Human life is a journey. And many artists have tried portraying and expressing their journey through their artwork. Nahid Ul Islam is one such artist who tried to do the same with his paintings and that too, through the "unconscious" mind.
Titled 'A Way Farer's Travelogue', Nahid's first solo exhibition showcases two decades of the artist's works. Professor Lala Rukh Salim of Dhaka University's Faculty of Fine Arts inaugurated the exhibition on 2 September. The exhibition runs till 19 September at Kalakendra, Lalmatia.
The exhibition boasts of quite a few miniature constructions drawn in red and black ink on paper. Most of these images are abstract, but there are some familiar objects like locks, keys, vehicles, lamps, and infrastructure. Interestingly, none of the artworks have titles or signatures.
Nahid encourages his viewers to engage freely with his work, allowing their interpretations to unfold naturally.
"I firmly believe that once a poet has penned a poem for readers, their responsibility concludes. It's the reader's responsibility to interpret the meaning of the poem," said Nahid.
"And I did most of my work in an 'unconscious' mind."
Nahid didn't have any formal art education as a child growing up, but his interest in art, literature, and politics started when he was young, influenced by his father. In the 1990s, after being involved in leftist politics and witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union, he felt disconnected from society. This led him to focus on art and literature, which became his way of expressing himself.
In 1995, however, Nahid took a one and a half year diploma in film from Chitrabani at St. Xavier''s College in Kolkata. His experiences in Kolkata and later in London deepened his understanding of art and literature. In this exhibition, he tells the stories of his travels through his paintings.
"A film is a combination of various art forms and politics. The same goes for painting. I've had a strong interest in literature and painting since my teenage years, and that diploma made me more aware of all art forms," said Nahid.
He further shared how Kolkata's vibrant atmosphere left a lasting impression on him. After returning to Dhaka in 1996, he went to London in 2002 and stayed till 2006, where he worked in an art studio.
"My time in London, working with fellow artists, convinced me to start painting."
The exhibition's curator, Emran Sohel, described Nahid's artworks as a mix of different materials and two-dimensional pieces. They portray the journey of an individual through time, connecting the past with the present. Nahid's use of colours, lines, and shapes, both planned and spontaneous, gives life to his paintings.
Of nearly 60 displayed artworks, TBS picks a few that stood out, with a description from the artist
1. In this painting, I aimed to capture the vibrancy of life. Picture a person's life journey, commencing from the bottom left corner of the canvas, and progressing towards the top right. Countless elements subtly influence our lives throughout our journey – some significant, others relatively minor. These constant fluctuations are depicted using black ballpoint ink on a Partex board.
2. Millions of people live in our Dhaka city. Think of it like a big book with lots of stories. There are stories that happen during the day. Then, there are stories that happen at night - all the stories are different from one another. Some are happy, while others are sad or even painful. In my work, I tried to show all these different kinds of stories. I started making this frame in London in 2008, in an 'unconscious' mind. Then, I took my time working on it, and I finally finished it in 2017.
3. Throughout history, humans have crafted a wide array of inventions, evolving from stone tools to earthenware and, eventually, to the creation of glass objects. We've journeyed from the analogue age into our current digital era, constantly progressing towards modernity with each passing day. This march of modernisation profoundly influences us all, myself included. In this work, I've endeavoured to depict the transformation of these instruments, showcasing the ever-changing landscape of our technological advancements.