Rahman, Hamidur

Hamidur Rahman

Rahman, Hamidur (1928-1988) painter and academic artist. Hamidur Rahman was born in Dhaka in 1928. He received his art education in Bangladesh College of Arts and Crafts, Dhaka (1948-50), Ecole des Beux Arts, Paris (1950-51) and Central School of Art and Design, London. He attended a Summer Course in mural painting at the Academic de Belle Art in Florence, Italy in 1953. Later, he worked as a research scholar in Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at Philadelphia, USA during 1958-59. Hamidur Rahman took up art teaching alongside his work as a painter. He was a professor of fine arts at McDonald and Cartier Polytechnic at Montreal, Canada.

As a student Hamidur Rahman had a great appreciation of contemporary western art traditions, particularly the abstract expressionism that dominated the canvas of many artists looking for ways to accommodate the ruptured and contentious nature of reality after the Second World War. Hamidur Rahman himself practiced it briefly in the 1960s, but was never quite given over to this or any other particular style. Early on in his career, he realized the importance of working within a general frame of cultural references while trying to effect radical change in the way art was practiced. His experimentation with style and technique led him to question and reject the restrictive ideals of romanticism and the leading trends of academic realism.

He believed in a transforming aesthetics that creates significant forms while sifting through the repertoire of traditional images and icons. He himself widely used boat and fish as symbols, and found no conflict between these traditional symbols and non-objective, abstracted images.

Hamidur Rahman's work thus maintains a close link with the aesthetic and pictorial traditions of the past although he interprets them in constantly new ways. His work is sharply individualised and signatured with his distinctive moods and temperaments. His non-figurative works show the result of a relentless experimentation with style as well as materials. His expressionistic works reveal his sensitivity towards people caught on the wrong side of progress. The pain, horror and despair his canvasses convey are the result of a malfunction in the very core of a mechanical civilisation completely indifferent to human suffering and misery. His figurative works emphasise a sense of dislocation through distorted and muted looks on the faces of individuals, and through a heavy colour scheme. In his non-representational work, Rahman achieves the same effect by applying colour in clusters and close-knit texture.

Despite his modernistic sensibilities, Hamidur Rahman was a product of his time, his country and history. During the language movement of 1952, Rahman played the leading role in creating a design for the shaheed minar that, in its essential simplicity, is poignantly evocative of the passion of the Bengali nation. Rahman also did some murals for the Minar that narrated the history of the struggle for identity of the nation. In this, and many other murals he did at home and abroad (a total of 11000 square feet of wall-space), Rahman's interpretation of traditional icons and images is strikingly crisp and free-floating, although their architechtonic quality finally anchors them to familiar space and ground. The more celebrated of his murals are Borak Dudul, Fishermen's Village and Boat Composition that were done in 1957-58 for the Public Library.

Essentially cubist in conception, Rahman's approach to art, nevertheless, steered clear of any recognised exercises - cubist or otherwise. The first exhibition of his abstract paintings in 1956, for example. He accommodated half-realistic figures within a formal arrangement that aimed at abstraction. His style blends elements from different traditions, but all the while he attempted to radically locate both himself and his art in their constantly evolving contexts. Hamidur Rahman died in 1988. [Syed Manzoorul Islam]