by Nadee Naboneeta Imran (link http://www.newagebd.com/supliment.php?sid=188&id=1393 )
As morning shows the day, artist Jamal Ahmed’s childhood knack and activities showed that one day he would be known through his works of art. Born and raised in Dhaka, Ahmed was never much interested in studies and his family could well understand his love for art. His school was Government Laboratory School where studies were taken very seriously but he was more into art; that is when Ahmed’s father assured him that after completion of HSC he will be admitted in Institute of Fine Arts. And the rest is history; he became the renowned artist of Bangladesh and is currently serving as the Chairman off Department of painting and drawing at Institute of Fine Arts.
In 1977 he stepped into his journey of arts trough his admission in drawing and painting at Fine Arts Institute. Once into this world Ahmed’s view of life and perception of the world changed in many ways. He slowly embraced a new world, a world where art was the universe and the fellow artists were the orbiting planets. The time we are talking about is
right after 1971 when there was a lot of instability around, people were enraged and violence was a part of everyone’s life. But, art college made him serene and peaceful; he found a circle of friends who were also peace loving and stable. ‘One of my best findings at Art College was Shahabuddin Bhai, the great artist Shahabuddin, who although was about five years senior to me but was a great friend, inspiration and mentor,’ he says.
While talking about the inspirations for his subjects of art work Ahmed added with a smile that he is a realist and likes to work on realistic subjects. He believes that anyone can do something abstract and give an explanation of his known but the true duty of an artist lies in portraying what he sees best before him. He enjoys depicting the life around him on canvas, as well as sceneries and nature. Ahmed’s forte and special interest lies in live figure drawing. He greatly appreciates the rickshaw painting in Bangladesh which he feels is a very eloquent type of folk art.
It was in the 80’s when friend and mentor Shahabuddin had encouraged Ahmed to opt for studies abroad. He had told Ahmed that the scope for figure drawing is limited in Bangladesh due to the lack of live models so in order to master over figures he must go abroad because that is where he can master this art and proceed towards being a good artist. At first he went to Norway and then Poland with scholarship for higher studies on arts.
Afterwards he also went to Japan for education and has spent a few years studying art and practicing art in the foreign land. He remembers one incident in Japan right after he had gone there, there was a place where a lot of artists had aggregated to do a live painting and it was of a nude girl. The girl was extremely beautiful but it was the first time for Ahmed and he was hesitant and he could not draw. The young model understood his hesitancy and talked to him and made him draw a neck piece on her neck just to make him feel free. Then she asked him to make her painting since Jamal Ahmed has worked on many figures and figurative paintings.
Since it was a childhood dream of Ahmed’s to be a painter by profession no other thought of any other profession ever occurred to him. However, on field that he thought would keep him in touch with both art and drawing, get him a good earning and also earn him a title of an engineer was architecture. He once considered becoming an architect if he could do good results.
Then the journey of arts continued. He has worked abroad for many years and has many foreign fans of his work who still try to collect good works from him. Cricketer Wasim Akram is one such admirer of his works. ‘Wasim Akram loves my paintings. Whenever he is in Dhaka he comes to my place straight from the airport, looks at my art pieces and then goes to the hotel,’ he says. He feels that his most favourite painting is yet to be made. He has created some very good works on and off but most of them are now sold.
He feels that the scene in Bangladesh has changed much over the years. Back in the 80’s there were hardly any art collectors and appreciators in Bangladesh, but now there are many. Not only art collectors but the general public has grown more welcoming and appreciative towards art. He says, ‘I can site an example, once I presented one of my paintings to a girl on her wedding. After a few days she called me up to say that it was the only gift she was carrying back to USA and that it was the best gift she got at her wedding. This is the change in taste and appreciation that has come
about in the recent times.
He believes that the role of an artist is to portray whatever is happening in the society. It is not possible to change the society or even stop any of the political chaos through painting, but if his artwork can give pleasure to anyone that is his achievement. What Ahmed considers his biggest achievement down the line is the students that he has come across during his life as a teacher. He enjoys teaching young people and he feels extremely proud when he sees his students doing great works. Sometime he and his students compete together in the same competition and his students sometimes win over him; that makes him the proudest man on earth.
‘In all the paintings that I do I put in my best effort. To me each and every work is special and deserves my utmost attention. Right now I am working on the life of the night labourers in Karwan Bazar and I am trying to study them well and depict there life on canvas,’ says Ahmed. ‘I mostly do acrylic work but charcoal and pastel is my specialty and as far as I know I am the only one in Bangladesh to make use of these two style together,’ adds Jamal.
When asked about the best part of being an artist he says he believes that the life of an artist is more fun than any other work since artists earn a living from what they do best and they are passionate about. And all over the world artists are highly honoured. Whenever artists visit foreign lands and the immigration people ask them about their profession they treat them very gladly when they hear that they are painters.
Along the way his greatest inspiration has been his friends who have always showered him with so much praise that he has always been driven to work more and better. Last but not the least his entire family has always supported and encouraged him to move forward, especially his father. It was his father’s inspiration, love and support that have made him the artist he is today