Celebrated painter Aminul Haque

Aminul Haque captures his ideas, feelings and emotions in his artworks. Haque, a household name in the artistic milieu of Assam, has made remarkable contributions in the field of art, producing some outstanding paintings.

His masterpieces on canvas–based on the use of geometric firms–have earned rave reviews from the art critics. This acclaimed artist inherited his artistic mind from his parents–Mafijuddin Ahmed and Anowara Begum.

Haque’s eternal tryst with art began during his childhood and scoring highest marks in fine arts while studying at Don Bosco High School in Guwahati laid the foundation of his career as an artist. And not just art, his fascination towards music has also propelled him to pen many lyrics and compose music.

The artist has been associated with the Guwahati Artists’ Guild since it’s inception as the founding member. And presently he is serving as its president.

A symphony of bright and intense colours is vividly visible in Haque’s artworks, while depicting his thoughts and feelings on canvas.

As an artist, his first solo art exhibition was hosted in 1975 at Haji Musaphirkhana in Guwahati. Subsequently, his artworks were also exhibited at Guwahati State Art Gallery in 1985, at Academy of Fine Art, Kolkata in 1996, at Guwahati Artists’ Guild in 2008 and at Lalitkala Academy in 2017.

Apart from this, his paintings were also put up for display at several other art exhibitions including in Shillong (1977), Kolkata (1999) Baroda (1999) New Delhi (2002) and in Kohima (2001).

In an interview to Pranjyoti Nath, Haque, who retired as an official of Food Corporation of India (FCI) in 2015, shared his thoughts about his artworks, passion for music as well as his association with Guwahati Artists’ Guild.

Excerpts:

You have been using water colour and acrylic medium in your paintings. Could you please speak on the use of such medium?

I don’t think any medium is indispensable. Quite often one has to work with the colours and other materials available in the market. Since childhood I have been using water colour. A painting can be done with much ease with water colour. The time consumed is much less while brightness and liveliness are hallmarks of water colour paintings.

Aminul Haque’s artwork

The acrylic medium became available in the market since about the nineties. Prior to that oil colour dominated over the canvas. Oil colour is still used by artists. During my younger days, I also used oil colour; but it is a costly affair.   Presently the acrylic medium has gained popularity across the globe. I too have worked sufficiently with this medium. It is a substitute for water colour and a painting in acrylic medium can be completed in a much shorter time. However, I believe that the medium is not important; what is important is how well you express your idea, feelings and emotions through your painting.

Art critics quite often compare your paintings with those of Pablo Picasso. Your comments.

I am aware of such comments. But I never keep any such object in mind while painting. I always try to maintain an original approach in my paintings. However, I must say that paintings of great Indian artists like Amrita Sher Gill, Yamini Roy, Makbul Fida Hussain among others have, consciously or unconsciously, left their impression on my mind.

With a view to projecting my ideas more forcefully and effectively, quite often I resort to the use of geometric figures like square (cube), triangle and circle (sphere). Again, I sometimes use bold lines with the purpose of giving direction to my thoughts and the subject matter. As in music a perfect blending of rhythm and tune is vital, I try to achieve the same in my art. However, art critics are of the view that Third Dimension and Cubism find expression in my art.

Could you throw some more light on geometric impression in your paintings?

Geometric impression makes it easier to manifest our ideas and thoughts. Geometric images found reflection in my early paintings as well. Further, it makes the art a lot more striking to the viewers.

You have also scripted paintings on social issues. In this respect mention may be made of your Haati-Manuh Sanghat (man-elephant conflict) and Moon in the cage. What other social issues are you working on at present?

Aspiration, love, despair and such factors of individual life and also changes in the society often find expression in art. Folk songs and music have also had its impact in my artistic endeavours.

The painting ‘Moon in the cage’ was an accidental creation. I felt deeply about the life of courtesans as portrayed in films like Mughal-e-Azam and Umrao Jaan. Dancing in men’s gatherings laced with wine, becomes the life style of courtesans and after long years they find themselves enveloped by seclusion. Again, although time goes by and their youth turn pale, yet they have to put up a young look all docked up in make-ups and selective dresses and continue with their profession. On the other hand, many of them continue to harbour the dream of a better future. It is this dream of a courtesan that I am trying to project as the moon trapped in a cage in said painting.  The loneliness of the woman is being tried to be reflected with a cat as her companion.

While man-elephant conflict is the theme of Haati-Manuh Sanghat, the painting tries to portray the dilemma and dichotomy in the minds of the devotees of Lord Ganesh.

Again, I am also trying to project in some of my paintings the impact of globalization and western culture on village folks, leading to radical changes in their lifestyle.

Further, I have also tried to portray through my paintings social issues as raised by Dr Bhupen Hazarika in his songs like Bistirno Paarore and Sitore Semeka Raati among others. Old age loneliness has also found place in my works.

Prior to carving yourself a niche as an artist, you were known as a popular musician. You have also penned a large number of lyrics to which others have accorded tunes. Could you please speak a few words on that aspect of your life?

During my childhood, I took part in ‘Akonir Mel’ and later in ‘Yuva Bani’ programmes of All India Radio (AIR). During my student years I also took to singing on the stage.  Songs of Dr Bhupen Hazarika and Khagen Mahanta were my favourite. I also sang my favourite numbers from popular Hindi movies. All that was when I was a student of Sainik School in Goalpara.  However, later, I realized that in the absence of proper guidance (Taalim & Riaaz), it would not be possible for me to grow into a matured singer. Hence, I took to writing songs and that helped me to remain in close contact with the world of music. However, all along I continued with my painting endeavours.

As time flowed by, I came in touch with several lyricists and music designers. Renowned music composer late Mukul Barua, was instrumental in imparting to me the needful knowledge about songs and music.  Along with his son Bipul Barua, I organized several chorus programmes in educational and other institutions.

Again, during my college days, I came into contact with several stalwarts of the music world like Ramen Choudhury, Hyder Ali, Bhupen Uzir, mandolin expert Gopal Bodo, table specialist Abhinandan Banikya, singers Rituparna Sarma and Ashim Das among others.

On the other hand, I came to know that until recognized by the All India Radio as a lyricist, it was meaningless to be writing songs. Hence, for the needful recognition, I submitted a collection of lyrics written by me before the AIR authority for due recognition. Later I came to know that my papers containing the lyrics were lost. The immediate outcome was that I also lost the urge to write lyrics, at least for the time being.

However, around the same time I won the first prize in the All Assam Nabin Sarma Memorial Chorus Competition and children’s chorus competition. This led to eminent artiste like Tafazul Ali to praise and encourage me to continue with lyric writing activity.

In the 80’s, I joined service in the Food Corporation of India (FCI) under the artists’ quota. Others who joined the FCI along with me were Samar Hazarika, Bhupen Uzir, Apurba Bezbarua, Binanda Pathak and some others.

Very soon the first Assamese song record Raagini was brought out by Tinsukia-based Roy Cycle Mart. I wrote several songs for Raagini and also scripted the cover design for the cassette. The songs, tuned to music by Bhupen Uzir, became quite popular in those days. Next I wrote two songs for the Assamese film Devi. The songs were sung by Samar Hazarika and Malabika Barua.

I also penned songs for the film Durosimona that were given tunes by music designer Arun Das. I also wrote the title song for Samar Hazarika’s cassette Paal Tuli Dilo. Abani-Bhaben joint endeavour led to the production of several cassettes which contained many of my lyrics. Quite a few of these songs were sung by vanguard singer Usha Utthup.

Later, having taken charge of Guwahati Artist Guild, I virtually moved away from the world of music. Nevertheless, on a lesser scale, I am continuing with my lyric writing activity. I am also contemplating the idea of bringing out a book of my lyrics.

You have also made a painting of Goddess Durga. Could you tell us about your feelings before and after you had completed the work?

Goddess Durga is an integral part of Indian culture. People believe she has unbounded powers and hat she crushed all evil forces including the atrocious Mahisasura.  Displaying utmost respect, artists have been making paintings of Goddess Durga in various forms. I too have scripted several paintings of Goddess Durga – sometimes for the cover page of Durga Puja issue of magazines and on other occasions as pure paintings. An artist has no religion and hence nobody has made any adverse comment.

As an artist how do you find the scenario in Assam? What role has the artists’ to play in this regard?

So far as the realm of art is concerned, a lot needs to be done. In Assam even the necessary infrastructure does not exist. As a result, a large number of people belonging to the world of art do not find the much needed platform for proper expression of their talent or necessary exposure. This is because the Government has turned a blind eye to the world of art. The absence of a proper market for art has also come in as a dampener for those who have taken art as a profession. On this count, till the Government accords priority to the field of art, the growth of the area may not make much headway.

Artists should focus on guiding principle, deep thoughts and research on art. Some have been seen to have attempted to capture the centre-stage at the national or even at the international level after scripting just one or two paintings. Such approach cannot help in the growth of art in any way. Some even copy from Google paintings. This leads to the loss of the minimum of virtues an artist ought to have. It is easy to learn the basics of art. But to cultivate art as a culture is difficult. Thus research and thought process are extremely important.

Art critic Harverd Reed observed: “Nothing has been taught about painting. They have been taught to read and write, to dance and sing. But it never occurred to teach people how to look at a painting …” Hence, the gap between the viewer and the artist can be reduced through discussion; criticism helps in the growth of art. I am of the view that if art is to be made popular, we must enhance awareness on art among the folks and also among the high ups in the Government.

Guwahati Artists’ Guild began its journey from 1978. How has the Guild been promoting the interest of art and the artists?

Guwahati Artists’ Guild was floated with an aim to promote the art of painting and related arts and to carry forward their messages to the people, while making art popular. Since its beginning the Guild has been working for the healthy growth of the fraternity belonging to the abode of literature, music and folklore. Over the last 43 years of its existence, the Guild has given birth to a large number of artists and has virtually initiated an art movement in North-eastern India.

Several exponents of art, including yourself and Benu Mishra, have dreamt of the creation of a flourishing environment of art in the State. Do you believe that the dream has been realized?

There are several roadblocks, the financial aspect being most important for survival. Nevertheless, as of now, a large number of gifted artists have surfaced in rural Assam, while some others have made way to foreign countries as artists. Still then, it must be acknowledged that there is enough room for critical review of our art field when its status is compared to the same in other States. While there is no limit to our dream, the Guild feels that continuous blessings and encouragement from our well-wishers in particular and the people in general are vital for our growth.

The interview originally taken in Assamese by Pranjyoti Nath is translated into English by Northeast Now.

Pranjyoti Nath

Pranjyoti Nath is a writer based in Jorhat.

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