Self and Others: Looking inward to reflect on the world outside
Too often a scenic beauty is chosen to paint and captivate its beauty on a canvas. A pretty face is the subject of painting mostly. But often the most ordinary things around us do not make it to a canvas through an artist's strokes or their imagination.
"Why?" asks Hasura Akther Rumky. In response to her own question, she decided to portray the most ordinary objects through her paintings that almost feel real; that almost feel like the subjects of her paintings will start talking or moving the longer you stare into their eyes.
On 27 January, she presented her first solo exhibition 'Self and Others' at Alliance Francaise de Dhaka, running till 1 February.
"Firstly, I am grateful to Zainul Abedin. He is not only my inspiration, he is also the reason we have Charukala. Then I'll place Kibria sir and Shahabuddin Ahmed sir as my inspirations. Their brush strokes and use of highlights add motion to painting. I find that magical," Hasura said about her inspirations in painting, while adding, "And Pablo Picaso, I look up to. He is a magician when it comes to art."
She believes that without the ability to actualise an idea or concept, art would not exist. Among the 40 odd exhibits at Self and Others, at least 10 of them are of rickshaws and their pullers. Some are napping or resting, while some are simply pulling their rickshaws.
"The command which Hasura has in painting the lives of everyday, ordinary objects and subjects is rather commendable!" said the freedom fighter artist Shahabuddin Ahmed, who joined the exhibition because one of Sheikh Mujib's paintings graces the exhibition.
"Her use of the rickshaw as a subject is praiseworthy. We're closer to our regular, everyday objects than we think — the rickshaw, for example. Every class of society uses it. That she portrays them so beautifully demands credit," Shahabuddin added.
Hasura has been involved with art since she was a child. She had previously worked with art at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy as an assistant coordinator even before Covid-19. She went into isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, and began contemplating life through an artist's eyes.
"My isolation drove me to realise the duality of people's personalities. In front of society, we don't express our despair; we do that when we are away from human interaction, in the backstages of our lives. Every portrait of mine has my reflection in it; the reflection shows my dismal phase. That inspired my self-portraits," she said.
She considers it to be a humanising and humbling experience to see ordinary, hard working people relaxing, with rickshaw pullers being the most notable example in this instance. Some of the rickshaw paintings came from her previous onsite sketches and some through photographs.
"I really enjoy painting faces," she added, as a reason why most of her paintings are about expressions and pensive stares.
As more motorised rickshaws take the place of manual ones, the humanistic element is being lost. Hasura makes an effort to preserve this period as a transitional one before all rickshaws become just another type of motorised transportation — an epochal change from how the rickshaw was for all of its existence in Bangladesh.
Also, her paintings portray musicians, Paban Das Baul and Parvathy Baul being two prime subjects among them. Of course, she painted Rabindranath Thakur from a place of profound admiration, as someone who inspires her through his words, music and poems.
"Self and Others, this concept I borrowed from sociology which dictates our relationship with others in our society. Rabindra sangeet, folk or classical music have an immense impact on me. When I listen to music and paint, I immerse myself in the music and my painting, almost as meditation. So they had to make it to my exhibition," Hasura added.
Artist Shahabuddin Ahmed's presence and speeches made for a beautiful inauguration.
"I don't limit myself to any media. Art is my life, my dream and my passion, and like many others, I am motivated to live my dream and make my surroundings even more beautiful," she added.
The Great Bard 2 | Mix media on paper
Music influences me strongly, especially Rabindra sangeet. To pay my homage to him, who has no parallel or comparison, I painted this. Since the exhibition is 'Self and Others', anyone or anything close to my heart, I painted.
Napping 2 | Mix media on paper
Rickshaws are a part of our life. Seeing pullers resting or napping on their rickshaws really fascinates me. Also, rickshaw paintings add to the beauty of our city. Other countries have rickshaws too but ours are made in the most beautiful way. I reflected all that in the paintings.
Self portrait | Acrylic on paper
The isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus allowed me to look introspectively. Otherwise, amidst a lot of other work, we aren't really able to think about or for ourselves. That is when I painted 21 self-portraits. This is one of my favourites. In my paintings, I played with back and foregrounds and also tried showing the duality of how our minds work. That shows through the reflective motif in my paintings.