Syed Abdullah Khalid is regarded as one of the most brilliant sculptors of our country. He is mainly recognised for his "Aparajeyo Bangla", one of the most familiar sculptures, and considered a landmark, in Dhaka. A multi-talented artist, Khalid has not only excelled in sculpture but also made an impression with his paintings.
Throughout the '80s and '90s and first decade of 21st century the artist had been active. Khalid is inclined to use a large canvas for depicting untamed nature, landscapes and still life (flower based). Losing himself in the natural world, the artist frequently takes themes from this affluent source and plays with shades and textures on canvas. He occasionally likes to experiment with diverse vague and plain forms, and enjoys breaking and constructing them in many ways. Blossoming and budding flowers as well as dense forests are recurring features in his paintings. In many of Khalid's works, one finds a great interchange between abstract and realistic forms.
Khalid mainly deals with the seasonal flowers of Bangladesh. He is overwhelmed by the vivid colours of spring flowers, especially Sonalu, Radhachura and Krishnachura. His very picturesque and appealing natural observation is profoundly embedded in Khalid's psyche and his acrylic and mixed media (a few done in oil) based paintings are created spontaneously by his skilled hands brushed with colours in the easels. The painter uses close-up views of the branches of trees containing patches of flowers of different colours and then distorts the work by splashing colour pigments.
As an abstract expressionist, the painter's focus is on colour and its various facets. He also experiments with unstructured forms and vague compositions, which are scrupulously used in his works. The artist has applied colours directly; piling up thick and at times thin layers on the canvas, and has created images that are bold and dynamic. Strong brush strokes make a textural state in his works which have not been intentionally done. At times, he deliberately creates a texture according to the paintings' distinctive requirements. He concentrates more on the application aspect and this trait creates a personal hallmark for his creations.
In his long chequered life, Khalid has gradually transformed his style into pure impressionism, where colour is the main focal point in his paintings and forms have been diluted there appropriately. In his use of materials and tints, he frequently goes for the bold and natural.
Khalid's paintings generally symbolise the romantic notion that the delights of this world have short shelf life. The paintings with flowers by Khalid are sometimes characterised by loose brushstrokes, simple forms and contrasting colours. He has discarded the careful shading and colour transitions of botanical illustrations in favour of a fresh look that unabashedly declares the role of artistic interpretation to be more important than careful accuracy.
The artist has also used outlining (the shapes) and strong lighting contrasts in his paintings and he has also rejected the tradition of profound space and viewpoint that have been prominent in art for centuries. His works stay near the surface of the painting, emphasising the materials of art rather than the illusions of art. The result is a shimmering effect that has helped to keep his paintings among the most recognisable images in the contemporary art scene.
Syed Abdullah Khalid's "Aparajeyo Bangla" on Dhaka University campus has become an icon. The sculpture is a reflection of the Bengali vigilance and indomitable yearning for freedom. The project was launched in 1973 when this artist was a young teacher at the Department of Fine Arts, Chittagong University. Throughout the making of the sculpture, Khalid had to face opposition from religious fanatics.
Khalid feels that this sculpture was a work of labour and perseverance. During the war of 1971, he had the chance to work closely with freedom fighters, however, he himself did not participate in the war directly.
In 1973, when Khalid was working as a young faculty member at the department of Fine Arts in Chittagong University, the DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students' Union) committee commissioned him to build a monument that would depict the glory of the Liberation War. During that time, he started looking for people who would model for his miniature scale structure. In his layout, he planned for three figures where the centre one would be a farmer with a rifle on his shoulder and grenade in his hand. On the left side there would be a lady with a first aid box in her hand and on the right side there would be a student who would represent the young student body who took part in the war.
Hasina Ahmed, Syed Hamid Moksood and Badrul Alam Benu, who are very close to Khalid, modelled for "Aparajeyo Bangla". He used to work 12-14 hours on average everyday to create his three-foot miniature scale model. His models would dedicate three hours for this project everyday for three months. The sculptor closely observed the models' personalities and his close association with them enabled him to do justice with his portrayal.
On August 15, 1975, the work suddenly came to a halt because of the heinous murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Political instability and the arrest of the then Vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, Abdul Matin Chowdhury, also disrupted the work.
The project remained incomplete till the end of 1978. Some fundamentalist groups tried to demolish the sculpture in 1977. However, the brave students of Dhaka University fiercely guarded the work. After a long hiatus, the work began once more in the beginning of 1979 -- with a new vision. At last the project was finished on December 16, 1979. The sculpture was inaugurated by wounded freedom fighters.
There are monuments recognised and commissioned by the government, and then there are those made by the people. "Aparajeyo Bangla" falls in the latter category. The sculptor wanted to do doing something for the country and fellow citizens. After the Liberation War, he contemplated a plan to create a symbol which would inspire generations of Bangladeshis.
Throughout his artistic journey, the cerebral sculptor has created sculpture of different shapes and sizes, using different kinds of material like cement, stone, fiber glass, ceramic and clay and a variety of processes and techniques. Many of them depict our glorious history of the Language Movement and Liberation War. Besides that, his unique murals in pottery, metals or mosaic can be seen on the walls of many residences and office buildings of the country.
Khalid's amicability earned him friendships with several legendary personalities of the country. He has done busts of Dr. Motahar Hossain Chowdhury, Professor Abdur Razzaque, folklorist Monsur Uddin Ahmed and poet Jasimuddin, among others.
Khalid completed his BFA in painting in 1969 from East Pakistan College of Arts and Crafts (presently Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka) and did his MFA in painting and sculpture in 1974. When he was a student of Dhaka University, Mir Mustafa Ali, head of Department of Ceramics, and Abdur Razzaque, head of Department of Sculpture, encouraged him to work on sculptures.
Some of his notable works include "Ankur" at the factory premise of Squibb Pharmaceuticals, a mural called "Abahaman Bangla" inside the premises of the Bangladesh Television Center in Rampura, a monument for martyrs called "Angikar" in Chandpur, the Shahid Minar of Chittagong University and a terracotta relief mural called "Toiling Masses" in the conference room of the Daily Ittefaq. His other noteworthy sculptures are "Abahoman Bangla", "Eternal Bengal", "Dolphin" and "Mother and Child".
The artist has received many prestigious awards in his long chequered life. He has recently received 'Shilpakala Award 2014' for his outstanding contributions to Bangladeshi art.