Moon Rahman's masked strangers
'At each encounter, they imagine a thousand things about one another; meetings which could take place between them, conversations, surprises, caresses, bites.' So goes an anxious unfolding of the urban unconscious in a city where people are eternally alienated from one another, portrayed by Italo Calvino, in his Invisible Cities, available in translation. One may situate the emergent artist Moon Rahman within a similar frame of absurdity, though at first sight, her series of estranged visages appear with impenetrable masks rendering these nonpersons beyond apprehension. These are the strangers jettisoned from the organic nucleus of life, locked within the horrors of the daily grind, depicted with mixed emotions at the behest of an artist whose entry to the world of art was nothing but a fluke.
Egged on by her artist husband A Rahman, Moon's atypical move of resorting to painting in the last seven years or so has given rise to the line of creation mentioned above. The portraiture series evolved in the last couple of years by this 'hyphenate' who thrived in the family environment, working in the capacity of mother-wife-artist.
Moon Rahman's demure and sincere presence in the domestic realm belies her spasmodic creative outburst which has already resulted in a number of visually compelling series. Of her myriad oeuvres, the masked portraitures demand particular attention, not only because they hold in one fold disparate rasas, or sensibilities, as do most of her works, but also because the way she manages to let the initial fierceness of expression settle into that of vulnerability. Perhaps the clamour of the world outside instigates fear and trembling as well as vulnerability, and impresses on her the signs of deconstitution. Still, a little further down the line one is also able to discover the comical facet of the same deconstituted visages.
For a woman conditioned by a rural upbringing – one who is struggling to keep up with her daily chores in this forbidding city of Dhaka, her artistic idiom is at odds with her countenance as well as her lived reality. Her gritty language negates learned representational ploys as she co-opts a process of metaphorical encryption, about whose source one can only speculate.
Infused with the desire to push the limits of the process of placing symbols onto the surface of canvases and papers, Moon unveils a world where strokes and splashes of paint finally defile the faces, lending a sense of strangeness to them. Rupturing the mask of her own sobriety as well as the very surface of the refined, yet ossified urbanity the inhabitants of the sociostructure are responsible for, her works are like testimonies of an outsider. Moon deals in the reality she has never fully recognized as such, though by being in its midst she too is subjected to its psychological effects.
She paints, perhaps, to release her pent-up energy mounting the unknown horizons of creativity. Maybe, she simultaneously examines the possible transmutability of a 'life ordinary' into a life that easily transcends ordinariness.
A painter and printmaker, Moon's imagery clues us in on a housewife's surreptitious move into the domain of creativity and the way she has developed a habit of churning out works in huge numbers with unparallelled enthusiasm. As she straddles the line between her quotidian life (she lovingly takes care of her two school-going children as her artist husband divides his time between Dhaka and Rome), and the uncertainty that continues to bore holes into her dreams in this mega city, life's melodies become warped. This is also where ecstasy collides with dystopia, though the unbridled energy – matrilineal and primordial – flows unbidden often fomenting into artistic actions. The works that come to the fore thus accompany the freight of mixed emotions vandalizing the most intimate geography, the face, making it at once banal and fierce.’
PHOTOS COURTESY: DEPART