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Demonstrating myths and folk ballads

Published : Monday, 2 July, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 789

Artist Abdus Shakoor Shah is widely recognised for his folk motifs and ballads. His present work breaks new ground in its technical and material aspects. The works seem more time consuming and technically phenomenal than ever before. Over a large span of his career, Shakoor has been working on folk motifs and ancient ballads. Folk ballads of Mymensingh-the famous Mahua and Malua love stories, Nakshi Kanthar Maath, Gazir Pata, Manasha Pata have found prominent places in his paintings.

Over a large span of his career (from 1996), Shakoor has been working on folk motifs. The ballads of "Mymensingh Geetika" -- the famous Mahua and Malua love stories, "Nakshi Kanthar Maath", "Gazir Pat" and "Manasha Pat" are recurring themes in his works. Shakoor uses animal figures such as elephants, bulls, dogs, cats, tigers, parrots, peacocks, birds and serpents -- all as pleasant and decorative motifs.
After completing a degree in painting, Shakoor joined the Institute of Fine Arts (now the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka) in 1980. He took a keen interest in painting, tapestry, batik and screen-print or serigraph. Earlier he had been a student, painting at the Department of Fine Arts, Chittagong University, under Rashid Chowdhury, who encouraged him to work with our heritage, culture and myths.
Abdus Shakoor's painting career began in 1978 when he was studying in Baroda University in India. His passion for art was fuelled by discussions on arts by his teachers in the university. Questions cropped up about the paintings he had been doing all his young days. During his study in Baroda University, he started experimenting with different styles, forms and colours. He was highly influenced by Gazir pata, Laxmi Sara, alpana, shital pati, nakshi kantha, wood works, wall paintings and other folk art forms. He was specially moved by the spirit of Bengali art. The works of Jamini Roy also influenced him at the beginning of his career. But over the years he developed a unique style, adapting it from our folk art. Now he seeks to present Bangladesh, the Bengali nationalism, culture and language as his subjects; on the other hand he wants to also portray our Asian identity.
"I try to present my country (and its folk elements) in my works," says Shakoor. Blue, black, yellow, white and crimson are used predominantly, giving a meditative approach to Shakoor's characters. The canvas' outlines are in black and white broad lines. The intense backgrounds give the viewers a romantic and imposing view. His ink drawings are done in contour, with a feeling of space on the background, which gives the composition a certain likeness to portraits.
Shakoor's works delineate various types of male and female figures. He tries to focus on the expressions of female faces, specially the eyes. Women's ornamentation is another trait in his works. "I concentrate on colours and keep the woman's simple appearance in mind. Texts for my paintings come from different ballads such as the 'Mahua' and 'Malua' stories. I have used traditional motifs such as alpana patterns and various types of animals. I have also used some geometrical shapes, for instance rectangles, straight lines and circular forms," said the veteran artist.
Shakoor's paintings are not simple illustrations of the traditional ballads. He uses calligraphy stylistically on his canvas which sometimes includes human figures along with birds and animals. Each work depicts a complete story that highlights the Bengali identity. His works are closely related to local myths, beliefs and visions. The paintings are raw in nature and at the same time modern in their expressions.
Many of his works predominantly use collages and the artist directly pastes pieces of colourful paper, saree, pieces of cloths on his canvas. These pieces give his works a more decorative quality. The canvas appears more vibrant and lively for its slightly cracked surface. In Shakoor's different series of works, one gets glimpses of dusky village women who adorn themselves with modest ornaments. In his paintings, females wear bright clothes and silver jewellery. Some of his works authentically represents the rustic lifestyle, bringing to his canvas a blend of emotions, hardship and conflict.
It is clear from Shakoor's paintings that he looks for an identity for the country through the conventional means of expression, rather than personal means or rather towards finding his own solution. His paintings are illustrative rather than expressive, using contemporary native expression styles to portray his illustrations.

Abdus Shakoor has won many awards, which are proof enough of his formidable skills. He has held 26 solo exhibitions in the country and abroad. He has participated in over 120 group exhibitions in places like USA, England, Poland, Argentina, Japan, France, China, Iran, Panama, Italy and India. He is now the honourary Professor of the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.

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