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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Shahabuddin Ahmed: A true narrator of Liberation War

Takir Hossain / Back from Paris, May 3, 2009

Freedom fighters, Liberation War and human beings in motion are the recurring themes of painter Shahabuddin Ahmed. Shahabuddin is one of the leading painters from the '70s, a time when the nation was caught up in the freedom movement. During the time, the country faced many crises and crossed a number of dilemmas--a time when our art and literature proceeded with a new dream and novel vision. 

Shahabuddin believes that a painter should be honest in his thinking process and philosophical ground. “Beauty is truth and truth beauty. Truth is always bright. It can never be concealed. The Liberation War is the foremost fact for the people of Bangladesh. It is our main pillar for existence, which gives us spirit and strength to survive. Everybody should be open in his political notion. I think people should have a clear conception of political beliefs and values. I am very doubtful of the people who are not clear about their political viewpoints,” mentions Shahabuddin, who lives on the top floor of an eight storied Parisian apartment. A cosy living cum studio apartment in Vincent Auriol, Paris, is where he passes practically all his time. 

“A human being should be secular and progressive in his or her thinking process. I believe religion cannot be anyone's identity. A painter should have a close relation with his or her country's history, tradition and culture. My works always visualise the common people's dream and imagination,” states the artist.

Shahabuddin perpetually focuses on the strength and power of the people of Bengal. His canvas is not quiet or tranquil at all times; it appears very bold and projects an audacious look. His works depict contemporary life and times. His creations inspire us to love the motherland and pay homage to it. He always tries to highlight the gallantry of our freedom fighters and their patriotism. He paints fearless figures and their bold movements. His figures are very stimulating and at the same time thought provoking. The liveliness and power of his brushwork emphasises this feature. He uses space to increasingly interact with figures. His space is very open and broad so that he can easily communicate between his themes and space. The effective and aesthetic use of space brings about a sense of serenity in his works. To underscore a span of his career, he paints many brawny and vigorous horses with his personal hallmark. Force and power are two components of his works. He frequently portrays Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Mahatma Gandhi, Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore and some other legendary figures in our historical world. He not only portrays their images, but also pours into them human feelings, emotions and inner expressions. His skilled hands can capture any kind of struggle, pain and passion. 

Shahabuddin's works are closely related to his personal life. Bold, outspoken and patriotic, he upholds all these aspects as his main characteristics. When he was a student of Dhaka Art Institute (at present Faculty of Fine Arts), he was involved in student politics and was aware of student rights and demands. When the Liberation War started, he fought for the country and played an important role during the independence struggle of our country. This fostered for him a close relationship with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. “Bangabandhu was a man of vision. His personality was unparalleled and he had a magnetic power to attract anybody. He could easily draw anyone close due to his honesty and authoritative nature,” went on Shahabuddin.

A socially conscious artist, Shahabuddin also paints common people, capturing the various moments of their social bindings. He portrays both rural and urban people -- their sufferings, torments, bliss and ecstasies. His subjects always symbolise the greatness of life and time. He clearly wants to focus on the present. In the process, the viewer gets to know the artist's individuality and mental state at that moment.Shahabuddin's work also expresses the aesthetic beauty of Bengali women, their varied moods and eternal beauty. By means of his broad brush strokes and bold colours, the canvas gets a vivacious and spirited look. His sketches are powerful in their tone of lines and serenity. The charcoal sketches, in particular, are very lively and provocative.

A chain smoker and good conversationalist, Shahabuddin Ahmed recollects his juvenile and childhood days with great humour. His cloths, food, way of life, manner and attitude easily demonstrate his loyalty to the country. His wife Ana Islam (columnist, writer) and two daughters also demonstrate great admiration for the people of the country.


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