Friday, June 21, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Tajuddin's gestural abstraction in the context of Bangladesh

The artist’s solo exhibition in the pipeline

Update : 10 Mar 2024, 08:11 PM

I have been an acquaintance of seasoned artist Tajuddin Ahmed for over two decades. He rose to prominence as an artist in the 1970s and discovered his true passion for gestural abstract art in the late 1980s. His non-representational pieces often have a subtle connection with the real world. To identify his personal hallmark, one must look at his current practice in the context of the country’s abstract movement that began in the early 1960s. His use of layers distinguishes him from other first-generation abstractionists. As he keeps applying additional layers of drawings until he feels content, his works often seem unusually related to urban realities. His distinct procedures of arranging colours, textures and space lend his works a vigour that easily attracts the art enthusiasts' attention.


Tajuddin is a resident of Old Dhaka. He feels deeply interrelated with Old Dhaka, where history is preserved not only in its intricate alleys and ancient architecture but also in its culinary delights and warm hospitality. I firmly believe that good food has the power to forge connections, illuminate cherished values, and provide insights into different perspectives and ways of life.


Tajuddin and I have frequented many places together, such as Gulshan when he was running Tivoli Gallery, Bailey Road, where I used to live, and Dhanmondi, where I currently reside. We have enjoyed meals at various eateries and occasionally ventured to Old Dhaka to savour Jhunu Polao Ghor and Haji Biryani. Tajuddin strikes me as a very polite and calm individual who values respect for others. In addition to his noble character, he is deeply dedicated to his artwork. He maintains integrity in his work by using authentic materials and refraining from copying others' art. Tajuddin strives to distance himself from the politics of defamation at the Charukola Institute (now the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka), a prevalent issue. He had the privilege of engaging in enriching interactions with two esteemed artists, Mohammad Kibria and Kazi Abdul Baset, whose modesty, simplicity, and artistic insight deeply resonates within him. Anwarul Huq, a respected teacher at Charukola, mentored Tajuddin during his fourth and fifth years, imparting valuable lessons on the intricacies of drawing and the harmonisation of colours. Shamsul Islam Nizami, a Professor in the Ceramics Department, consistently provided inspiration during his academic career. Tajuddin was particularly struck by their thoughtful feedback on his artwork, which left an indelible mark on him.


Being a passionate and genuine introvert, I have consistently witnessed his avoidance of human engagements, public attention, media exposure, and fame. My perception of him has always been that of a man who deeply cherishes life and has a profound appreciation for delicious food, music, books, and cinema. He takes pleasure in riding rickshaws, attentively observing his surroundings, without any desire to explain or share his observations with others. He incorporates the most vibrant and diverse array of colours he encounters throughout his journey in life.


Tajuddin embarked on his artistic journey as a painter specialising in folk and cityscape themes in the late 1970s. His early works featured animals, birds, and various plants in a folk art style, each carrying its own unique story. Notably, the vibrant activities of Old Dhaka and dockyards became central themes in Tajuddin’s paintings. He skillfully portrayed the shipbuilding process, labourers diligently working, damaged ships being repaired, scattered ship parts on the ground, and vessels navigating the bustling docks.

Tajuddin's artistic journey has been marked by a continuous process of refinement. After the late 1980s, he transitioned into a semi-abstract painter and embarked on a thorough exploration of the metropolitan community through thematic treatment. With a profound sense of intimacy, he closely observed the unplanned urbanisation of the city, the gradual loss of its cultural heritage, the diverse modes of transportation, and the ever-evolving socio-political and economic conditions. To imbue his theme-centric works with greater inspiration and variation, the artist passionately depicted the vibrant activities of Old Dhaka, the struggles faced by the marginalised in their daily lives, the resilient yet unfortunate rickshaw drivers, the presence of streetlights, the narrow alleyways, the densely populated settlements, the deteriorating buildings, and the tangled wires stretching across the roads. Additionally, he has incorporated wheels and various forms, symbols, textures, as well as oval, triangular, and rectangular shapes and lines into his canvases. The inclusion of geometric structures, architectural and structural views offers a fresh perspective to his works. One can also observe adjoining columns, slabs, walls, broken pillars, elephant forms, compasses, broken doors, windows, and other elements in his compositions. In essence, his canvases truly capture the essence of our modern urban environment.


After the 1990s, Tajuddin transformed his artistic journey by becoming a pure abstract expressionist painter. It might be mentioned that he is also a symbolic painter since he has used many signs and emblems with vivacious and controlled brushstrokes. His acrylic, mixed media, and oil-based artworks explore the depths of pure forms, compositions, and hues, all carefully chosen to suit the given space. At times, he has experimented with clean and precise forms and compositions, while other times he has immersed himself in gracefully curved horizontal and vertical lines, straight lines, elliptical and non-elliptical shapes, cubic forms, and rigid structures. The interplay between space and form was a recurring theme in many of his paintings, with forms occasionally dominating the middle or lower sections of the canvas. It appears that Tajuddin was particularly attuned to the relationship between space and form. The application of these forms has lent a cerebral and contemplative quality to his works, making them highly expressive. Throughout this period, his paintings showcased intricate compositions, textural richness, and a vibrant palette. Many of his works exuded a sense of serenity and order, as they focused on the interplay of colours and their various layers. The colours he employed ranged from azure, crimson, red, black, and white to yellow, cobalt blue, yellow ochre, purple ochre, burnt sienna, umber, and emerald green.


Tajuddin made a sudden move to Toronto in 2008, and this relocation had a profound impact on his life as an artist. He quickly realised that the environment, culture, and society of a place greatly influence an artist's work. In Toronto, Tajuddin found inspiration in various aspects of his surroundings. The barren trees during winter, the tranquility of nature, the vibrant summer festivities, the greenery in urban and semi-urban areas, and the people leisurely strolling and relaxing all symbolically manifested in his artworks. The artist employed a diverse range of colours such as yellow, emerald green, coffee, dark blue, copper red, brown, green, and black in his paintings. During this period, Tajuddin's use of romantic backgrounds with subdued colours and intangible themes transformed his artworks into abstract representations of landscapes. His artistic expressions primarily followed the principles of pure abstract expressionism, where form and colour becomes the sole means of communication. Moreover, it allowed Tajuddin to express his deepest emotions and personal redemption directly through the creative process.


Tajuddin's recent years of paintings reveal a noticeable departure from his earlier works, demonstrating his inclination towards folk art. The artist has shifted his focus towards incorporating a wide array of small objects, various mythical forms, ethereal and partially nude figures, floral motifs, empty shapes, diverse symbolic patterns, lush greenery, and amorphous forms. He sometimes uses figures of humans along with flowers, tiny plants, birds, elephants, horses, tiny bushes and animals.


Tajuddin is dedicated to his work. He continuously explores line, form, space, texture, hue, and tone in his designs. His motifs can be both explanatory and self-referential. To avoid monotony, he values the evolving patterns of interest in different mediums.

Tajuddin Ahmed’s solo exhibition will be held soon at Galleri Kaya in Uttara.

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