Mohammad Iqbal is a committed painter in the contemporary Bangladeshi art scene. His canvases are filled with various visible and shadowy figures. The background of most of his compositions features abstract forms, soothing colours and mellow tones. Iqbal is an Associate Professor at Department of Drawing and Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka.
In 1993, Iqbal was a post-graduate student of Fine Arts at Institute of Fine Arts (presently Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka). That year, he participated in the Osaka International Triennial and won a prestigious award. This was the first time that he had visited Japan. The visit was a turning point for him, as he got a scholarship in the country.
Mohammad Iqbal, a great fan of Japanese culture and heritage. In 1999, Iqbal received the Monbusho Scholarship. The artist completed his Masters and Ph.D in Fine Arts from Tokyo National University of Arts and Music. He said, "My Professors - Noda Hiroshi and Kini Tani - are both famous for their unique styles of painting in Japan. I learned many sophisticated techniques and styles from them."
The artist has lived in the country for over 10 years, and has held 35 solo exhibitions in several major galleries and museums in Japan.
Japanese artists are very sincere and hard working, says Iqbal, adding that they are always searching for novel techniques. This is a continuing process, and all Japanese art movements started with a new approach, Iqbal says. "I haven't always maintained one particular method, style, or technique. I like to articulate the process of thinking and then incorporate emotions and personal experience."
About Japanese art and style, the artist stated, "Japanese art is known for its soft colours, minimal expressions and meticulous lines and forms. The country's serene environment has enormously influenced its painters' works over the ages. Their works are frequently done in subtle tones and carefully chosen textures. They always search for perfection; their works are more technique-based and demonstrate a sense of craftsmanship."
During his stay in Japan, the artist visited many historical places. "As a nation, the Japanese are very friendly and respectful toward each other," says Iqbal. Opera used to be quite popular in Japan, he adds. "I have always enjoyed opera. I personally knew many opera singers back there. He also recollected a performance by Norah Jones at the university he went to.
"I love Japanese food such as sushi and sashimi. Noodles are great and desserts are the fantastic too. Japanese culture is rich and diverse. It is widely known for its traditional arts, as well as its contemporary pop culture. Sophisticated cuisine, unique social customs, refined performing and visual arts also contribute to an intriguing culture which appeals to me greatly," he asserts.
However, figures have taken a prominent place in Iqbal's paintings. Agony seems to get the focus. Iqbal has been working on the lives of Bauls and sages. It should be mentioned that the artist firstly concentrates on his theme, than he pours his labour to other technical aspects. The Baul way of life and the philosophy attract him the most as he finds spirituality and sanctity in them.
The artist is most comfortable working on a large canvas, as his themes and compositions demand space. His work is elucidated by a powerful interplay of figures and space, helped by strong and sweeping brushstrokes.
Iqbal has also painted bearded faces, along with red clothing, beads, horns of buffalo, animals, talisman and trident. Some of the other motifs in his paintings are middle-aged figures, ancient edifice, rivers, vessels, hills and sky. The figures-sometimes in the middle of the canvas, sometimes on the side-always appeared in front of a background. Some of his paintings clearly highlight pure composition. The compositions convey his fondness for translucent lines and tiny forms. His mode of expression is figurative, symbolic, abstract, semi-abstract and conceptual.
Iqbal says, "I haven't always maintained one particular method, style or technique. I like to articulate the process of thinking and then add sensation, emotion and personal experience."
The artist feels as a painter he has some responsibility to society and he wants to open the eyes of the people around him. The artist also likes to paint children, whom he regards as overlooked and often uncared for. Iqbal has portrayed many children's faces in approximately the same disposition. Through the oval shaped faces, the artist seeks to convey children's dreams, yearnings and the artist focuses on eyes. Their eyes are the predominant aspect of the paintings. The eyes express surprise, pain, longing, puzzlement and panic. The artist feels all children look the same and their desires and expressions are also similar.
Last year, while on his visit to the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka as part of a diplomatic mission the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe honored Mohammad Iqbal by receiving an oil painting by him.