Back to the beginning
Seven printmakers on a campaign to distinguish their individual stratagem vis-à-vis printmaking from its traditional schema once reached a rare level of linguistic achievement way back in the early 1990s. Through the convergence of such a diverse array of nuanced voices at various exhibition spaces, they once exuded an aura of aesthetic authenticity. They had held their very first exhibition on 8th January 1993, at the premises of Alliance Française, Dhaka. The group of seven, including Rokeya Sultana, Ahmed Nazir, Rafi Haq, Rashid Amin, Mustafa Zaman, Humayra Rahman and Ashok Biswas stepped under an umbrella called the Dhaka Printmakers.
This association was built on a set of goals. They were keen to share ideas amongst themselves, to raise issues of aesthetic import as well as to inculcate in the art-loving public an interest in the current development in art. Another explicit objective was to inform the public of the intricacies and subtleties of printmaking. It was throughout the 80s and 90s that art movement in Bangladesh had peaked and entered a stage of intellectualization, and it is in this context that printmaking as a method has been given the stature it always deserved.
Even before that, following decades of dedicated maneuvering by Saifiuddin Ahmed and Mohammad Kibria – the two inimitable maestros – a gradual understanding about this medium as an important means of contemporary expression had set in. It is quite an arduous task to be able to acquire the technical finesse and the artistic vitality utilizing the methods available in printmaking. One must acknowledge that the Department of Printmaking at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University, played a crucial role in nurturing and facilitating art students to pursue printmaking as their primary means of expression.
When seven artists – six students and one young faculty – organized into a group they were already recognized for their own personal idioms, and their emergence as a group caused quite a stir. There were obvious demonstrations of aesthetical achievements in that very first exhibition. The poeticity that proliferated on the themes of pathos of living in a restless and violent time and the visual pleasure which the works of these artists exuded provoked interest among the gallery-goers. The group had had a string of exhibitions at home before disbanding in the late 1990s.
Bengal Gallery's attempt at organizing Awakening marks the return of the group. Five of the core members – Rokeya Sultana, Ahmed Nazir, Rafi Haq, Rashid Amin and Mustafa Zaman have once again set out to explore the medium, though time has elapsed and each has advanced further into their respective areas of interest. They regularly participated in solos as well as group exhibitions, always displaying a tendency to experiment – expressed through critical consciousness in application of methods while tackling the subject matters of their choice and in determining the forms that segue with those subject matters. And in doing this they seemed to have transgressed norms, ventured out to explore uncharted areas. In this respect, Awakening is a revitalization of the art scene, and it certainly augurs an interesting and stimulating future as the artists bring an untamed exuberance to their creative output by way of a multiplicity of perspectives and visions.
Rokeya Sultana is the eldest among these five artists. One of the preeminent artists of the country who trails a history of working in different mediums, with the resultant body of works she has been able to appeal to a wider audience. She has received training both at home and abroad. Her entries to this exhibition testify to a range of diverse approaches to art as well as treatment of media she employs. Apparently she is poised to chart a new path as she stands at the threshold of a new awareness of art and expressivity. This exhibition stands proof to such a divagation that she is ready to make explicit.
Ahmed Nazir has long been engaged in experimental print processes. At one stage of his creative journey he had been completely immersed into abstraction. Recently he has launched a series that appropriates human visages through which Nazir arrives at a juncture where the image is defined in terms of dramatic light and shade. His works bring into view a noir sensibility – things glow from within a twilight world. His entries put to use the portraitures of his famous father artist Safiuddin Ahmed. The world he has created is that of an illustrious artist-father whose face testifies to the perceived personality – touching upon his creative energy and revealing the life-long search for the depth of meaning of human existence. The series is an amalgamation of two entities – the father and the illustrious artist that was Safiuddin Ahmed.
Rafi Haq is known for his acumen in printmaking. His work displays a meritorious engagement with the medium. At Awakening his works radiated a heightened sense of humanity, compassion and an aesthetic awareness through which Rafi charts his personalized vision of life and art.
Rashid Amin has long been contemplating the finer aspects of printmaking while studying it abroad. He invests a subtleness to the medium which bears the telltale signs of a deeper engagement. Nature seems to have been a mainstay of his oeuvre.
Mustafa Zaman has always been experimental in his approach. He has given rise to a discourse of existence where animals meet the humans. Through the projection of his imagination, the works bring into view a curious combination of novelty and farsightedness. The dynamism of lines has lent them an obvious new dimension.
Translated by DEPART DESK
ABUL HASNAT is a veteran journalist and essayist based in Dhaka. He edits Kali o Kalom.