Museum Musings: Ota Fine Arts Singapore Presents Firoz Mahmud’s Drawing Revolution

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Firoz Mahmud, From the series ‘Distance from the Past’, 2013 – 2014, Mixed media drawing on handmade paper [Halite (NaCl), bound dry ink, acrylic, pigments, water and pencil], 43.2 x 63.5 cm
© Firoz Mahmud, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Singapore/Shanghai/Tokyo
Ota Fine Arts Singapore presents a new solo exhibition by Firoz Mahmud featuring his drawings, paintings and wood carvings. Based in New York City, Firoz takes inspiration from Bangladeshi history and the region.

Firoz Mahmud, Traitor of Faith [Plot #2 Shiraj & Mir] 2010, Oil on shaped canvas, 230 x 300cm
Many of Mahmud’s works explore colonial narratives of Bangladesh and its capital, Dhaka, and how they have been transformed by colonialism. Works such as Traitor of Faith [Plot #2 Shiraj & Mir] (2010) are based on the long battle between the Nawab of Bengal and the British East Indian Company during the rule of the Mughal Empire, and is a prime example of his ongoing interest in historical narrative and artistic devices in story-telling. Also featured are the pieces Majestic Cut (Green) (2008) and Majestic Cut (Red) (2008), where the canvas itself has been deformed at the borders, with these uneven edges representing a deconstruction of the act of painting itself. 

Firoz Mahmud, Majestic Cut (Red), 2008, Oil on shaped canvas, 167 x 130 cm
© Firoz Mahmud, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Singapore/Shanghai/Tokyo

Self-coining his work as ‘Layapa Art‘, which can be taken to mean ‘to anoint or plaster‘, this is a term taken from how the women of rural Bangladesh use a meticulous technique to finish the walls of their village huts with clay. This was developed as Mahmud took part in a residency program at Rijksakademie VBK, Amsterdam  in  the early 2000s, melding it with other cultural practices such as Japanese  Ukiyo-e woodblock printing. The result then is a hybridized stencil and layering technique which  forms  part  of  the  foundation  of  Mahmud‘s  art practice, and becomes more significant as Mahmud aims to resurface these practices after being devalued or undermined through the mechanisms of colonialism.

Firoz Mahmud, Majestic Cut (Green), 2008, Oil on shaped canvas, 167 x 130 cm
© Firoz Mahmud, Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Singapore/Shanghai/Tokyo

Through his work, Mahmud uses idioms such as old palaces, forts, spice trees or herbaceous plants, wild animals and colonial traders to address the richness in culture and nature of his native land. These then juxtaposed against 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. Come to Ota Fine Arts Singapore and experience these for yourself, and figure out the crosshairs of colonialism, culture and art itself in Drawing Reverberation.

Drawing Revolution runs at Ota Fine Arts from 16th November 2018 to 5th January 209. Admission is free. For more information, visit their website here

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