A wise man once said, "A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there." That was very much the case with young artist Hasura Akther Rumky, a Charukala alum.
Hasura used to work as an assistant coordinator at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and was also a curator for the 19th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh 2022. But a job was keeping her from becoming an artist full-time. She took a leap of faith; left her job and took up painting as a career.
Now Hasura is what we call a successful artist, with three solo art exhibitions to her name in less than a year, two of which were abroad, in Greece and Japan.
In January, she hosted her first solo exhibition 'Self and Others' at Alliance Francaise de Dhaka. Then came her second in May, titled 'Freedom & Peace' in Greece and her latest 'Silent Horizons' in Japan, in August.
The Unesco Action Art club funded the exhibition 'Freedom & Peace'.
"In October 2022, I attended an art workshop in Greece hosted by Unesco, where I drew two paintings. The president of the Action Art Club loved those works and even took them into his personal collection," she said.
"He adored the Bangali essence and texture of my artwork and I got the opportunity to organise my very own exhibition all the way out in Greece," she added.
'Freedom & Peace' was Hasura's first solo exhibition outside of Bangladesh, at the Club for Unesco Piraeus and Islands Cultural Centre, Piraeus in Greece. It was received rather grandly warmly by the audience there because of the very Bangali essence of the show - for example, a self-portrait of Rumky wearing a 'teep'.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, a competitive art exhibition titled 'Bangabandhu International Art Exhibition' was held at the Kahal Gallery in Tokyo, Japan. Hasura took part in it with a portrait of Bangabandhu. Her portrait received the Grand Award at that competition, leading to her third solo exhibition in Kahal Gallery, titled 'Silent Horizons: Embracing the Beauty Within'.
"Through my art, I try to capture the ethereal sensation of soaring within the realm of dreams; I blend my thoughts of the oceans within me, with the freedom of flying in my dreams. I depict crossing oceans and reaching the setting sun, exploring this journey where my inner thoughts meet my outer thoughts, through my art," she said.
"This convergence of elements symbolises my quest for connection, as I bridge the gap between internal reflections and external horizons,"
Hasura, being an acute observer of her surroundings, captures the expressions of ordinary people in her paintings. A lot of her paintings are about rickshaw pullers, either resting or going about their business.
"I engage in conversations with rickshaw pullers. Getting to know them feels good as they're a part of our lives. Sometimes, I used to simply observe how they rest or sleep. So in the Greece exhibition, I brought myself and others to the frame, but for Silent Horizons, my subject matter changed," said Hasura.
Her second solo exhibition in Greece was about her thoughts on freedom and independence. In more ways than one, her paintings are an outward expression of her struggles, both with herself and the world around her.
"A Japanese art professor, Megumi Maemura, came to visit Silent Horizons and he later sent me a hearty email about how he felt about my exhibition. It read, 'Some pictures gave me an unforgettable impression. Her Solitude, a girl wearing a burqa, is most impressive for me. I thought I was so glad to come here and meet her….' He told me my name Hasura actually means Lotus is Japanese. I didn't know my own name's meaning before that," she said in a surprised voice. One of her paintings, Silent Horizons-1, is also of a lonely lotus drifting aimlessly.
An artist who is no more than 30, with solo exhibitions in two major art destinations outside of Bangladesh, is certainly commendable. Her quick success points to one thing: she is perhaps destined to do more solo exhibitions abroad in the near future.
Art aside, she is a hobbyist traveller and while travelling, she loves to make friends with new people from all walks of life. But since art is her world view, she does not travel exclusively for the sake of travelling. She takes her art with her wherever she goes, and loves to share her paintings to where she is travelling.
"I'm rarely concerned about what I get from doing this. I just do it and I love meeting new people and introducing myself to local artists wherever I go," Hasura said.
Pablo Picasso is her favourite artist and admiringly mentioned what a chequered life Picasso led – often experimenting with whatever comes to mind, both on canvas and his own life. Yet, to Hasura, art is not about becoming as famous as Picasso one day. In fact, she paints for the crude joy it brings her.
"My goal is to roam around the world with my artworks, and that's it," she asserted.
Currently, she is working on a project for an exhibition in Gandhi Memorial Centre in Washington, DC. The subject matter of this future project is the friendship between Bangabandhu and Mahatma Gandhi. Individual portraits of Bangabandhu and Gandhi will be there as well.
A selection of artworks from the exhibition 'Silent Horizons: Embracing the Beauty Within' with a description from the artis
Silent Horizon-2 | Acrylic on paper
In a very vast and bleak landscape, a lone white crane is sitting all by itself. Sometimes I feel that way, stuck in an ocean of people but still feeling lonely. All my paintings have silence painted in them in some way. I feel that way, and I like to think people who watch them see that too.
The Ocean I Live Within | Acrylic on paper
In this one, two white cranes are flying into the horizon, over the ocean, probably in the hope of crossing it all by themselves and finding what they are looking for on the other side.
Nightmare | Acrylic on paper
All of the paintings in this series have a positive message in them. So does nightmare, even though the name sounds dark or tells us of something ominous. Here, I am in the painting and my negative and positive thoughts are fighting among themselves, symbolised by a colourful butterfly and a raven.