Shades without 'First Being': Object of mediation in Hamiduzzaman's recent works
In his seminal books 'A Treatise of Human Nature' and 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' David Hume looks into how human mind perceives reality; accordingly he formulates: 'all perceptions of the mind can be classed as either “Impressions” or “Ideas”'. Equipped with this twinned concepts, we can confront the recently produced oeuvre of Hamiduzzaman Khan. Encapsulated in an exhibition entitled 'Nocturnal Shades', his works can be interpreted as the attempt at surveying the impressions after gazing at nature understood as a relay of optically perceived phenomena.
His impressionist attitude – toned as it is with nocturnal vision – is an explicit play on shadow; as such, his expressivity instinctively acquires the licence to negate empiricist vocabulary. In fact, it never really takes into consideration the zeal with which the French Impressionists had sought to depict the much talked about 'play of light on landscape'.
Though the artist seems steeped in magic and miasma, creating a distanced visuality through which one's attention is redirected to another sphere of reality, we can always refer back to Hume to contextualize Hamiduzzaman's work: 'it is at least conceivable that the mind [of artist] can generate an idea without “first being” exposed to the relevant sensory experience.' We get a view of Hamiduzzaman's bend of mind to expose this secondary domain in the series of water colour work on paper, which apparently sets the tenor of this exhibition. With these set of presentations at the back of one's mind, one may conclude that the artist's primary or basic premise is the 'play on “absence”'. Likewise, the artist's leitmotif, conceived through the mediation of the play of light and shadow on absent subject matters, have presented that very 'missingness' (absence) through a rather controlled but seemingly impassioned expression.
Yet, when the play of shadow within an undefined location (which is his source as well as artwork) becomes the artist's main motif, a problem seems to manifest itself. It has to do with the very idea of 'absence', which becomes the basis for his manipulation of the media, which is water colour. And the artist employs his medium to bring to the surface an almost intangible atmospheric reality (or should one call it unreality) in the final image where areas of murky shadow dominate over other subtler shades.
Consequently, when the artist presents images which refer back to his sources – river, sea, night landscape, or even rainy night, full-moon night, and also human faces, brought into vision through daring brush strokes and a minimum of manipulation of the medium, some of the works simply fail to achieve the edge needed for this type of representation to remain authentic. One may wonder whether this shortcoming is linked to the 'binarism' between the real and the unreal, or the empirical and the affected representation of the empirical, with which the artist is afflicted by, or due to the lack of strong visual imagination.
So, at this juncture, Hamiduzzaman – by way of presenting the art-object as 'illusion of beauty' – becomes trapped in the psychological position which only allows him to see art as a way of mining the indeterminate through what is empirical. Because of the artist's impressionist inclination, which makes way for him to let expression prevail over experience, a greater portion of his oeuvre seems to reside in a labyrinthine (un)reality, and in turn fails to infuse the mind of the viewer with the sense of the 'uncanny', or the 'other-worldliness' – the ends sought by the artist.
Let's imagine the scenario of spectating Hamiduzzaman's `Riverview', where rays of red and white light reflect within the space of the painting which looks like a murky riverscape. One realizes that the river achieves its (non)physicality in his work seen through the reflection, or it is a reflection conceived through an impression of the river – an expression proposed as impression or vice versa. This may be defined as 'second being' without the presence of 'first being', to borrow Hume's formulation once again. If the physically existing artwork is an indication of the 'real', the real for him is not the physical real river but the impression of it understood as 'second being'. By shredding the attributes of the real, Hamiduzzaman's river achieves the status of a ghostly river without any reference to things of numinous complex.
Hamiduzzaman's solo art exhibition contains a two-fold account of his recent work: one of a series of water colour paintings discussed above and other exemplified by the artist's enthusiasm for reductionist sculptural forms which recall the European early modernist masters. 'Love', 'Mother-2'. 'The Tree', 'Young Lady' etc are his attempts at creating an index of unobtrusive bronze pieces expressing a sense of modulated mannerism, an approach that helps him cast a wide net as far as his representational method is concerned, which ranges from almost realistic portraits to formalized emblems that take into account volume and space, best exemplified by `Love'. It is the play on the two interlocking structures which seem to have an orgiastic, organic feel to them, though geometric logic related to a European legacy hovers over it like a ghost.
All things considered, there appears a pluralistic character in the show 'Nocturnal Shades'. If the water colour images are a way for the artist to create visual sensation, the sculptural pieces are a meditation on form. The missing link between the two forms of representation, only brings to light the fact that the present corpus is the result of the disconnected stream of thoughts and reflections in the absence of a coherent narrative.
'Nocturnal Shades' was presented at Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts, May 4-15, 1010.