Safiuddin Ahmed's experiment with style and media resulted in not just technically rich work, but also variety and creativity in the subjects his work depicts. Whether you are looking at his oil paintings, charcoal sketches or getting lost in his copper engravings, the subject matter will jump out at you.
Safiuddin is considered one of the pioneering artists in the modern art movement in Bangladesh. His mastery of a number of media has placed the artist permanently in the pages of history. Safiuddin liked to experiment and this becomes clear when you take in his body of work.
His excellence was not restricted to etching, aquatint, wood engraving and copper engraving within the sphere of printmaking. It also encompassed oil painting and drawing.
Ahmed Nazir, curator of the exhibition '100th birth anniversary of Shafiuddin Ahmed', was gracious enough to give me a tour of the gallery and a quick history lesson on the artistic pursuits of Safiuddin Ahmed.
"He also worked with a range of media which included watercolour, dry paint, mural painting and lithography, but did not continue. However, the media he did continue to work with, he devoted himself to them. His devotion is what made his experiments so successful."
The series of art Safiuddin produced during his time in Kolkata shows a propensity for depicting the plight of slum dwellers of the metropolis. This is also the period his most famous Dumka paintings were created. In fact, the artist was so moved by the natural splendour of Dumka that the landscapes appear in his collection of oil paints, watercolour and dry point print screens.
Moving towards his work inspired by Dhaka, we see a lot of floods, fishing nets, fishes, boats and storms. His charcoal and crayon creation titled 'Flood – the joy and sorrow of Bangladesh' was particularly evocative for that particular evening as news about Sunamganj and Sylet being inundated kept the country from enjoying a monsoon downpour.
Another particular Flood piece that stands out is simply titled 'Floods – 4'. I suggest you stand in front of that piece and let it break your heart a couple of times. Similarly awe-inspiring is Safiuddin's oil painting titled 'Birangana', where the face of a woman peers out at you, eyes tinged with sadness.
Commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of Safiuddin Ahmed, the art exhibition at Safiuddin Shilpalay, in collaboration with Gallery Chitrak, opened to the public on 17 June.
Prominent artist Professor Rafiqun Nabi and cultural personality Asaduzzaman Noor MP were chief guests at the inaugural ceremony. Syed Azizul Haque, Head Professor, Department of Bangla, University of Dhaka, was present as the special guest and the ceremony was hosted by distinguished artist Monirul Islam.
As you stroll through the exhibition, remember to check out Shilpaguru Safiuddin Ahmed Memorial where you will be treated to a 100-year old refrigerator that belonged to the artist. On the same floor, you will find the Safiuddin Ahmed Printmaking Studio where all the plates, easels, and sculpting tools have been carefully preserved. The exhibition will go on until 30 June, and is open for public attendance from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
Flood - The joy and sorrow of Bangladesh, Charcoal and Crayon
Done in Charcoal and Crayon, this painting shows the evolution of a person's life before and after it was upended by a natural disaster. We can see the subject in her village and then needing to migrate to Dhaka city. But arriving in the city resulted in an economic downfall that has led her to venture out into the streets with a bowl to beg. We can see that she sits near the dustbin and eats the scraps, with a street dog as her companion.
Floods - 4, Charcoal & Crayon
Here we see a dead body floating after a flood done in Charcoal and Crayon. The floods Bangladesh experiences results in a lack of land to even bury the dead. Ultimately the only option left is to let the flood water carry away the deceased. Safiuddin's work depicts how lives are affected due to climate disasters.
Nude- 1, Oil Painting
This is one of Safiuddin's experimental works which he did when he was in England studying in Central School of Art. In Safiuddin's journey with art, he worked with many media, and this experimental side of him is what lends credibility to his expertise as an artist. He liked to evolve and grow as an artist, while staying true to the subjects he liked to explore – humans and nature.