A sensitive artist of enormous power, Abedin had never considered art to be anything outside the domain of everyday life. He did not believe in the theory of ‘art for art’s sake’, nor did he support the philosophy of propaganda art.
If there was any politics for him, it was of the unpolitical individual; a mere artist, an artist with a strong social concern who has portrayed scenes of natural calamities and social exploitation.
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The famine of 1943 deeply pained him and his longing for social justice found expression of human despair in the sketches of that nightmarish calamity.
He recorded the tragic scenes around him with objectivity and great artistic power. According to Sarojini Naidu, Abedin’s depictions were more eloquent in their poignant appeal than the most impassioned words.
His monumental work Tidal Bore, Manipura Island— 1970, a 30 feet long scroll in ink and wash, depicts dead bodies heaped together—the rendering of an unprecedented cyclonic storm and tidal wave. “We Bengalis unite only in death”, he sadly remarked about this work.
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