Tautology of navel gazing
Mohammed Fokhrul Islam in focus
Different valences of a more asinine theory advanced during the 90's mostly jawed off by Salim Al-Deen, Mohammad Rafique et al and, of course, passively received, in bovine obedience, by multitude of groundlings – that was formulated, and raised to the status of a religion, on the premise of an anti-colonial emancipatory politics by Farhad Mazhar, has been the critique of an European Modernism in favour of an imaginary, pre-colonial and almost 'Puranic' mass culture– that was never here!
Since hindsight is always 20/20, it is, perhaps, not too glib to admit that, much of the critical and literary noise generated in last 20 years, in Bangladesh's art/literary scene had staged illiterate and half-baked attempts to assimilate numerous Foucauldian and Saidian (mis)understanding of discourse and an unsavoury mélange of Marxist and poststructuralist methodologies vis-à-vis European Modernism's catastrophic 'affect' in the production of Bengali rhetoricity and – key Bengali 'artems' – artistic ideas – which grafts themselves, as motives, on to the lives of the masses while 'Modern', urbane, contemporary and truly forward-facing-future-continuous art works notably lost currency among the lungi and Lalon-loving, bearded and pony-tailed artsy crowd.
The meteoric rise of Ronni Ahmed–who hatches, through his chest, politically potent artemes the way Ellen Ripley almost birthed Alien Queen's embryo – and the powerful abstract artworks of Mohammad Fokhrul Islam, in the late 1990's, among others, ripped open a interstitial space amid the two reigning schools of Bangladeshi arts: the highly influential school of arts led by Aminul Islam, Mohammad Kibria , Kazi Baset , Murtaja Baseer – who formed their oeuvre based on the (mis)readings of historical mid -nineteenth-century European Modernism which developed into a regressive and derivative faux-avant-garde movement sans any root or reality; and relatively new, hugely popular, market-driven, back-to-the-soil 'traditional' tendencies, channeled mostly through West-educated – West Bengal (and, let us not forget Baroda) and Western Europe – young Bengali artists – sometime deliberately and sometime unconsciously – corresponding with the contemporary Indian master's values and preferences.
Mohammad Fokhrul Islam, who can make borrowing – while confusing its origin– seems grandiose and can shrink down expressive gestures so that intuition seems like examination, poorly curates his latest retrospective exhibition – which featured 40 paintings – at Alliance Française, to emphasize his mediocre popular works that negate the presence and the special personal intimacy that we know he is capable of.
This particular brand of abstraction, re-picturing of blurs and blobs, or the reference to deconstructive non-geometry, construct an inverse, negative situation of absence, to forcibly cleanse the perception field of the figurative; while visually interesting, various works are overlaid in the forms that collide with others – Fokhrul's works become the only context for his art.
But, the problem is that, most of the abstract works we see these days can either be classified as works of similar strength and intensity based on the same principles, or can be compared poorly to Fokhrul's stylistic panache and, in the end, we cannot pretend that we are disinterested in Fokhrul's superiorly and interestingly manufactured, artificial ménageries.
Image 2009-2010 was held at Alliance Française, January 2 - 17, 2010.