Mohammad Iqbal appeared in the Dhaka art scene in the 1990s with his strong philosophical themes and experimental paintings. He was recognised for his skilled drawings and impulsive spirit. He is mainly distinguished for his theme-based paintings. His canvases are engrossed with various visible and shadowy figures. His protagonists on canvas are usually exploited people and mystics. The difference between the economic structures of different communities leads him into portraying their lifestyles. From the onset, his works have mirrored the bitter realities of the society. His paintings effectively touched the heart of art enthusiasts because of his sensible approach. The subject has been addressed at times with abhorrence against injustice and often with anxiety and rage caused by it. This is the grist to the mill in Mohammad Iqbal's case. His recent pet subject is children, whom he regards as neglected and mistreated.
Figures have taken a prominent place in Iqbal's paintings. Agony seems to get the focus. Iqbal has been working on the lives of Bauls and sages. It should be mentioned that the artist firstly concentrates on his theme, than he pours his labour to other technical aspects. The Baul way of life and the philosophy attract him the most as he finds spirituality and sanctity in them.
The artist is most comfortable working on a large canvas, as his themes and compositions demand space. His work is elucidated by a powerful interplay of figures and space, helped by strong and sweeping brushstrokes.
Iqbal has also painted bearded faces, along with red clothing, beads, horns of buffalo, animals, talisman and trident. Some of the other motifs in his paintings are middle-aged figures, ancient edifice, rivers, vessels, hills and sky. The figures-sometimes in the middle of the canvas, sometimes on the side-always appeared in front of a background. Some of his paintings clearly highlight pure composition. The compositions convey his fondness for translucent lines and tiny forms. His mode of expression is figurative, symbolic, abstract, semi-abstract and conceptual.
Iqbal says, "I haven't always maintained one particular method, style or technique. I like to articulate the process of thinking and then add sensation, emotion and personal experience."
Iqbal feels as a painter he has some responsibility to society and he wants to open the eyes of the people around him. The artist also likes to paint children, whom he regards as overlooked and often uncared for. Iqbal has portrayed many children's faces in approximately the same disposition. Through the oval shaped faces, the artist seeks to convey children's dreams, yearnings and the artist focuses on eyes. Their eyes are the predominant aspect of the paintings. The eyes express surprise, pain, longing, puzzlement and panic. The artist feels all children look the same and their desires and expressions are also similar.
The artist feels "Children are a symbol of hope, peace and future. Their survival depends on a world devoid of war, brutality and violence. Many children die every year in conflicts and famines. Child abuse, trafficking, killing and abuse are now regular incidents in the world. It causes me immense pain when I see children in inhuman conditions."
Iqbal invests considerable time on each painting. He is very meticulous about creating the ground of the canvas. At first, the painter applies colours directly -- piling them up thick, and at times thin -- on the canvas, and tries to create an image that is dynamic and has appealing texture and sensuous tones. Most of his paintings are oil-based as he is comfortable in the medium and had his higher education in Fine Arts on Oil Painting.
Iqbal is now an Assistant Professor at the Department of Drawing and Painting, Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. He has received several prestigious awards----Aoki Shigeru Grand prize, Nomura Grand Prize from Tokyo University of the Arts.
Mohammad Iqbal's 37th solo art exhibition titled "Journey of the Mystics" is now on at Gallery Chayamachi, Osaka in Japan. The exhibition was inaugurated on May 14, and ends today.