Internationally celebrated artist Monirul Islam believes that art, aesthetics and emotions are the basic facets of life. "For artists, life is a canvas, and they portray their realities into it," he says.
Subtle lines and a harmonious colour balance between spaces and compositions are important aspects in his works. The artist uses doodles, lyrical lines, dots, tiny motifs and many symbols. Applying meticulous colours in thin layers and reducing the texture of the paint to its most minimal expression, Monirul built a distinctive abstract language in the early 70s. In his journey of over 50 years, he has established his own art hallmark, which is referred to as 'Monir's School' in Spain.
Monirul's works speak of human memories and distress, among other things. He consistently attempts to include new dimensions and original themes, which are branched out in modes of watercolours, prints, oil, and mixed-media. "I prefer to depict human emotions and nature through non-objective ways, with thin layers and minimal expressions in my abstract paintings," he says. "The main objective for any painting is creating space. It is easy to fill up a canvas with a subject, but it is difficult to leave empty spaces. Minimisation is important in art."
The artist uses espresso coffee, marble and brick dust, burnt ground rice and other natural colours and pigments to experiment and develop new features in his works. "Many unfinished works are scattered in my studio. I dream of depicting what I cherish; but I do not know if I'll make it. This unquenchable thirst is a prerequisite for any artist to move forward. Art itself is much more powerful than the artist," he says.
The artist developed his skills in printmaking, especially in etching and aquatint, and was involved in printmaking circuits in Europe. Though he was thousands of miles away from his motherland, he created the famous 'Agony' series, paying tribute to the Liberation War in 1971. "I was inspired by the legendary artist Goya's paintings on the French Revolution. In 1972, I held a solo show, titled Homage to Bangladesh at the Gallery Daniel, Madrid, Spain," says Monirul.
He prefers to work on non-conventional mediums, as various as sweetmeat boxes, magazines and tally books used by grocers to keep records. "I can create my painting materials from any kind of paper," adds the artist, who also paints on boards, shopping bags and other materials for his mixed media works. "I never confined myself to a structure, and always tell others not to follow any structured life that kills creativity. If you become the slave of your habit, you are not truly living."
After graduation, Monirul taught at an art college in 1966. In 1969, he received a scholarship for nine months to study at the Madrid Academy of Fine Arts. Due to the Liberation War, he could not return to Dhaka, and continued his study on fresco, an experimental technique popularised by Picasso, at Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. He was awarded the Accesit National Award of Spain in 1993. In 2010, he was conferred with the 'Cross of officer of the Order of Queen Isabella' in Spain, for his outstanding contribution to art. He also received the Royal Spanish Order of Merit in 2018.