There was a time in the history of Bangladeshi art when the language of artists, more often than not, were non-figurative. Visuals read like complex poems as forms were depicted through exaggerations or complete abstractions. However, as time progressed, the language of art evolved into something more figurative.
This is not to say that contemporary art is hyper realistic in the region, or less complex for that matter, but forms and expressions took on more recognisable figures and shapes. Such was my realisation at the 18th anniversary show at Galleri Kaya.
This exhibition showcased a total 68 selected works by 35 modern and contemporary artists. All the artworks, however, were completed between 1969 to 2022.
The gallery featured works done in acrylic, oil, charcoal, watercolour, ink, pen, mixed media and various techniques of printmaking including etching, lithography, serigraph, woodcut and wood engravings.
"Since the inception of this gallery, we have collected many artworks throughout the years. We like to showcase a selected few during our anniversary shows," said Goutam Chakraborty, Director of Galleri Kaya, adding, "Many of our exhibits here are highly sought after. I believe artworks need to stay in circulation. Sure, there are works that I will keep for myself to enjoy and for my family to enjoy. But if we start hoarding art – sealed up and locked away in storage – it is a very selfish thing to do. These works were meant to be seen and appreciated."
Upon entering the gallery, a presence of greatness can be felt almost instantaneously. Even though the pieces are quite distinct from one another, there were subtle motifs, something that was inherently Bangalee – perhaps it was in the techniques or choice of colour – which coherently linked the exhibits together. Only upon closer inspection will you see distinguished names such as Qayyum Chowdhury, Rafiqun Nabi, Shahabuddin Ahmed, Murtaja Baseer and many others attached to the artworks.
This is not to say that the show was exclusive to big names, rather, it included masterpieces by established and upcoming artists alike. "The artists featured in the show have diverse personalities. We have included senior and young artists. Qayyum Chowdhury, Aminul Islam, Murtaja Baseer, Debdas Chakraborty and many others have passed away. But then we have Shahanoor Mamun and Shohag Parvez who are comparatively young. We have always tried to maintain an amalgamation in these types of exhibitions," explained Goutam Chakraborty.
A common theme in the featured artworks was a display of beauty and strength; perhaps most evident in Aloptogin Tushar's 'Warrior-1' – a charcoal sketch of a proud santal archer ready to shoot an arrow – and Ranjit Das's 'Bull'. The exhibition primarily displayed artworks which were representative of an artist's forte – such as Shohag Parvez's prowess with watercolour and recent charcoal sketches. However, there were also some artworks which broke away from styles and themes an artist is known for, which was evident in Mohammad Iqbal's abstract paintings – an artist who is primarily known for his impressionist portraits.
The 18th anniversary exhibition was inaugurated by Anisul Hoque – eminent writer and Associate Editor, Prothom Alo, on Friday, 17 June, and is open to all from until 2nd July, 2022.
Warrior – 1 | Charcoal on paper | Aloptogin Tushar
My village home is in Nachal, where the Santals live. My ancestors had seen how Santals had fought with their lives. My sketch is a depiction of their rebellion. I tried to highlight their strength, their struggle, and will to protect their homeland.
Bull | Acrylic and charcoal on canvas |Ranjit Das
I mostly depict people in my artworks, whether it is one's beauty, emotions or a particular quality. This painting shows a bull taking an aggressive stance. He is ready to fight. This is a sign of one's strength, and will.
Untitled – 3 | Lithograph on paper | Shahabuddin Ahmed
"The artist's speed and strength are embodied in this work. His style has become so iconic that no matter from where you look at it, the print is instantly recognisable. Shahabuddin's style of work is very distinct." - Goutam Chakraborty