Introspection on Essence

Shamsul Wares

From the recent paintings of Syed Hasan Mahmud it is discernible that his thoughts and ideas are inclined towards the internal and invisible aspects of the world in which we live. His intellect as a seeker after truth, seems to penetrate deep inside and explore the internal structure of things that constitute our phenomenal world. He seems to be interested in the significance of nature rather than the mere physical beauty of it. Instead of depiction or narration his paintings are concerned about the perception of the nature of the things. In reality he paints the perception of nature instead of the nature itself. His paintings are emotive at the same time evoke pure aesthetic pleasure. During the early years, after graduation, he was experimenting and studying the nature and possibilities of the watercolour. He was fascinated by the explosive nature of watercolour that can spontaneously occupy space and create unpredictable shapes and forms. Here he learned gradually how to control the accidental nature of watercolour compositions. Later he studied the possibilities of dynamic compositions using elementary shapes and lines in space. He used subdued colour on floating objects against white background in his compositions to denote the infinite space. Through these studies instead of having interest in the figurative and objective paintings, he developed a passion for the expressive nature of abstraction.

Hasan’s recent works seem to be initially derived from the artistic ideas of Jackson Pollock’s action paintings (abstract expressionism). After the end of second world war Pollock initiated a new kind of painting where sheer handling of painting was exercised regardless of any ulterior motive or purpose. Being impatient of conventional methods, he put his canvas on the floor and dripped, poured and threw paint to form surprising configurations. In France this concentration of pigments or blots left by the brush was already known as “tachisme” from “tache” (blot). Pollock was able to address and express two aspects of 20th century art: one that of childlike simplicity and spontaneity and the other at the opposite end, the sophisticated interest in the problems of “pure painting”. Because of the neutral nature of his paintings, instead of conventional titles, Pollock numbered his paintings like number one, number two and so on. Hasan’s recent paintings usually in black and white pigments, produced with blots and textures are basically neutral in nature. But in an abstract way, unlike Pollock, he tends to relate his paintings with the visible world. This is more discernible in the titles of his paintings, which are derived from six seasons and various moods of nature. And in this way he has moved away from the cerebral aspects of “pure painting” in order to affiliate himself with the oriental mysticism, to some extent like that of Zen Buddhism. Zen (meditation) teaches us that enlightenment is achieved through the profound realization that one is already an enlightened being. This awakening can happen gradually or in a flash of insight, but in either case it is the result of one’s own effort. In some of the fine paintings of Hasan, executed in black tone, soft contours and distilled textures, the serenity and the contemplative mood evoke spirituality. While Pollock was interested, like most of the western artists, in form, Hasan, like the oriental artists in general, depicts spirit. His paintings are the interpretations of the spirit in nature. While Pollock was looking for the contrast between man and nature, Hasan looks for affinity between man and nature. Although Hasan at the beginning had interest in objective reality, he seems now gradually moving towards a realm of beauty and mystery to be admired. Due to this new recurring quest for the metaphysical his paintings are gaining greater sensitivity and perception. As a result his paintings are gradually turning from anthropocentric nature towards cosmocentric nature. In the same way as his focus is moving towards spirituality, the skill and technical mastery is becoming secondary in order to achieve the rare quality of transcendence. The ultimate objective of Hasan’s paintings seems to suggest essence, the eternal quality of nature. The concept of essence as opposed to illusion seems to be the ultimate pursuance.

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