Ota Fine Arts Singapore is delighted to present Drawing Reverberation, a solo exhibition featuring paintings, drawings and wood carving works made in recent years by artist Firoz Mahmud. While currently based in New York City, Mahmud (b. 1974) continues to draw artistic themes from the history of the Bangladeshi region in which he is deeply rooted. To ponder and recognize the relevance of these themes, Ota Fine Arts Singapore presents a survey of the artist’s recent practice.
A distinct number of Mahmud’s works look at Uponibeshik (colonial) and Poruponibeshik (post-colonial) narratives of Bangladesh and its capital city of Dhaka which was formerly known as Jahangir Nagar. Many historical cities have been transformed by colonialism. Traitor of Faith [Plot 2 #Shiraj & Mir] (2010) is based on the long battle between the Nawab of Bengal and the British East Indian Company during the rule of the Mughal Empire. This, and other works by Firoz Mahmud are largely informed by his ongoing interest in historical narratives and artistic devices in story-telling. Also featured in this exhibition are the pieces Majestic Cut (Green) (2008) and Majestic Cut (Red) (2008). The artist deforms the borders of the frames, giving the canvases uneven edges as part of his desire to deconstruct the idea of painting.
Mahmud’s creations are in a category he has coined as ‘Layapa Art’. The word ‘Layapa’ is from the Bengali language and means ‘to anoint or plaster’. The women of rural Bangladesh use a meticulous technique to finish the walls of their village huts with clay. The artist researched this technique during a residency program at Rijksakademie VBK, Amsterdam in 2003/2004 and sought inspiration from it as well as other cultural practices such as the Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock printing. The end result is a hybridized stencil and layering technique which forms part of the foundation of Mahmud’s art practice. Such aspects of cultural heritage may have gotten devalued or undermined through the mechanisms of colonialism that affected many nations from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
Highlights include Mahmud’s drawings from the series “Distance from the Past” as well as wood carvings including Curving Itihash 1 (2017). Mahmud uses idioms such as old palaces, forts, spice trees or herbaceous plants, wild animals and colonial traders in these drawings and carvings, addressing the riches of his native land. Mahmud juxtaposes themes of socio-political culture, tradition, history, and myths that beg the question of how they exist today, and what forces have created new visual territories, impacting how we remember our own cultural histories and those of our neighbours.
Ota Fine Arts Singapore invites you to experience these various works and partake in the visual experience of Drawing Reverberation.