Gesture painting in Bangladeshi context
If a certain deshi, or indigenous variant of art centered on the preoccupation with certain types of spatial organization and formation of texture on canvas is to be taken as a template for gesture painting, Tajuddin Ahmed appears as a pivotal contributor to the genre. He has internalized these traits which have been made famous by the likes of G S Kabir, Iftekhar Ahmed, et al, making the visual and tactile elements his own through sustained engagement. The painter emerged in the 1970s and by the turn of 1980s found his true calling in abstraction. His nonrepresentative works often appear tangentially related to the visible world, though vivid colour and texture together seal the basic patterns of each of his imagery.
To identify the personal hallmark of this artist who has been living in Toronto since 2008, one is required to look at his current practice in the context of the abstract movement in the country which saw its start in the early 1960s. What distinguishes him from the first generation abstractionists is his use of layers. Behind the tactility of his works lies the process of applying layers of paint used to define forms and shapes – his aesthetic objects. As he continues to apply additional layers of drawings onto the picture plane until he feels that he has achieved his goal, his works often seem vaguely related to the urban reality. The act of arranging colours and space lends his works a vigour that easily attracts the art enthusiasts' attention.
Tajuddin's recently held solo exhibition Rediscovery was hosted by Edge Gallery, the newly established art hub in Gulshan which opened its door to the public with this event. The works on display evidence Tajuddin's refined take on the same visual logic he has been applying since the 1990s. Yet the recent works are different to some extent from his earlier forays. At present, his canvases are populated with tiny object-like forms of different types. Even myths, symbolic patters and suggestive semi-nude figures appear on his otherwise abstract painted spaces primed with rough textures.
The works on display are also a demonstration of his disengagement with the heavy impasto of his earlier paintings. In most of the works application of texture has mellowed affecting the surface which now looks more soothing than ever before. The sentimental responses to the location he grew up in – the city of Dhaka, now defaced amidst unplanned growth, somehow made way for some universal matrices involving compositional balance and exuberance of colours.
In contrast to his main oeuvre there are a couple works that demonstrate his inclination towards the folkloric. The use of human figures along with floral motifs as well as suggestions of plants, birds, shrubs and animals such as elephant, horse make this exhibition an exceptional site for experiencing Tajuddin's works.
A whimsical vision appears in many a work, albeit some even look intentionally neat and tranquil as the works focus on colours and their layered application. Colours in some works have appeared rather flat – without tint or shade.
Tajuddin is a workaholic. Over the course of time, he has been tirelessly experimenting with line, form, space, texture, hue and tone – which he invests in the overall design. From the linguistic point of view his motifs sometimes relate to specific explanations, at others they are self-referential. To break away from the remit of monotony the artist places premium importance to the changing patterns of interest in mediums. 'Every medium has a special feature one can explore, which is demonstrated through the use of colour, luminosity, tonal variation and spatial architecture or design,' says the artist whose last solo signalled a change of posture.
'Rediscovery' ran from January 30th to February 13th, at Edge Gallery.