The select few : Staging the Aminul Islam Award nominees
Ten artists cutting across a gamut of mediums, and the ontological expanse of their own encounters with life in a unique geopolitical context, banded together in a spurt of assumed effulgence, offering up a collective creative produce of the present art praxis of Bangladesh. As a representational device steered at plating up both to the novice as well as the wizened exhibition buff a selective plethora of the current crop of homegrown art products, this exhibition seems to have fallen short in its ambition and scope, as it remained somewhat yoked to the temporality of a stagnant discourse, aiming very little at the possibility of an imminence, at beating a departure.
The exhibition was arranged as part of an effort by artist Aminul Islam's family to extend on his legacy as an artist of the first generation of path-breaking veterans of Bangladesh art by creating a memorial award whose professed goal is to cull an exemplary new breed who has visibly woven into their art practice the spark of a new approach, a new voice. Keeping in mind that this award accounts for local recognition for local artists, one cannot but wonder, at a time when artists are being plucked out of their cushy vernacularity and are being progressively plunged into a global digitized connectivity, such awards only serve to expose their vulnerability or perhaps, on a brighter note, a measure of steadfastness, to retain their foothold in a global art terrain that keeps evolving furiously in quest for ever new expressions of aesthetic élan.
Anissuzzaman Sohel and Habiba Akhter Papia clinched the awards with works featuring in different mediums.
In Anisuzzaman Sohel's black and white non-kinetic, two dimensional renditions explicate the neurosis of fractured subjectivity caught in the dominion of ultra religiosity of the 'capital' borrowing heavily from the semantic field of the anti-capitalist discourse of the day. His skillful compositions and fluency of draughtsmanship created a visual stunt that drowned out the trite beneath its brilliance.
The bronze resurrection of Papia's sculpture, though attempts to pitch itself in light of a poetic mourning for lost innocence, restricts its linguistic-expressive signature to a wornout scenographic model referencing to the social aporia. Through the symbolism of ants eating away at the core of a physical object– a bottle in this case – the artist casts her dystopic vision in bronze.
Abdullah Al Bashir's woodcuts in their likeness to photographic representations zoom in on ship-yard scenes standing out like a fetishized symbol without a point of reference while Gopal Chandra Shaha's amalgam of heads, that of animals, humans and deities alike dish out a case for an irreverent fetishization fed on the levelling out of the verticality of the sublime and the banal on a plateau of multitudinous realities.
Ashraful Hasan and Bishwajit Goswami couched their narratives in the painterly study of the human anatomy. In both their decontextualized canvases the body becomes the vehicle for unravelling the performative self. Ashraf's figures take the form of trees animated through infusion with the human body in a sublime ecology that presents the human-tree form in its arrested agony of debasement. Goswami's choreographed contortion of interlocked bodies are equally caught in an atemporal (un)reality, where time and space are pulverized into a 'fourth' dimension of liminality that gives rise to new formations of subjecthood.
Ruhul Karim Rumee's monochromatic mixed media portraits of faces ravaged by age with lines and furrows etching a deep consternation on these visages help bring the fixed gaze of the eyes that have seen it all into sharp relief. These faces seem to stand witness to the zeitgeist of the nihilistic pulsations of the here and now. Shahid Kazi's diptych stands out in its metaphoric pictoreality of a car wreck that ejects bodies in a ripple of motion, which could easily bring to mind the hyperreality of a dystopic scene from a techno(night)mare.
Last but not least the mixed media installation by Md. Alomgir Hossain creates a three dimensional documentary of the tragedy at a fated clothing factory, where 'truth' appears in the guise of the 'real' through a careful selection of scenography, thus setting in motion a dialectics of the noema.
An ellipsis/absence made itself felt in that of a flight into the security/obscurity of abstraction which is a realm much favoured by masters of the modernist school. Kibria, Yunus and Bebul seem not to have overcast the young minds with the shadowy spectre of, in Marshall Berman's words 'a perfectly formed, perfectly sealed tomb' of autonomous demagogy of the modernist values. Yet, this absence is taken up with the ubiquitous presence of the what is 'seen' in the form of representation, which appears mostly in the shape of the human body, sometimes in a morphed irreality, at other times through expressionist nuances. The 'subjective' takes over in most of the works, though not in any aspiration for transcendence to the sublime, but to lock 'gaze' with the known and the knowable, that already lie coded in our cultural consciousness. Therefore, nothing jolts let alone startles in this cycle of reappearance in the absence of renewal.
Nominees of the Aminul Islam Young Artist Award 2013 were represented at Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts, 7-18 November 2013.