Monday, 18 July 2011

The Best of Bangladesh

Diamond-studded skulls, scatology and used tampons are no longer the hallmark of today’s art. This year’s most patent trend in contemporary art is globalisation. Forms and ideals are spreading and merging – exactly like people, corporations and technology, and nowhere is this clearer than in Meller Merceux’s latest collection: Jahangir Hossain with Henry Moore.

Shared aesthetic characteristics and concepts have transcended both geography and time. Given how disparate Henry Moore’s humble Yorkshire roots at the beginning of the twentieth century seem from Hossain’s – a contemporary Bangladeshi painter – one could be forgiven for any incredulity at the logic behind bringing the two artists together.

Henry Moore was undoubtedly a modernist: distorting and contorting ideas as far as they could possibly go – “taking ideas to their nth degree”, explains gallery owner Aidan Meller. Moore’s instantly recognisable sculptures take the human form and morphs it: the faces are flatter, the torsos wider, the legs longer. Hossain’s paintings all contain the human body, but not as we are used to seeing it in the flesh.

He does away with the physical, so that he can get to the real essence of what really makes us human and what he believes is important for us as humans – the one word titles are emotions or states of being. The rapidly changing nature of our world (brought about by globalisation, not just of the art world but by whole shifts in economic, social and political structures) necessitates tolerance and thus intensifies feelings of insecurity and the heightened yearning for security from our bonds with people close to us.

The need for love, meaningful connections with others and nature are resonant features in Hossain’s work. Moore was similarly interested in the relationship between two people and this is obvious in his illustrations depicting the Second World War’s turmoil, themselves slightly reminiscent of Otto Dich’s wartime drawings. The closeness of parent-child relationships is a focus point in artist Mike Bell’s exhibition, currently on display in Meller Merceux’s Witney space.

Hossain’s subjects are clearly human but no age, race or even gender is discernible. The human elements in the paintings are virtually indistinguishable from the environment around them, similar to Henry Moore’s bronze statues in the Yorkshire Statue Park in Wakefield. Symbiosis between subject and material can was created by Moore by adapting the form of his sculptures around the material: he could look at a tree and let its shape guide his inspiration for what it would become – people today would do well to have such thoughtful consideration for nature, working with it rather than imposing ourselves onto it.

One could talk endlessly about the shared concepts, styles and motifs between Jahangir Hossain, Henry Moore and Beatrice Hoffman’s bronze figures (also displayed in this collection). But Hossain’s magnificent paintings can be gazed at again and again and enjoyed without any inkling of his underlying motivation or the traits they have in common with other distinguished artists. The works almost emit a golden sheen, a brilliance; the subjects within possessing a certain grace.

Hossain has created a signature style by using different sized combs to achieve a unique texture with the oil paints on the canvas – Standing, Emotion, The Dance, The Cave and Intimacy are highlights among many. There is even a slight resemblance to shapes in Francis Bacon’s earlier paintings… but with none of the nihilism.
Jahangir Hossain: The Cave

A smiling and appreciative Hossain was present at the private view on Thursday 14th July: the artist is humble and shy, but remarkably blithe and warm. His advice to anyone is to learn art, that is, how to create art, for it can be one of the greatest companions.

It is both uncanny and wonderful to behold the parallels between such supposedly different media and artists when drawn together and experienced in the same, tiny gallery – as if the works were speaking to each other. Hossain and Moore also share the space at Meller Merceux’s High Street location with number Picasso, Dali and Damien Hirst, all of them contributing to this unspoken dialogue.

The opening of this beautiful collection coincides with the release of Meller Merceux’s attractive, glossy and succinct new magazine. It promises to keep everyone from seasoned collectors to first time buyers informed on gallery news, art world developments, art history and art investment tips. To visit the galleries in person, head to the High Streets of Oxford and Witney. Jahangir Hossain’s collection runs until 4th August 2011.

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