As one of the most prominent figures in the field of contemporary art in Bangladesh, Gulshan Hossain has earned a number of national and international accolades which really define her significance in the arena.
The painter and installation artist’s works have been extensively exhibited around the world and remain in the collection of world renowned personalities and establishments including national and international galleries, international auction houses, celebrities, political and diplomatic leaders and corporates.
Gulshan Hossain’s artistic ingenuity is an inherent part of her upbringing as she grew up in a family where cultural practices were a norm. Talking to Showtime, the artist revealed how her early family habits has led her into the domain of the artistic world. She said, “In my childhood I have seen my family members practicing music, reading Rabindranath Tagore and poetry of Jibanananda Das. In later years, many of my works have been inspired by these legendary Bengali personalities.”
Her father, Dr Syed Abdul Wahab, who was a CMO (chief medical officer) of the national parliament, used to take her and her siblings to various historical and significant monuments and mansions. That is where Gulshan got her inclination to incorporate abandoned mansions on her canvas. In her words, “The architecture and ambiance of abandoned mansions call out to me and I can connect with the atmosphere.
Her ancestry is quite impressive as she was born in the Syed family, who, according to the artist, has remained socially, economically, and politically prominent since the 14th century. Her direct paternal ancestors were Shah Ali Baghdadi and Makhdum Shah Daulah Shahid.
Gulshan’s great-maternal-grandfather was Munshi Gairatullah, the founder of Jessore City Corporation, while her paternal grandfather and his family were zamindars of Alukdia and Kacher Khol. Her other notable relatives include Farukh Ahmad (grand-uncle), Zillur Rahman Siddiqui (grand-uncle), Dr Syed Modasser Ali (uncle), Syed Ali Ahsan (uncle), Professor ANM Muniruzzaman, martyred intellectual and former Chairman of the Department of Statistics at Dhaka University (uncle). In short, she was brought up in a milieu that was enriched with renowned and successful people with experiences in worldly cultures and etiquette and from a varied field of arts, sciences, law, government administration, business and political leadership.
However, it was her childhood trauma which prompted her to bring the atrocious killings and suffers during the Liberation War as subject on her canvas. She lost several of her family members, including her eldest brother Syed Nasirul Wahab, first cousin and uncles during the 1971 Liberation War.
She recalled, “I can still remember the horrendous day when they killed my brother and uncle. I was just a little girl, confused and scared. The trauma later manifested its ugly face again and again, my work portrays how deeply I was affected by the incident.”
Long before she got her professional learning, Gulshan secured her name as an artist. Her impressive list of accolades include two National awards and two Grand awards, most prestigious ones in the field of art in the country.
In 2006, she acquired her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Development Alternative, Dhaka, Bangladesh, and did not stop there but went on to pursue a masters from Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, UK in 2008.
Though her first academic learning came not in the field of arts, but a graduate degree in Political Science from Dhaka University in 1987. Almost immediately after her graduation in Political Science, she took a serious interest in painting which was her true passion, and she only completed the graduation as family imposition which she does not regret. In the early part of her career, she gained success, even garnered the National Award, as a self-taught artist.
She mentioned her arts influences, “My paintings are largely influenced by the early 20th century art-movement of Post-Impressionism merged with the ideologies expressed in the Postmodernism movement.”
Many of her earlier works were ominously inspired by artist Aminul Islam, who was a mentor to her, and then later she was further influenced by the knowledge she has received from Beth Harland, under whom she completed her MFA in the UK.
Recently, Gulshan took part in a group exhibition organised by the Bangladesh Consulate General in New York in association with Gallery 21 and The New York Art Connection, along with several Bangladeshi artists.