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Bridging east and west

  • Published at 05:38 pm December 5th, 2016
Bridging east and west
Launch of Monir: Selected Works, 1961-2016, featuring the artworks of Monirul Islam, was perhaps the brightest programmes of that segment which celebrated the richness of local art and literature. Islam is one of Bangladesh’s few artists who have gained international acclaim. Asaduzzaman Noor, minister for cultural affairs, Anwar Hossain Monju, minister for environment and forest, Marsha Stephen Bloom Bernicut, US ambassador to Bangladesh, Teyada Chakone, Spanish ambassador to Bangladesh, Mustafa Zaman, editor of Depart and an art critic, and Javed Hossain, managing director of Energies Limited, attended the launch. The book is the first attempt to capture his creations right from the beginning of his career till now. From his formative years in his home country to his journey into the western hemisphere and finally striking a balance between the two, everything has been featured in the short span of this book. Energies deserves accolade for funding the publication of this much-needed book. 01 The programme started with a documentary on the artist’s life. Born in Chandpur, Monirul Islam nurtured a passion for art from his early childhood. Nature inspired him immensely and he could respond to its vibes. He chanced upon the local cinema posters and those gaudy paintings were too enticing for a toddler not to notice. This was his gateway to the magical world art could offer. To translate his passion in reality, he got admitted in the East Pakistan College of Arts and Crafts (now Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University) in 1966. Later he was granted a scholarship under an exchange program from the Spanish government. He moved to Spain in 1969. Thus he maintained a perfect balance by remaining rooted to the local art scene as well as being exposed to the trends in European art. This duality in his experience explains his versatility in diverse media such as print, etching, watercolour, acrylic and oil. While many of his works are in Bangladesh, a few pieces, especially some print works and etchings, remain in Madrid, Spain where he has been residing for more than three decades now. He is a noted printmaker in Spain and has influenced a flock of experimental artists back there. 04The book is foreworded by Zarin Mahmud Hosein and introduced by Marzia Farhana. A long, analytical article by Mustafa Zaman considers different aspects of Monirul’s art. The individual artworks have been annotated with lucidity. The book contains some of his previously unknown pieces. Islam uses conventional as well as unconventional materials in his artwork. He believes art is limitless so it is not limited to a few mainstream ingredients. He plays with local pigments, coffee, corrugated boards, wastage papers, register books, pages of torn-out magazines, newspapers, to name just a few. He believes each and every creation has its own life and artwork surpasses the artist. His fondness for geometric abstraction has made him the trailblazer of abstract painting in Bangladesh. Through his creation, he attempts to transcend sensory perception and connect to something higher. His imageries are filled with contradictory forces. In his speech, Asaduzzaman Noor said, “I’ve known him for a long time. We often had coffee together. He is a total workaholic. I doubt if he sleeps at all.” Jerin Hossain of Energies said, “Art often remains the personal possession of an artist. It hardly reaches out to the masses. We initiated documenting art for the sake of common people.” In the art of Monirul, who has won many prestigious awards both in Bangladesh and Spain, the richest traditions of the east and the west bridged with a mastery that is unique. This book is fitting tribute to the life and works of the artist. Hasnin Hasan writes for the Arts & Letters.