Aminul Islam is one of the senior-most and acclaimed painters in our country. Among his contemporaries are Murtaja Baseer, Rashid Chowdhury, Devbas Chakraborty and Abdur Razzaque. He made an immense contribution by introducing modern paintings in Bangladesh. He gradually changed his styles, and established himself as a significant painter in Bangladesh. “Painting, for me, is the best way to knowledge, the best means to participate profoundly in the global life,” said Islam.
Aminul Islam embarked on his primary education at Mahuttuli Free Primary School. On the completion of his primary education, he gained admission to Armanitola High School. During this time, he started copying Japanese and Chinese art. He was also copying some Indian painters' works in this period. “I liked cubist and semi-cubist works of Gagendranath Tagore. My parents had no intention of letting me be a painter. During this time, artists were often mired in poverty and many could not get jobs without first writing signboards. My father was depressed when he learnt about my plans.”
From the beginning, his works have been closely linked with nature and its various mysterious aspects. “I find the greatest pleasure and inspiration from natural designs and patterns, visual and imaginary, representing and expressing the primary forms and units of life,” said the artist. Islam passed his matriculation in 1947. Then he went to Calcutta Art College for admission. While in Calcutta (now Kolkata), he met Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hassan and Shafiuddin Ahmed. “They suggested that I should not seek admission in Calcutta Art College as an art college was to be established in 'Dacca' (Dhaka) shortly. After a few days, I returned to Dacca with Zainul Abedin. However, since there was no sign of any art college being opened, I got admitted at Dacca College. Noted author Alauddin Al Azad, scientist Abdullah Al Muti Sharfuddin, Hasan Hafizur Rahman, educationist Abdul Quayyum and others were my contemporaries. I got involved with a left leaning party. We started running a cultural and social forum called 'Progoti Lekhok Shilpi Samiti'. The forum published little magazines, journals and poetry books. The forum mainly enabled us to build intimate links with each other,” stated Islam.
Later, the Government Institute of Art was established in 1948. Hamidur Rahman, Imdad Hossain, Ismail, Abdul Kader and others were admitted along with Aminul at the institute -- the first batch to do so. After completing his BFA, Aminul went to Florence to pursue higher studies in art. His three years there proved very formative, as he found answers to many of the questions he had earlier about art and aesthetics. “I have grown primarily as a non-figurative painter since the early '60s and have renewed my efforts to experiment in different mediums and art forms. Gradually I have become increasingly aware of the different qualities of line produced by pen, pencil, brush, bamboo, discarded brush and other objects. They produce many qualities of line to give my drawing a distinctive appearance.“I was guided by Professor Conti. Sculptor Novera and Hamidur Rahman visited me in Italy. We spent a lot of time together and earned varied experiences through the years.”
Several solo exhibitions of Islam's works were held in Rome and Florence. After coming to Dacca in 1956, his first solo exhibition was held at the Press Club. Other exhibitions were held in 1961 (Bangla Academy) and 1963 (Art College). The exhibited works were done in Florence. “My colleagues were eagerly waiting for the exhibition, which saw the emergence of semi-abstract and abstract works,” he said.
“Painters are of two kinds -- one group works with emotions and the other works with intelligence. My position is in the middle. Both aspects are inherent in me,” asserted Islam. After moving back to Dacca, Aminul's style underwent a fundamental change. Lines, colours and space became the prime focus in his paintings. He is also a mural painter. He did many mural works in different parts of the country. Throughout his chequered career, he frequently returned to the nature.