Dhaka Drawings : Young Boys 174- 190

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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.

ABOUT: AT KAMALAPUR

‘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 

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.

www.oitijjo.org | info@oitijjo.org

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: Self-Portrait experiment & Thoughts on Obsession, attachment and detachment

And just like that, we let go. I dont let it go to me sometimes, and other times I do. In those moments, it seems unbearable. The very idea of being.

In conversations with my self, and others around me over the past few days I realise that my own obsessions, attachments and detachments can be quite eclectic. For example, the desire to draw compels me at times- an obsessive force that I cannot seem to reconcile with, so I draw. I give in.  An attachment I have developed is drawing in a particular place with similar groups of people, yet am completely detached from their very existence.  I witnessed today some violence – 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.

So, explaining that briefly, I realise my other obsessions and attachments and question the healthiness of such things. Wouldnt 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.  I believe principally in the idea of letting go to it, though I wonder if my Ego can handle such a philosophy. From experience, it seems its still a long way to go. Rebuilding after love has gone from the system, or the potential of such a thing can take its toll on the soul.

Yet, I have little desire for material accumulation – I create and make art – and write, once done however, it seems I am looking for the next idea to make or create.  This seems at face value, to me, a process that I want to apply across the realm of emotional wants and needs. I wonder if that makes sense with my desire to create spaces where people can experience certain emotions. 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. Yet, I am detached from most ideas of spaces that engage my soul in a particularly challenging way – these spaces of contestation – for me has been mostly spaces where family tend to congregate en-mass and more and more, spaces where noise, arguments and domination take place. So despite having an obsession for all these sacred spaces – the one most important, I seem to be detached from. Whether this particular detachment is healthy, I am unsure.

Perhaps, its to do with my own desire for independence, or the particular emotions that are evoked are not necessarily ones that I want to repeat again..
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. I also consider this blog-space quite safe too, it allows for a non-judgement method of posting and processing ideas and drawings.  Quite possibly, the presentation structure also allows me to quickly edit the thoughts. I have little desire to be ‘daring’ and ‘radical’ in the posting of the blogs. Yet, I can’t help but post drawings that I do. An obsession that I deem relatively healthy.

Another obsession that I have, seem to be the persistence to continue on, despite the odds and sometimes not knowing when to stop.  So, there is a desire to do something beyond its usually accepted level and to push myself. I realise it maybe to seek validation in some ways, both from myself and my peers, in doing something meaningful and purpose-led. However, I will stop for now and revisit this post tomorrow. Maybe I will revise it and the drawing. img_6811

 

 


Dhaka Drawings: Young Boy 104 (Experiments in Chinese Ink)

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Dhaka Drawings: Young boy 1

I finally got out to draw today.  I have a series of drawings to pursue – young boys that live or dwell on the streets of Dhaka. Problems are multitude, solutions often sparse and disjointed. But the focus for me with these larger drawings (A2) – to spend time with the sitter, and to not say much. Often, just being with someone is a powerful thing. As curious as I maybe, my researcher hat is going to be put to one side.

It took a while to settle my own nerves. It throws up once again for me the purpose behind Art.  I had an exchange with my old art teacher from school recently and brought back some thoughts about art that I had buried deep into the unconscious. Art is life. It constitutes a reason for being alive. But, when you are faced against ideas that are completely oppose to that – the struggle to survive, to eat, to have a shelter over your head, to stay safe and healthy. What is the role of Art? I have been advised to not think about it, to just do. But is it that easy? To just be? To not think about the injustice that clearly oscillates in the world around me? and What does one do?

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