Anisuzzaman Anis, a renowned woodcut printmaker and Professor of Printmaking Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, recently took part in a prestigious three-week residency workshop in Guanlan, China.
His work zooms in on urban architecture, construction of human accommodation, urban constructions, and a city's structural design. His prints are closely related to geometrical and structural elements where one can easily sense his passion for the language of architecture. He has his own perception and thinking process to view the city. He also keeps his eyes on a city's socio-economic and political conditions which are very much connected to his works. To the city's civil construction, he gives impression of composition of lines, open spaces, and quiet colours. However, his woodcut prints are not exclusively architectural; they are also concerned with economic and social issues. The printmaker has precisely portrayed density structures and rapid house building system. In his prints, urban design has been linked to architecture by focusing on the physical form of the city. His works are immersed with varied vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. His capability to simplify the complex cityscapes into the splendour of minimal lines, forms and subdued colours is praiseworthy.
Anis has gained popularity for his latest series, ‘Multicolor Complexity’, which delves into the intricacies of civic prosperity and multi-storied development. Over the course of more than a decade, he has elevated the woodblock print medium to new heights, establishing himself as a cerebral printmaker. He emphasised the significance of sharing personal prosperity, growth, and stability in today's world. This not only fosters interpersonal connections and communication skills but also encourages transnational thinking. During his time at the Guanlan residency, he had a vibrant experience. The work environment in the printmaking workshop reminded him of Dhaka University's Printmaking Department. He successfully completed two projects related to the design of the printmaking beige's modern building, which received huge compliments.
During the experience at the Guanlan residency, Anis noted the extensive history of printmaking in China. He also acknowledged Japan's rich history in this art form, having studied there and learned about the historical printmaking movement in China. Anis expressed his admiration for renowned Chinese printmakers such as Zhang Jiaoshun, Zhang Minji, and Hao Ping.
Anis’ prints look neat and clean and always avoid ornamentation. His prints are fresh, extraordinary and provide the spectators a sense of pure bliss and joy. For technical aspect, he has a great fascination for oil based woodcut. When he was staying in Japan, he experimented with the medium for a prolonged period. During the time, he learned how light and shade can give a dramatic effect on prints. Woodcut prints is about technique as much as about imagination, sometimes more about technique. Anis has also done a number of prints with water based woodcut in different periods in his career. He has constantly used multiblock in his prints and the technique gives him a liberty to add dimension to his works. Through the technique of multiblock, the artist also gets a chance for true experimentation. It also gives a visual and aesthetic effect to his prints where one can take a physical picture of a city. He always celebrates in monochromatic colour.
Woodcuts plates made by carving marks in blocks of long grained plywood which has been done by Anisuzzaman with his adroit hands. The printmaker generally selects such kind of plywood which has lots of fiber. Fiber helps him to create adequate patterns of texture. For producing texture and uneven surface, he has used steel brush on plywood. U shape tool also helps to trim the fiber for shaping lines. The tool most characteristically employed to make woodcuts are carving gouges of various shapes and sizes along with various chisels and knives. He has used a wide varieties and qualities of tools.
Many numbers of his prints demonstrate building under construction -- with bamboo, iron rods and steel plates giving it a bare look. The image refers to the constant construction going on in the big city. Some of his images mingle several heterogeneous elements like abandoned wood, small iron pieces, steel containers and broken bricks. Anis meticulously presents these elements in a controlled manner where one can trace an aesthetic vision. Many of his prints demonstrate loads of delicate vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines -- lines that are pure in their straight linear extensions, expressing rhythmic notes. The lines create a calm ambiance, and the tonal effects give it a distinct look. Several of his images denote an unfinished structure where rods, bamboo and wooden chunks are clearly seen; some pillars and walls form a synchronisation. The uneven rods and flat woods are other impressive aspects of these pieces.
Over the course of time, Anisuzzaman has been firmly experimenting with lines, forms, spaces, textures, tones and overall shapes and designs. He has gradually turned towards minimalism and has established this as an individual characteristic. This trait enables him to symbolically project our social and political dilemmas.
The writer is an art critic and cultural curator.