In work like 'Universal Pond', or the 'Exodus', his craft seem to serve well the purpose of the narrative, throwing light on relationship between the two sexes in the former, and an imaginary journey in the latter.
As is evident in most of his work completed in the last ten years or so, the romantic in him lends his humans a composure we have forgotten to exalt as we have already learned to see things according to the dictates of the market and minds that trashes idealism without even taking into consideration the impact it would have on human life.
Obserevd from the perspective of a human with the ability to see through the rhetoric of science and progress, Soyel comes off as a champion of humanity who prefers to let his mind manifest itself through the body/self, which is merely an instrument to him, to spread – silently – words of wisdom across the universe.
'Cosmic Unity and an Unfit Citizen' was showcased in Gallery Kaya, October 15 to October 26, 2010.