Mashiul's hidden canvasses
Unravelling of an Urban Semiosis
In the wake of a confession by British artist David Hockney, where he admits having been a painter of the 'surface' throughout his life, one is bound to rethink the importance of the over-used dyad of surface and depth and the gratifying act of venturing beyond the surface. Similarly, Mashiul Chowdhury, though inhabits at a distant aesthetic register, with his surface-level survey of the city, may spark some form of rethinking as to the nature of the surface and how it also makes possible the accidental discharge of 'truth' through a series of photographic representations.
Dhaka's walls have always served as the canvas for the voices that are raised from various different quarters aching to inscribe on it their semi-discursive utterances. From political opponents to the allies of the incumbent in the highest seat of the government, from advertisers of products to the religious groups vying for attention, each, in their own fashion, (mis)uses the opportunity to bring their respective messages by way of an urban semiosis with wider appeal. The forms of writings that are contained within the surfaces of this metropolis are varied, but they apparently follow some established visual templates. As rules and regulations are of no use in holding back even the jilted lover ready to ink a surface with words of personal pathos and existential crisis, walls of this city, as in many others, accumulate layers of writings and paints year round. As the simultaneous processes of flaking and overwriting unfurl a script of its own, the walls, like palimpsests, reveal an urban reality otherwise hidden beneath the veneers of urbanity.
Mashiul Chowdhury, who has been resident in Philadelphia, USA, since 1989, has developed an abiding habit of capturing the surfaces that eloquently give evidence of years of interventions and contra-interventions in the form of writing, painting and overpainting as well as efforts at omitting such transgressions on city walls.
The self-assigned task of photography has long been perceived as representation of reality without entrenching its modality into any stylistic regour. However, the glimpses of the walls, captured and, in turn, decontextualized from the surroundings, simply communicate a paradox, for they work as a subjective mode of expression – an evolving style, besides being a document of a 'plurality of actions' (Hannah Arend's expression).
In the last ten years, Mashiul Chowdhury has extensively worked on the subject of his choice – the city walls. The man who began his journey in 1984, with a three-man show as the first public exhibition of his life, at Dhaka University's Teacher Student Center (TSC), has, in the last five or so years, exhibited in some major private galleries and exhibition venues in the USA, including the 2009 Juried Art Photography Exhibit at Blink Art Gallery, Philadelphia, where he fetched the second prize, and at a juried art competition at Philadelphia Sketch Club in 2012, titled Absolutely Abstract, winning an honorable mention award.
- DEPART DESK