Contemporary Art of Bangladesh: Artist Hamiduzzaman Khan - Retrospective 1964-2017

Prattle of the stone
Moinuddin Khaled

We collect pebbles all along our life. Pebbles represent shapes and forms. But these shapes have no geometric anonymous. They only appeal to your heart.
Our mind is also like that. The myriads of expression bubbling in our minds get an embodiment in the pebbles.
Every man is a unique entity, and this is the ultimate truth for a human being. Different minds seek to be expressive in different  forms. Man finds his abstract expressions embodied in the branches of the tree, in leaves, in flowers and in fruits. He learns in forms and shapes in animals he sees around. And it is true that a mind by some strange reasons establishes a special connection with a specific form. The connection may be a bird, the cloud or a flower, or even human limbs.
The pioneer in Bangladesh’s sculptors, Hamiduzzaman Khan, has made his lifelong journey in search of the ultimate truth going beyond such objects. It is not the definitive patterns of forms but the dynamic postures of forms that have embraced him so dearly. He only tried to make sense of the inner self of objects. Hamiduzzaman Khan was never a follower of realism. He never tried to give shape to anything in the Greco-Roman or Khajuraho style. And he never endeavored to give birth to shapes using models in studio.
Before him, Novera Ahmed and Abdur Razzak had tried their hands in sculpturing. Novera tried to give different creative forms to a new subject like sculpture. She borrowed from Henry Moor and Jacob Epstrin and chiseled her own shapes out. She had cobbled up the elements from Buddhism to make her black stone sculptures. They reflected the religiosity of Novera. It needs a thorough analysis to find out the extent of connect between Novera’s abstract form deriving from her purity of mind and the curious stone sculptures of Hamiduzzaman.
Hamid’s works works have also acquired an edge of purity just as Novera’s. His stone sculptors reflected the meditative state of mind. We will discover a different Hamiduzzaman in exhibition at Gallery Kaya. But before that we need to take stock of his life story and early works. Why hashe discovered life in stones after hacking steel plates? Why has he fallen in conversation with not-so-large stones after giving shapes to huge monuments? Why has he formed the heart on his open palms? And he rubbed his warm heart in the stones and said: ”Ah, what a beauty! I would never have discovered it without curving the stones.”
We went to have a flashback on Hamid. He comes from a watery world. His artistic self was stirred up by the Haors of Kishoeganj. The eddies of the Haors danced in his eyes. He who has not spent days in the watery world cannot imagine the movement created in water. Water can be deep and block. Water can play mysterious serenade with light. Man feels the earth from his infantile days. He learns to think the earth is such a loving entity just like his own mother. But these are not the only experiences. Hamid recalls the Gachihata rail station. He has seen the rain arriving at midday. People get down form that train and again it starts its journey collecting more and more passengers. Hamid’s mind molded in such things as the panting metal heart of the train engines and the huge iron beams of the station.
On one end of his visual spectrum lie the black waters of the haor, and on the other end the mechanical behemoths.
After going through Hamid’s life story, I believe he had understood the nature as much as the inner self of iron and steel, the truth being there is no difference between the animate and inanimate existences. They all have life, their own identities, their own compositions. The metals are after all derivatives of the earth. They too represent the nature.
Hamid’s village home was just a few minutes’ walk from the rail station. He has heard the rail engines thunder up and down the lines. At midnight, he cocked his ears to hear the poetry that the train writes on the metal rail lines. He has closely observed the pattern of rail station’s ceiling. Such details need to be told about Hamiduzzaman because he is simultaneously a painter and a sculptor of the mainstream. His sculptures are so imposing that they overshadow his paintings.
Hamid’s dialectic existence between the crystal clean water and the overbearing metals finds its outcome through his childhood memory of the watery world and the rail station. The artistic elements that gather in a man’s inner self in childhood carry him throughout his life.
Kishoregan is rich in artistic and cultural heritage. Hamid was aware of it from his childhood.He knew about Hemen Majumder who was acclaimed for his painting of women draped in wet clothes during the British regime. Hemen was form Gachihata too. Satyajit Roy also came from Kishoreganj. And so was Zainul Nirod C Chowdhury lived near Hamid’s place.
Water breeds vastness in man. That is why  Chandrabati, kajalrekha, Mohua and Malua were born here. Hamid grew up amog this strong cultural sphere. This is why no one objected to his painting and sculpturing although he was born in respectable Muslim family. Rather he was always encouraged by his relatives.
Zainul abedin once selected a few of Hamiduzzaman’s art works as gift for firing friends. Hamid was then a second year student. He was surprised that his teacher had selected him from so many artist. Zainul gave a piece of advice to Hamid: You have the skill in water color. Never give up working with watercolor. Since then Hamid has employed all his attention to water color. How can an artist mix two such contrasting forms sculpture and water color? But then if you think back Auguste Rodin or Hanry Moore both have made of drawings of their sculptures and added color to bring a feeling of space. So Hamid uses water color in paper and canvas. But at same time his outlines of sculptures are so doused in water color.
Did anyone work with metal before Hamiid? His hilsha fish curved out of steel and formless metal compositions all tell us that everything on earth indicates some short of form and rhythm.

As he has aged, his metal forms have flourished with uniqueness. The tree does not exist in his sculpture, and yet the feeling of the tree beams. The bird does not exist but its span of the wing, its beak do. Hamid has thus captured the dynamics of movable forms. He had added color and geometry to make them incandescent. He tried to reach the pinnacle of purity. That is why about a decade ago I had termed him an indigenous minimalist. He had experienced the contours of geometry in a different way. He knew that geometry sheds its starkness if life is injected into it.

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