Friday April 28, 2017 08:27 AM

When less is more

Hamiduzzaman's sculptures simultaneously reveal creative spontaneity and a formalist tug

A kindly hand scribbled feathery clouds over the sky, and under its canopy on the ground upon a patch of green stood a scattered herd of sculptures — consciously spaced out, permitting an unhindered view of the array. To use the art-historical jargon, these sculptures seem synced to the “modernist” grain. Nevertheless, all too visible also is the free-flow between the sedimentation of the raw and the refined, where the artistic vision succumbs simultaneously to creative spontaneity and a formidable “formalist” tug.

The outdoor sculptures took over an arena that ran across several spatial definitions with a very modern building (Institute of Architects Bangladesh) outlining the trail — outdoor, indoor though in a more spacious sense as the portico, the backyard and an enclave shuttered with sliding doors allowing entrance from the lawn housed all of the pieces. It is more like following an art trail carefully laid out where art sometimes springs up at the viewers like chameleons to catch them off-guard from their hiding places. A fountain played host to a fish (Dry Fish); a minimalist block re-incarnated as Mondrianic poetry in black and white (Day and Night) is spotted leaning against a low wall, sitting on the ground doubling as a lounging place for the dewy-eyed, weary urbanites who could not but heave a sigh of relief at the quietude of both the space and the “forms” in metal and marble. There was no visible sign of semantic or thematic/conceptual overture, conversely, a prudent poise of an experienced and steadfast mind seems to cast a somnolent pall over the pieces. They do not disappoint expectations, nor stir up violent reactions; they make no attempt to cheekily wink at one’s faculty of appreciation, yet throbs with a primordial life. What guides the viewers is an instant recognition as these earthy, natural materials in an artisanal clairvoyance are revitalised by the whittle of the hammer or the clang of the chisel to help radiate their raw energy in silent ripples into the immediate space-time. Nothing felt discordant or out of place, it was this very chess-board clarity that led the eyes to follow closely the lines, curves, the texture-lending rust, the clawed ridges, the synchrony of the rough and the smooth; to chase the veins of the marble embraced in dichromatic coitus, and simply to enjoy the beauty that is at its pristine. The setting reminded one of a sculpture park, and as expected, day and night — one luminous, the other mystic—attributed distinct characters to the sculptures as time kept routinely rotating on its axis. It was a kindly, paternal hand that scribbled an old tale, a soulful fable onto these rocks and metals and made them whisper the song of genesis to yearning ears.

There was no visible sign of semantic or thematic/conceptual overture, conversely, a prudent poise of an experienced and steadfast mind seems to cast a somnolent pall over the pieces.

The exhibits transmitted a feeling of a retroactive sojourn, enabled an enjoyable stroll through the works, especially for an audience fast acquiring a taste for the contemporary, eclectic cross-media galore that seems to appear and re-appear at every other exhibition space. Nothing seems new anymore, since re-production (mechanical or mediational) has set its shop as the ghost in the machine of the worldwide art praxes. When representation has been set aside for abstract expressivity, it was still one’s “reality” which found expressions in art. This is true of Hamiduzzaman, a water colourist-turned sculptor, who applied the same fluidity (of water colour) to his relatively more un-pliable medium (of marble and steel), sometimes combining found industrial materials to attain a multi-tonality in his works that still adhere to an organic balance, because it seems, to rock the boat or toss things off-kilter has never been his intention. But one must never lose sight of this dedicated artist’s tradition-breaking moves, as, one is apt to recall, he set up installations in the early 1980s when this phenomenon was yet to catch the fancy of his contemporary practitioners. Jibon Onneshon (The Quest for Life) re-presents the “seen” in a realm of a dexterous clarity where seeing equals believing — in art and the creator behind it, negating none. At the wide entrance to the building stood a sculpture like a symbolic affirmation of a faith in a harmonising order that arches like an umbrella over all dualities, in the form of a hand (that of a male) poised over another (that of a female) as if in supplication and what follows is the silence of “resignation” to a transcendence, something awaited. And this is also true of Hamiduzzaman’s oeuvre.

Jibon Onneshon ran its course from December 8, 2016 to January 7, 2017 at the Institute of Architects Bangladesh.


Sharmillie Rahman is a short fiction writer. She likes to reflect on art in her leisure.

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