Nature, spirituality, and modernism in Ivy Zaman’s ‘Brave World of Sculpture’ exhibition
Ivy Zaman’s Brave World of Sculpture speaks of the invincible spirit of an artist who for over thirty years has painstakingly worked in several mediums of art to reach her own pinnacle as an indefatigable sculptor. She refused to confine herself to a comfortable niche and braved multiple paths that, instead of throwing her off-kilter,have strengthened her prowess as an artist. As one scans the display at the NalinikantaBhattashali gallery of National Museum, artworks of different genres leap off their mount to greet viewers in all their splendor as something born out of deep passion. In her catalog, she expresses her lifelong covenant with nature, which she had carried within ever since she started training as a student and practicing artist. Her choice of materials: wood, cement, stone, and metal espouses a deep resonance of the essentially natural, left remarkably to its own forms and rhythms.
At the entrance stands an installation work replicating, realistically, a fishing trap with a circular metal hanging from above at eye level in representation of the moon. This marks the character of almost all her artworks in their bond of allegiance to forms found in reality. This simplistic interpretation of her immediate surroundings and acquired thoughts is laid out in equally simple forms with no pretext of a highfalutin philosophical wild-goose chase. The unvaried emotive pitch renders her work a unilinearity that is quite heart-warming, since it does not baffle the mind but rather soothes it. She shies away from all riotous trends of so-called social activism. The remote link to issues of current import has been touched upon in a painting where Buddha is painted in warm red as an enquiry into the state of affairs in Myanmar that has violated the teachings of Buddha.
Her ensemble shares a common thread of a pared-down approach as her works seem to turn into a playground of earthly elements to frolic with each other, and progressively culminate into a narrative of many layers that build on each other as color is applied over color and brush-strokes form newer contours in an ever-transforming spree. In a dispersal of weight and gravity the sculptures appear to have come through just as much of a natural process. The flatness and unfaltering lines in lieu of curves do not come transcribed as unwieldy and rigid. Instead, the mass and volume becomes the visible inscription of space itself. The influence of Novera Ahmed is somewhat evident in these overt samplers of modernist tradition.
What stands out is the Time Keeper, a bust studded with small wrist-watches but, yet again, it’s the craftsmanship that fascinates one, for surely one might not read any ironic commentary on time that decidedly averts from assigning itself. What elevates it is its timeless beauty! If one had to set it against another piece of work, it would be Portrait, a bronze casting that resulted out of a workshop conducted by the Indian sculptor, Tarak Garai. The emphasis is shifted from the end result toward the process and means of making, which it appears to minutely record. The edgy, roughshod treatment imbues it with a raw vitality rarely reflected in the larger pieces that stand like ineffectual sentinels around it. The interior of the gallery, one cannot but notice, detracts from the pleasant aesthetic qualities of the works. It begs the question whether the interior of the gallery needs to be renovated to make it less of a distraction.
The portion of a tree-trunk turned upside down that majestically occupies an impressive amount of space is a work that the sculptor does not tamper with in recognition of nature’s infallible artistry that inspires all sorts of aesthetic endeavors. Her deep faith in primal nature, the wellspring of sustenance, and reinforcement of human spirit time and again renews her lust for a kind of spirituality that does not deny one his/her tryst with the earthly coils, buthelp arrange the fragmented, multiple selves of the “modern being” into a congruent existence. She returns to Buddha much like her predecessor Novera as a metaphor of one’s desire for spiritual anchorage. Spiritual Flight, one of the pieces, is an arrested flight, a transcendence that retains its roots in the earthly bedrock, yet an attempt at harnessing the energy that flows out from the inner compulsion to connect to the source, and this is what encloses her sculptures with whispers of, “This is not the end ... ”
One would like to end with a nod to the painting rendered in shades of blue, where it seems a river flows in the sky, mirroring the ground beneath. The sensuality of the sweeping strokes coupled with an unabashed freedom of form can only point at a restrained, anarchic impulse that quietly seethes below the surface and hardly ever breaks through! Ivy Zaman is an explorer, and there is much more yet to be received from this passionate artist.
(Brave World of Sculpture continued from June 25 to July 10 at the National Museum, Shahbag.)
Sharmillie Rahman is an art critic.