Nature cultivated in solitude
Rashid Amin keeps things close to dust and debris
When artists are tempted to initiate a back-to-basics move, it may either mean the repositioning of the agent – which is the artist – and the reorganizing of the imperatives of the agency defined by the acts of the agent vis-à-vis the present art trends as well as social conditions, against which one attempts to cast a new position. This urge may or may not have led Rashid Amin to somewhat reorganize his imagery by bringing into play human presence and rural landscape-like horizontality, but it surely is an issue that one is reminded of looking at his idiomatic creations.
Is he set to get down to the nitty-gritty of what is essentially rural? The answer to this question may or may not provide an adequate theoretical foundation for one to form an opinion about Amin's recent solo exhibition, but it may be a way to re-evaluate his current oeuvre.
He is an artist who has been pursuing a language that hovers between empiricism and plasticity through exploration of the medium of etching since the early nineteen-nineties, and it would befit his efforts if one says that his recent yield evidences an aspect of his tendency to remember village-life through amassing of certain indicators – the occasional horizontality of compositions, and spatial order intentionally marred by representation of debris, suggestive detritus associated with rural life.
Though abstraction is a language that usually invokes nature through an encoding fit for an urban lifestyle and is forever tied to European modernity as it primarily served as a means to reclaim the 'natural' by the alienated individual artists who felt the urge to re-establish the severed tie with nature under the capitalistic social relations. But, as we now may easily conclude that, cultural modernism during its heyday actually cared little about nature.
However, to discern the milieu that produced the background to such movement that craved for communion with nature while the artists themselves remained enclosed in cities, one may look back and survey the works Franz Mark, Wasily Kandinisky and the artist who aligned themselves with them, whose emotional take on nature only helped to construct a socially acceptable visuality that actually has severed all ties with the world outside. Especially the work of Kandinisky provided the ground for the artists to attempt a detour from the traditional representations which, in the final analysis, laid its faith squarely on the independence of the painted space by introducing self referential elements.
In a sense that very 'nostalgia' for a natural existence that the modern European mind was afflicted by in the eve of a new (twentieth) century also concerns Amin, though in his case it seems more like a back-to-rural simplicity meeting the urban paradigm of representation to express a sentiment for semi-indigenous identity. And conveniently for that very reason, it seems more real than romantic.
The vocabulary that Amin has been cultivating since he had begun his career in the early nineteen-nineties has been the result of a languorous cultivation of nature and art as objects of contemplation to unravel their essence, which makes his art more about 'perception' than about plain, unaffected 'gaze'.
Nature too has cultural/historical dimension to it as it is subjected to human gaze guided by perception, ideology and politics. Therefore, the entry of the human form within a space defined by extrusions of marks, patches and lines, witnessed in his art after a long time, may not be read as radicalization of otherwise socially accepted art form, but nonetheless an indication of a new beginning at best.
Amidst his subjective representation of landscapes – the cosmography of human construction – Amin now identifies the subject – one who is ready to lose oneself into its vastness – the true void of subjectivity. Works like 'Nature and Human', 'Yellow Courtyard' and 'Blue Moon' allude to the saturation of 'self' with the sentiment of such height vis-a-vis nature, whereas, 'Country of Green Clouds', or 'Clouds-2', by keeping the entry of humans in check to underline the sublime dimension of nature.
Still the marked ambivalence with regards to figuration and abstraction, reductivism and elaboration, empiricism and idealism, allows for the viewers to raise some issues about his representational method. Is he about the fusion between the transcendental and the real, the impersonal and the personal, the stable and the provisional? Form too is affected by this ambivalence as it is still hinged on the twentieth-century European avant-garde.
The process of endowing the nature with a 'mental quality' draws its strength from modernity rather than from the real source – immediate nature. The problem, perhaps, arises from accepting the mediation of a fixed scenographic model.
In the politics of image-making, 'gaze' has a specific role to play, Amin's gaze is yet to be informed by the politics that rotates around ownership – the engine behind all other acquisitive cultures similar to capitalism. On the contrary, in line with the formal rigour, his story telling – formulated in encryptions – as is evident in 'Woman and the Garden' – an intaglio – veers towards mysticism. As a result the concept remains foggy as to the subjective position of the woman.
Perhaps it was the intention of the artist not to be affected by the social reality of any specific point of history, as such colours and shapes are made into one to privilege a 'seeing' unperturbed by social/historical background, perhaps, this is a way for Amin to lend primacy to the 'aesthetic' to the 'social', a concept that reached its peak in the mid-twenteth-century America, which, after the intervention of the post-modernist, no longer seems tenable, at least in a language that is formalist in constitution, though informal in its look.
The artist proposes art as a way of survival – as a location where he will eternally reside without being afflicted by reality and its uncertainty. Yet the fleeting moments caught in the gleam either of a setting or rising sun, or even glimpsed through a strange, mystic play of light and shadow of unknown origin, reveals an inner craving to become one with one's surroundings, this may be the end from where all human journey begins.
The exhibition was held at Gallery Shilpangan, February 16 to March 1, 2010.