When Ruhul Amin Tarek first discovered the art form of printmaking as a student of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University, he found it boring.
Art had been Tarek's shelter since his early teenage years when his father died. He started to draw and sketch and soon, it became his only way to find pleasure in a lonely life. When he understood that art owned his soul, he decided to study art formally.
However, it wasn't easy to take to printmaking.
"It was only after I discovered the range of human figures I could work on with wood that I slowly developed an interest in it."
The person that inspired him most to take up printmaking seriously was Anisuzzaman, a professor at the Department of Printmaking, University of Dhaka. Anisuzzaman's art added a different dimension to his work by putting tone, colour and grade.
However, things were not easy when he first began in 2010. The art form was still fairly new in Bangladesh.
Getting sharp tools, smooth plywood and other necessary instruments in the market to engrave was an incredible struggle.
Tarek uses normal wood – plywood – for engraving, which is also used to make furniture. Engravings on such wood is hard because good tools are not available here. As a result, drawing a piece takes a lot of patience, labour and time.
The scarcity of tools also leaves artists with a higher probability of making mistakes, said Tarek. "To cover one mistake, I make more mistakes."
When an engraving is completed, a woodcut artist puts different colours and shades on the wood. Finally, the picture is imprinted on paper.
Portraying a human figure is time-consuming. It takes a minimum of fifteen days to carve a human portrait – engraving the plywood, adding colour toning and giving a realistic texture to that. Tarek thinks, "Days are just a number when it comes to an artist's satisfaction. It is a lengthy process to think and then convert that in art."
As art is a way to express thought and emotion, he uses Socrates's words and Kari Amir Uddin Ahmed's lyrics in the background of the frame. "I use words in the background as those help to interpret my message to art admirers," said Tarek.
Tarek had once worked as a college teacher. Though he never disliked teaching, it was just not enough to satisfy his soul. Eventually, he decided to quit that job.
"I was never hungry for money. I started to feel I was not doing what I can and should do and was rather wasting my time, talent and passion for no valid reason. As long as my soul is served I will be content and able to live by the little money that I earn by selling art," said Tarek.
Tarek thinks state patronization for printmaking is now necessary as more and more people are now becoming interested in the art.
"At present, people are buying artwork for its artistic value and not the artist's name, which is a big inspiration for us. Nevertheless, the same way their inspiration helps us do good work, constructive criticism can do the same," he said.
Currently, he is preparing for his next solo exhibition – "Time and Reality" – which is going to take place at Galleri Kaya at Uttara from March 6, 2020. In the series of works prepared for the exhibition, Tarek has tried to portray the freedom and light that each soul carries inside but cannot explore because of this harsh, chaotic world.
"In his 62 art pieces, Tarek has portrayed different subjects such as the dream world, the subconscious mind, rural land and much more. For the last few years, we have observed that he is consistently doing well and improving with time in this art platform. Eventually, to promote his diverse work and inspire more artists like him, we have invited him to do a solo exhibition," said Gautam Chakrabarty, director of Galleri Kaya.