Shut out of Site

Art exhibition by MANAN MORSHED, curated by MUSTAFA ZAMAN

October 22 – November 6, 2021, Dwip Gallery, 1/1, Block D (g floor), Lalmatia, Dhaka

Shut out of Site

It was Immanuel Kant whose idea of the ‘beautiful’ led to the uncoupling of the object of contemplation and the beauty one discovers while looking at it. According to the German philosopher the object does not refer ‘so much to the physical object itself, but to the way in which the representation of this object acts on the mood of the one who judges it, awakening in the individual a feeling of pleasure or displeasure’.

Such a gaze is, perhaps, the result of negotiating the ‘sensuous’, as opposed to what is moral, political, or epistemological. It is akin to a plunge ‘into the depths of pre-reflective, non-intentional self-experience,’ to draw from Michel Henry, whose phenomenological explanation of the ‘theological turn’ in western art courtesy of Kandinsky offers food for thoughts. For Henry this type of work of art resides outside of the real world and, hence, to a dimension of ‘irreality’, according to Rômulo Eisinger Guimarães and Robert Farrugia, who penned a paper on Kant, Henry and the idea of transcendence.

Where does irreality reside? This question may lead us to the domain of Manan Morshed where small sets of abstract works are interspersed by even smaller pieces of drawings.

If this young artist’s works showcased in this exhibition titled ‘Shut out of Site’ are put forth from within a non-site, or call it a space emerging out of artistic experience, it is a matrix one cannot imagine before bringing it into view by giving a specific artistic form. Such is the self-referential nature of most of the abstract paintings.

Additionally, being in space and being out of it has little to do with these images as what they seek is autonomy from the context. Though the artist preferred not to negotiate what is recognisable, the works cannot be defined as noncommunicative as they make visible certain emotional states humans are often susceptible to.

If one is to take into account the emotive forces active behind the images, one would easily realise that they are not fully separated from the world nor are they a way for the artist to begin life and art from a tabula rasa. Some of the works, with their impassioned sweeps of the brush and vague hints at the turbulence one encounters in life today, simply work as the lexicon of a man walking the ‘tightrope of hope’, to borrow Suzanne Césaire’s phrase.

There are images that find their legitimacy in what they do not fully explore. By being mute about the world, through the application of a process of unlearning the established ways of art making, they refuse to arrive at a finished or definable artistic form. These works refer back to a primordial shape – the sphere – one that assumes a cosmic or at least a mysterious dimension in some of the pieces.

There is a series of smallish works depicting easily discernible drawings. In them birds and humans are translated into a set of informal symbols. Here, mark making takes on a new dimension while lines flow relatively freely in some of the drawings, deviating from the motifs or symbols that seemed to have been the initial aim.

One may resort to Kandinsky to sum up Manan Morshed’s tendency, which is easily detectable in his first solo exhibition of his, where he achieves his artistic goal by swerving away from the familiar. The Russian, who had to leave his country to make Berlin his home, used to say that a painting moves towards independence by examining ‘its forces and its materials’. Examples abound in this exhibition where such a process is applied to achieve a certain kind of unbiased ‘retinality’ through which neither form nor content is glorified.

– Mustafa Zaman