When Art meets Art – Mubin S Khan
Posted by Osman on May 27, 2008
While the timing of ‘Union of Uniqueness’, a joint exhibition of two artists from two different countries, Javed Jalil from Bangladesh and Avijit Mukherjee from India, as well as the presence of the all too familiar Pinak Ranjan Chakraborty, the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh on both the occasions, would allude to a relationship between it and the resumption of the Indo-Bangla train service, the Maitree Express, only a week earlier- it is anything but that.
One look at the work on display at the exhibition reminds us that art has always transcended man-made national boundaries, that it reaches to universal human emotions through the language of an artist’s personal journey, and perhaps, while those with a passion for politics and zealous patriotism would disagree, art has always travelled faster than the cumbersome journey made by nation states.
Both Javed Jalil and Avijit Mukherjee tell stories that stand true for Bangladeshis, Indians, the subcontinent, and the rest of the world. There are no Farakka Barrages, Maitree Express, border fences, exchange of criminals, BDR or BSF adorning the canvasses. Their language is not Bangladeshi or Indian, but a language constructed by themselves, influenced though it may be, not by nationality but by the history of art and its masters. While the two artists may own two different passports, the works on display claim ownership not to any country but to the kingdom of art.
A fan or connoisseur, however, cannot be rid of the pride of nationalism. And in that spirit, we can safely say, the rather lengthy deliberations on the nature of art are best represented through the works of our very own Javed Jalil. In 35 paintings done on both canvas and paper, Javed deals with a magnanimous range of emotions, but absolutely human in nature, which stands true for every man or woman of every nationality.
If one has witnessed Javed’s work in the past, he or she would know, that a significant part of him and his work is dedicated to the understanding, or in the least gaining perspective, on the complex nature of human relationships. ‘Love on the Cross’, ‘Animalistic Kiss’, ‘Mating Under’, ‘Twice of her love’, ‘Union of Rage’, ‘Nine + Five’, ‘Keys to Love’ all done with ink and a colour wash, deal with the complex predicaments of human relationship, be it man-woman or otherwise.
In each of these stories, Javed identifies intricate conditions that very many of us face in the depths of our thoughts, on many occasions unable to comprehend or give conscious form to. He attempts at giving them visual representation, at times, through a curious setting of complex, arcane figures, intertwining in strange ways, in the absence of gravity, with very many inexplicable figures and symbols looming around the canvas. To an untrained eye, most works may appear too complex, on occasions, grotesque, and may be repetitive. But look carefully; each character lends a different perspective to a different tale. The familiarity is in the signature movement of the lines, not in the stories.
It is difficult in words to describe the stories being told, because the emotions dealt with remain in the world of the visual, the wisdom acquired from it, also in visual. Visit the exhibition, stand in front of the works, and let the painting absorb you.
Relationships, however, do not appear to be Javed’s primary concern, it is rather, existence. ‘Mechanical Ways’, ‘Sheltered Machine Woman’ and ‘Secret doubt’ tell stories of people, to put it simply, who have given in to conformist manners of life. It is however, not that simple, because the ideas and manners associated with non-conformism is what these characters seem to have acquired, to use as shields upon their fears.
‘Biting the hands of time’, is not about a man’s mere struggle against the passage of time, but a struggle with time itself- how time passes, remains still, and sweeps in and out of a man’s life. He bites the hands of time to recreate the moments, to gain power over his fate and memory, or whatever interpretation suits the onlooker.
‘Fetus of honey’, ‘Soft Cloud’, ‘Streets of Fantasy’, ‘Wet Heaven’, ‘Crucified Desire’, deal with the mysterious nature of passions and desires, its enslavement to conformist behaviour and its healing powers. His works deal with the beauty of desire, not its vulgarity.
In ‘Thinking Studio’ we are shown the visuals of thinking mind, a canvas of curious symbols and confusion, which nonetheless radiates with intelligence. Meanwhile, ‘Fragile we are’, ‘One legged dream’, ‘Fingers of life’, ‘Seeking for Phoenix’ and ‘Commuting with the Soul’ deal with the fragility of existence, its search for a higher self and better form of existence, the imprints that one leaves when one travels by his instincts.
Javed, in person, is a curious mix of expressive extroversion and long hours of brooding silence when he is lost in contemplation. His artistic journey is mostly cerebral, a product of the adventures and predicaments that life has dealt upon him as well as endless observations through piercing, observant eyes. He remains rooted in his Dhanmondi studio, rarely emerging out of it unless he is forced to.
On the other hand, Avijit, who came to Bangladesh for the first time in his life and made the curious observation that Dhaka contained more green and was better organised than Kolkata (which left many people gaping), is your brawny ‘babu’ from West Bengal with a sweet ring to his Bengali accent, laid back, ring on five fingers, soft-spoken but impossible to stop once he gets going.
Avijit tell stories of his extensive travels through India- one time in far flung forest in Cooch Bihar he spent the night on the side of a pond along with fellow artist, where the tigers came to drink water. He loves ‘baul’ music and sings with immense passion and sweet devotion. He loves his family but enjoys it most when his wife and ‘boudi’ (sister-in-law) are out and he and his ‘mejda’ (brother) can share a drink together. He also talks about the rapport he shares with his fellow Indian artists, both younger and older, and every time a buyer buys from him he recommends his friends to them as well.
Avijit is immersed in the beauty of nature and in his fondness towards his family and friends. He searches for harmony. True to that, his art displays a strong allegiance to nature- in its colour, form and subject.
Many of his canvases display animals strewn across the landscape; fishes, trees standing alongside modern inventions like aeroplanes and parachutes. Together, they appear like a phantasmagoria, as figures ride on top a bus as if it’s a cycle, as men ride fishes while an aeroplane flies across. The movement in many of his painting make it appear as if the figures are moving under water.
While his figure drawings do not display the intricate expressive powers of Javed’s drawings, they nonetheless possess a transparent quality, as if they appear in flesh while their thoughts are visible through the numerous objects drawn inside them. Avijit also displays an inclination for mythical subjects, as many of his figures hold the forbidden apple in their hands. He also possesses a passion for worldly issues as in one of his works the words ‘global warming’ are strewn across the surface. All his 30 works are untitled.
Avijit left Dhaka on the April 22, a day after the exhibition opened at the Art Club Bangladesh in Gulshan. However, the exhibition continues till May 7.
Union of Uniqueness
By Javed Jalil (Bangladesh)
Avijit Mukherjee (India)
From 11:00am to 7:00pm,
Art Club Bangladesh
House no 4, Road no 104,
April 21 – May 7