I was introduced to feted artist-cum-creative enthusiast Mustaque Ahmed in around 2008 on a winter morning at his Gulshan residence. Noted painters Tajuddin Ahmed and Iftikhar Uddin Ahmed (They both split their time between Dhaka and Toronto) took me to his place. But I had seen him a number of times before and already knew about his paintings. After the introduction that morning, we visited his bungalow at Bhaluka in Mymensingh. The bungalow was situated amidst greenery and a quiet ambience and the environment in and around it really felt refreshing in a way one would be driven to reflect on one's inner world. The place is really perfect for exploring creativity and nurturing an imaginative world. The bungalow was surrounded by many known and unknown trees including fruit trees, and medicinal trees.
I believe the best way to begin reconnecting humanity's heart, mind, and soul to nature is for us to share our individual stories. It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest evoker of intellectual interest. There one will always find the chance to discover himself or herself from within.
We were offered many mouth-watering items. And not only on this occasion, but whenever I visited his house at Gulshan or office at Baridhara, he showed up as a really worthy host.
On the day I went to the Bhaluka bungalow, all the three painters present there - Mustaque, Tajuddin and Iftikhar ¬- worked the whole day to paint on large canvases ¬-- and definitely, their individual expressions were dissimilar and carried personal hallmarks. I observed that Mustaque paints from his heart and his mode of expression is pure, cerebrally sound. His manipulation of forms and cognizant brush strokes create a language simultaneously natural and contrived. His palette swings between mellow and bold while strokes waver between rugged and controlled conjuring up a visual playground for joy and ecstasy. Together these features intuit a complex reality that cannot be put into words.
As a thoughtful painter, Mustaque concentrates on the consistency of colours, mellow textures (most of the time) and mind-boggling features. For their unique application on the canvas, the colours come across as lively and the objects as well as compositions seem beautifully adorned. The painter likes to work on big canvases and sometimes medium-size canvases. He invests considerable time on each painting. He is very meticulous about creating the ground of the canvas. At first, the painter applies colours directly -- piling them up thick, and at times thin -- on the canvas, and tries to create an image that is dynamic and has appealing texture and sensuous tones.
Mustaque Ahmed is the founder of Dhaka Art Centre, founder trustee of Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP) and a pioneer behind other social, cultural and charitable organisations. He lend his charitable hands many times in different crises of Muktijuddho Jadughor (Liberation War Museum). He regularly donates huge amounts of assets, and money for the well-being of sports and promotes art and culture in Dhaka and Pabna.
Mustaque is a socially and politically conscious person by nature. As a secular who also believes in equality, he has always raised his voice against social injustice, religious bigotry, fanaticism, inequality, inhumanity, and unlawful activities. As Mustaque is passionate and a true introvert, I always observed him evading human preoccupations, publicity, media coverage and fame. He never hurts anybody with words, actions or gestures. He has unpretentious respect for his fellows. His deep-rooted belief is that everyone has self-respect and that it should be preserved under any type of circumstances. To his seniors, he is always respectful without being servile. And his contemporaries find him sweet and polite without being pretentious. He is graceful without being snobbish.
As an art collector, Mustaque has collected many of his paintings on request -- when a painter, teacher or organiser falls into an economic crisis and seeks urgent assistance. In any difficult circumstance, he lends his hands to help them to his capacity. When a man from any section of society seeks his help, he does not shy away. He is always fair to everybody and never thinks of taking unfair advantage. He is never mean or unfair, even when things do not move according to the plan.
Mustaque studied at the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka. Afterwards, he studied economics at the University of Texas at Arlington in USA. He is an alumnus of the university and enjoys the educational, social and cultural opportunities provided by the institution. Now a dedicated alumnus, Mustaque provides funding for others studying in the university.
The writer is an art critic and cultural curator.
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