As the title of the exhibition alludes, Professor Mostafizul Haque's 'Phire Dekha' is, in essence, an attempt at self-reflection for one of the renowned artists of the country; from his early works to his most recent rendition of natural life during the days of the pandemic.
In 'Phire Dekha', his integration of the natural elements from animals like roosters, horses, crows etc. to flora and fauna exceeds the meaning on the surface and encourages the audience to contemplate profound questions about human nature, life as it is and its impact on its environment.
Beyond his artistic persona, Professor Haque's vision to spread creativity among his surroundings is commendable, given that very few people in our country prioritise education in the arts. For instance, his creative endeavours to teach art to children has been a consistent endeavour of over 48 years.
"My strong desire to create a society where children are developed tastefully made me build different organisations over my career. The drawing department of Azimpur Ladies Club, Bangladesh Shishu Academy and many other art schools were established through my hands," said Mostafizul.
Mostafizul Haque is also the founder of Shanto-Mariam Academy of Creative Technology and the Shanto-Mariam Institute of Creative Technology which are also institutions that foster creativity.
The artist was a painting savant from the days of his boyhood in Bagerhat, and grew up in a culturally rich atmosphere. However, his journey in the world of paints and brushes officially started when he was a 'Charukola' student in 1973. To showcase the eminent artists' work throughout these 50 years, 'Phire Dekha', his retrospective art exhibition was held on 23 July at the Gallery Chitrak, Dhanmondi.
"In this exhibition, I try to look back on all the efforts I have given all these years to something I love from the deepest corner of my heart. Some paintings are 40 years old and some are brand new", said Professor Mostafizul Haque.
The most eye-catching facet of his artwork is the persistent use of animals and birds of different sorts in multiple textured acrylic paintings. The sprint series he worked on which showed galloping horses were splendid works of art. The repeated use of non-human creatures made me curious about the artist's inspirations and motives.
He explained, "I love motion and speed and anything that reflects it, becomes a quality subject for my paintings. Hence, I used roosters and horses in many of my works. Moreover, these two creatures are a symbol of valour for me."
The eloquent strokes of colours in one layer upon another are not only a sight to behold but also a thought-provoking rendition of nature and life's multifaceted dimensions.
Another aspect of this exhibition was his presentation of animals in their most independent form during the Covid-19 pandemic. His series of pandemic diaries use animals as subjects, which demonstrates a noticeable correlation between the lockdown period and animals.
As the artist was confined to his home during the lockdown period, he observed how roosters, crows and other animals around his home appeared in an altogether different but spontaneous form; free, fearless and agile.
"When corona was spreading, my roof was the only place I felt free. While I painted there, I observed where humans are confined in their cages to protect themselves, animals and birds were freely roaming around. It felt like the epidemic actually freed them from the cruelty of the human-dominated world."
From his earlier works, the exhibition showcased professor Haque's days of obsession with Japanese 'Nihonga' and his attempts to incorporate Eastern and Western art forms in his portrayal of human life.
After giving me a tour of his artworks, he concluded the conversation by saying, "Arts of any form, digital or with oil paints, should be encouraged to bolster the artistic sense of our people and to widen our outlook of the world. People's imagination should not be limited by norms."
Sprint-7: "I am fond of speed and vigour, the stallion in this textured acrylic painting represents both of that. Moreover, the painting also represents the importance of motion to survive in our gruelling daily lives."
Illusion in Figure: "Through these anthropomorphic figures in an abstract form, I wanted to exhibit the sensitivity of our local culture. If I did not make these figures illusory and complex, many people would perceive it negatively."
My Pleasure : "I used a variety of vibrant colours to portray different pleasurable moments in our life. Specifically, the colour red stood out here which signifies love, passion and energy within us."