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Beauty among decay

  • Published at 10:41 pm June 23rd, 2016

Gifted artists Kazi Sayeed Ahmed and Sarkar Nahid Niazi have been living in a small two storied house in Shyambazaar of old Dhaka for years now, choosing the side of the river Buriganga as their space for creating their thoughtful and unconventional works of art. The two had been classmates at the Institute of Fine Arts of Dhaka, where they first began influencing and inspiring each other with their artistic styles and creativity. This couple’s work is giving food for thought to Dhaka’s art critics with their rejection of most old school ideas of abstract composition, and that too on two avant-garde painting mediums – gunnysacks and worn-out wood.

According to Kazi Sayeed Ahmed, “I grew up in the Shyambazaar area, where spices, onions and vegetables have been traded for ages. My family had and still has a bakery business, and in this business loads of sugar and flour are delivered and dispatched in large jute sacks,” he said.

He wanted to paint those jute sacks, and fill in its rough stitches with a blend of forms and colours and bring them to life on a canvas. “I set my mind on painting on the very gunnysacks, instead of painting them.”

Sarkar Nahid Niazi recalled how Shyambazaar had struck her when she first moved there. When I moved to that Shyambazaar house after our marriage, I was influenced by the old town’s liveliness and its amazing old-world ambiance,” she said.

She started exploring the nooks and crannies of Old Dhaka to seek inspiration, and she opted for using an unusual medium – wood. “I became engrossed with the colour and the composition of wooden boxes and planks that were left around by the side of the river. I wanted to paint on them. I wanted to put colours on them to see how those would blend with and form on wood’s own formations and textures,” she said.

Both of these talented artists' efforts have led to a recent collection that critics will definitely approve of, and evoked a sense of time, decay and nostalgia. Niazi created sixteen works of art that exhibits dimensions of sculpture and painting alike, building layers and breaking surfaces at the same time, much like the medium being used. Ahmed's discarded gunnysacks splashed with the mixture of bright colours also constructed a fiercely lyrical vision of beauty and decay in his eighteen paintings.

While the layering of sacks gave Ahmed’s canvas a three-dimensional sweep and their patching together made one think of reconstructed memories, Nahid’s images of wooden planks and discarded wooden shutters also evoked feelings of desolation. Both of their work seemed to testify to the ravages wrought by time, but attempted to extract beauty out of the decay.

We have both found our languages of artistic expressions in those seemingly banal discarded objects, and we have both learned to find life among things which are thought to be dead,” the couple affirmed.