Invitation: Closing Event, Portraits of Kamalapur

I will reflect on the exhibition next week. Its been intense. For now, some images and a final invite to the closing event this Thursday.

Portraits of Kamalapur Exhibition Invitation

Here are some images from the opening night. Councillor Ayesha Choudhury of Beckton came along with friends and members of the public. The photos were taken by Enamul Hoque 140717_51140717_101140717_47
Councillor Ayesha Choudhury opening up the exhibition. 140717_79140717_19IMG_0038A panorama of the wall.

Exhibition Invitation: Portraits of Kamalapur

Excited to invite you all to the next exhibition of the Kamalapur portrait drawing project. I hope people can make it. The opening night is Thursday 13th July 2017 at 6pm. More details below.


Exhibition: At Kamalapur, a reflection

On my to do list of readings has been to read again, the brilliant John Berger who recently passed away. (YouTube Link to John Berger: Art of Looking / PDF version of the book online) – I realise how difficult it is to write a review of my own work – so, bare with me! 🙂

I wanted to reflect and review ‘At Kamalapur’ the current exhibition of portrait drawings at the Gram Bangla, 68 Brick Lane, London.

As the artist whose work is being exhibited,  I have struggled to be a little removed from it – to have until now to think about what it means to me to get to part of the process. I recently managed to visit the Picasso exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London- it left me intrigued, perhaps in a way I was not expecting – the image that continues to play on my mind is the one ‘Claude Drawing’ it struck a cord in me – and reminded me of a drawing I did of the children drawing at the station, ‘The site of Drawing’ : a slight deviation, but reflects for me quickly – influences and inspirations that continually reshape the work we do and the meanings we take from them. Time provides, always some scope for critical reflection.

A lot of my occupation within this strand of life, of self exploration as artist in a situated environment has been to force myself to ‘look’, and ‘see’ and ‘hear’ with quite possibly a rudimentary tool set – pencils, paper, charcoals, Chinese ink and sometimes oil pastels.  Why these set of tools? because they are simple, they are honest materials to work with in depicting lines, movements, marks, scratches, shades of light and dark onto paper, they allow for abstraction and focus and the potential to re-work until what I draw, connects with what I think am seeing. Its tough.

‘At Kamalapur’ exhibition finally provides an opportunity to hear about how other people – the public- look and see these drawings, removed away from the site of Dhaka’s main station.  What is it that the artist wants to present, and in this case – represent? ‘I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them’. (Lucian Freud)

The curated space, with eight A2 drawings, (2 figures, 6 portraits) framed strongly in black; and the selection of similar drawings provides the potential to have a conversation. I left it to the viewer to imagine what the life of each drawing maybe about. It has led to interesting dialogue.

I did not have any interest in recreating or curating the experiences of being in the station, as such it was not curated to be an immersive experience. As a snapshot of a project spanning now two years, in various shapes and forms, it really simply acts as an introduction for me, to really think about the purpose of art and drawing and also the intent to exhibit. The obsessions of technique, of aesthetic qualities, of proportion is slowly being left to one side- yet, the significance of them not being lost. Perhaps we are not being critical enough – of its intentions, the ethics and mortality, of such ideas.  The number of times I have left the space emotionally vulnerable has beguiled me, yet, I go back. Wanting to continually push the ways that I see.

Within this particular drawing process, the abstraction to a white paper space, to limited interference – reduced to the face, to the eyes or sometimes the figure. I continue to question how I look at people and what it means to be. The sitters are people, as much as you and I are, and its that human quality, through the technique of drawing, that I am keen to understand. What does it mean to be a human being?  especially on a piece of paper? the question to challenge the potential of the art making process. The drawings are often transitory, of a moment in time of a person’s life. Sometimes, larger than life, often, they still feel romanticised. A failure on my part, perhaps?

However, when work is presented in a restaurant space, in a street filled with so much activity, and madness of culture and consumption, does it work? Or is it that, the romance of the idea – of being lost in such spaces – of having other things to do, despite it being carefully placed? It being the backdrop to a busy canteen of people of eating and chatting? So, how much abstraction and curation is required here? Does the art command itself to be seen? and how will people know? Do I care so much about that? What makes me feel uncomfortable? What prods me to continue on asking and potentially making? Can it be more than emotive? instinctual? The potential to see a truth, an outpouring of love? it is hard to say. Even so, I tried to summarise, the context of presenting these drawings in a space on Brick Lane, in a simple way. In order to allow the viewer to see exactly what it is that I am focused on.  Perhaps, I also need to ask others write a review, and a continual conversation to take place – as build up to a potentially larger exhibition and publication.

The exhibition is free to view and runs until 22- January 2017 from 10am – 11pm, daily.

@Gram Bangla, 68 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RL

Frames were made by John Baker, who runs Workshop 53
Photo credits: Enamul Hoque
Facebook link to more images
Walls were re-painted by amazing help from Salam Jones, Heiner Salomon, Kazi Arefin, Maher Anjum, myself & Shahid bhai.


‘At Kamalapur’ is an on-going art project by Ruhul Abdin, and forms as part of a series of portrait drawings of people at the Kamalapur Railway Station, in Bangladesh’s capital, the megacity of Dhaka.  

Drawn from life, in conte charcoal and pencil on A2 drawing paper and studies across sketchbooks, the portraits express what the artist sees, and feels at the time. There is a rigour of revisiting the site, and re-drawing the same sitters, if chance permits.  

There are very limited conversations, or even time for such an activity with his sitters, and therefore, a lot of the portraits will only be a memory of seeing.  Those portraits where conversations have taken place, it is in confidence and in respect to the sitter, to not then expose those stories. 

Concentration is the main challenge, and so is the ability to let go of the drawing, when a sitter decides that they do not want to be sitting for the portrait drawing anymore.  

It is up to the viewer to imagine what the life of each sitter may be.

Dhaka, it is one of the most dense megacities in the world, with a population of over 17 million people. Kamalapur Station is the largest in the country and the most important terminal for transportation between Dhaka and the rest of Bangladesh.


Oitij-jo Collective, a platform for UK’s creative talents of Bengali and the British-Bengali Community ranging from Literature, Art, Design, Fashion and Music. This exhibition is part of Oitij-jo’s up and coming ‘AKHON/Where is Bengal Now?’ festival. |

GRAM BANGLA 68 Brick Lane, E1 6RL
Authentic Bangladeshi fish restaurant speciality fresh water fish from Bangladesh. It is the first restaurant to specifically cater for the need of the Bangladeshi community particularly amongst the young professionals.

Dhaka Drawings: Kamalapur Railway Station 1 (in development day 2)


Dhaka Drawings: Young boy 139-141


Exhibition as part of the Season of Bangla Drama, London

I am excited to be a part of the Season of Bangla Drama this coming November. Over the month, Paraa will be exhibiting some of my A2 portrait drawings and the wider studio work in relation to our Cycle of Care project. This project has involved working with groups of vulnerable urban children at different stages, and in various methods. We hope those in London and further afield are able to attend.  I will attend some of the theatre plays once am back in London.


For the full brochure, click here

Click on the image below for a link to the wider festival and tickets page from Tower Hamlets Arts and Events:

Dhaka Drawings: Self-Portrait experiment (Day 2) & Revised thoughts on obsession, attachment and detachment


Revised drawing day 2

And just like that, we let go. I dont let it get to me sometimes, and other times I do. In those moments, it seems unbearable. The very idea of being. Despair, perhaps? or more than likely, rudderless and unhinged – its to be cherished for exactly what it is – being in the world. There are perhaps reasons why I admire the thinking of the phenomenologists.

In conversations with my self, and others around me I realise that my own obsessions, attachments and detachments can be quite eclectic, or more erratic as time goes on. For example, the desire to draw overwhelms me at times- to write, or to develop a particular idea – an obsessive force that I cannot seem to reconcile with, so I draw. I give in. To the pursuits by acknowledging it equates to the soul expanding its own love.  In relation to that obsession, there is an attachment I have developed in drawing in a particular place with similar groups of people – as well as rigorous revisits to the self-portrait. Yet I am almost completely detached from their very existence – and my own – and immersed in a material production process that fascinates me in both its simplicity and complexity.  I witnessed today some violence between one of my sitters and his cohort- and I imagine, this is a daily occurrence – its an everyday experience for some of these groups of children and people that I engage with on my weekly drawing.  I was also a spectacle this time round, and I stopped – to stare at my observers. It unnerved me for the first time in a while. I did feel like a caged animal in a zoo, despite being in a public space, I was deemed a public spectacle.

So, explaining that briefly, I realise my other obsessions and attachments and question the healthiness of such things. I wonder, wouldn’t it be fantastic to just let go to Love fully, and not worry about getting attached or obsessed with it, that when it arrives, its embraced, and when it goes, its gone. Maybe to return, and maybe to not. (It always returns and expands, we just have to be open to it) I believe principally in the idea of letting go to it, though I wonder if my ego can handle such a philosophy and battering that comes with it. From experience, it seems its still a long way to go, yet, not that far. Rebuilding after love has transformed the system, or the potential of such a thing can take its toll on the mind. Yet, Love as a driver, in control, is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the soul – and one to pursue. Nothing else perhaps matters.

My obsession over the years with ‘sacred’ spaces – finding a place to meditate, to think, to contemplate, to be, etc. The sacredness of these spaces leave a particular attachment to me – they could be as mundane as a park bench, or on a rickety rickshaw hurtling through the Dhaka streets at night (the space being that I occupy on the rickshaw, in movement through the city (which I also occupy- in quite ephemeral temporality – it forces the self to acknowledge the fragility of being in a Mega-city.

I have the privilege of enjoying the everyday – it makes me become quite aware that its a luxury of sorts. So despite having an obsession for all these sacred spaces – the education, reading and the experiences thus far puts me in a far more privileged space mentally.  A lot of my writing reflects the idea of privilege – perhaps a  burden I carry. An accidental set, lumbered with it through birth, education and life experiences.  it doesnt discount my own personal struggle – with my identity or for establishing the experimental architecture practice in Bangladesh. It acknowledges that I put it in context; in that context, I am privileged.  Definitely privileged to experiment and test ideas – through art and architecture.

I enjoy obsessing over the idea of the self-portrait, continually wanting to see myself through my art, possibly because the voyeur in me, or the narcissist in me is curious to see what I make of myself in the privacy of my space, naked or otherwise. Quite inspired by Egon Schiele and more so now by my own curiosity. I also consider this blog-space quite safe too (despite the numerous attacks on bloggers in Dhaka; my values, or ideas, my atheist-agnostic stance, or my sexual freedoms are not things that am preaching to anyone.) I have little desire to be ‘daring’ and ‘radical’ in the blog. I want to leave that for the reality of practice – in the work we do on the ground.

I will revisit this thought and maybe revise again.

img_6843Self portrait – Revised drawing.  20″ x 30″ Chinese cartridge paper with compressed conte charcoal