Of human freedom and its representation a la Shahabuddin
Recently, Shahabuddin Ahmed two simultaneous solo painting exhibitions in Dhaka – one at Gallery Chitrak (September 28-October 12) and the other at Gallery Twenty One (September 20-October 11).
Ahmed celebrates the enlightenment notion of 'the universal human enterprise of progress' in light of Bangladesh's liberation war of 1971, of which he was a participant as a guerrilla leader. A Bangladeshi expatriate living in Paris for over 35 years, he is known to the wider public for his impassioned depiction of the human form in fluid sweeps of brush heavy with a ubiquitous presence of the brownish hue. The two recent exhibitions are stilted on the same theme.Launching his career in the early 1970s, a point of history when a new generation of artists was struggling to reconcile new found enthusiasm with the post-liberation era political volatility, Ahmed started to draw on intense human emotion while exploring human and animal forms captured in motion.
His signature trait is often encoded in painterly contrivances leading to illusionistic imagery.
Shahabuddin's current oeuvre displayed in the two exhibitions articulate the valour of freedom fighters by emphasizing their muscularity and robustness, as is his norm.
Figures for him are means to infuse the painterly space with a mythological aura; and he brings them into view as instigators of freedom as they are made to traverse an expansive domain defying time and space. One can conclude that the artist's personal desires, emotions, hopes, and aspirations deeply identify with the collective unconscious of the Bengali masses of the time; his nationalist zeal centering on the liberation war thus, remains unwavering.
The portraits of Bangabandhu, Mahatma Gandhi and other legendary personalities, the political giants of the region, which he has been portraying since the early1990s, have become, over time, a recognizable part of his repertoire. This time, the emergence of horses, Royal Bengal tigers and bulls as motifs, signifying force and strength, provides a respite for viewers already familiar with his advancing human figures.