Salam Abdus : Seen through his psychic itinerary
Born in 1963 in Kishorganj, Salam Abdus made his auspicious entry into the Dhaka art scene with a solo exhibition in 1993. A steady stream of solo exhibitions at the Allaiance Française premises, showcasing what was then considered with disdain by the majority of mainstream art students as art that falls short of acumen, he had become an artist showing outré sensibilities. His prolificacy simply demanded both attention and critical appraisal. If the former followed in natural order, the critical bit never happened. Yet, he, in his time, had created an aura with the works he used to present, those that bespoke a mindset bent on capturing the ‘irrational’ in an array of non-sequiturs, eschewing the predictability of the aesthetic norm of the day. Three back-to-back solo exhibitions later, in the mid 1990s, Salam could have a sigh of relief as he gradually became accepted, though as something of a peripheral exponent of the art scene.
Hard on the heels of these exhibitions, he had his fourth solo in 1995 at the now defunct La Galerie, at Banani, where his small works on paper were put on display. Though mainstream acceptance came late, he was selected for the group exhibitions organized by the French Embassy which travelled between two cities in France under the rubric, Painter du Bangladesh in 1993, where nine contemporary artists from Bangladesh were sought out for showcasing their latest yields.
An artist who at the very outset managed to forge a language immersed in cross-referencing soon slipped into a bout of overbearing 'self-doubt', as the man in his thirties simply withdrew from the swirl of things. A long hiatus from the art world followed.
'I needed time to rethink my aesthetic stratagem; I needed time to contemplate the new ways of expressions,' Salam now explains his sudden plunge into artistic abstinence. He also became disillusioned with the quality of art writings – especially of the journalistic genre which, 'utterly lacked the knowledge and insights into works of any given artist.'
Salam Abdus made his re-entry into the current art scene at a space outside the mainstream circuit – a cavernous warehouse of the Circo Soap Factory, where an event was organized by OGCJM bringing under one roof the latest crop of art from Dhaka's artists showing propensity for experimentation. While the venue thrived on an amalgam of alternative, semi-alternative and a few mainstream art, Salam presented a set of oil and pencil on paper from the last ten or so years.
About his long absence from the art world, Salam now feels that his indecisiveness concerning how he would manage to inscribe into his art the signs of the location boggled him so overwhelmingly that he decided to rethink and re-orient himself. While in his mind, he kept thinking whether his art would be able to 'encapsulate the local flavour – along the tradition of the masters – from Abanindranath, Nandalal to Quamrul Hassan.' As a consequence, he almost gave up on his once serious practice.
Salam has reached a verdict that contemporary art has turned a corner and has now come to a stage where the ‘local’ has found an expression in the modern context. 'The search is still on for a localized voice,' he says, adding that 'the local must deal with the new linguistic aspects that have emerged to address the issues of global implication.'
Salam Abdus completed his Bachelor's from Gurudoyal College of his home district, in 1986, and joined Rajshahi Art College in 1987, from where he completed his Preliminary Degree in 1991.
In Rajshahi his poor performance in the classroom made him pursue drawing sessions at Rajshahi railway station – where he spent nights sketching human figures to hone his skill. It was his acquaintance with litterateurs Hasan Azizul Haq, Ashim Kumar Das, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud et al, that he could brace himself with ideas and thoughts that artists of this country usually brush aside as extraneous to the art world. Through Ashim Kumar's inspiration Salam was involved in reading, making his way through the world literature as well as tracts on art which served as a direct stimulation to his praxis. Through literature, he could soon reach the 'threshold of a huge cosmos,' while exposure to works by Matisse, Magritte, Goya, and Picasso encountered in a series of books he assimilated as part of his reading instigated a retooling of his own aesthetic stratagem.
Artist and teacher Rhitendra Kumar Sharma inspired Salam to perfect his academic craft, while artist Tarun Ghosh taught him firsthand the technique of incorporating light and shade.
In his late 40s, Salam is eyeing a solo exhibition though he is deeply suspicious of the inclusiveness of the mainstream art scene. He is aware that the responses to works of merit from artists with an alternative voice have always been looked on with a mixed feeling, with a degree of reserve.
- DEPART DESK