Such a grand-scale oriental painting exhibition has never been held in Bangladesh before.
51 Indian and Bangladeshi masters and contemporary artists from different academies including Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan; Government College of Art and Craft, Kolkata; Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka; Rajshahi University; Indian Society of Oriental Art, Kolkata; Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata; and Oriental Painting Study Group (OPSG), Dhaka took part in this exclusive show held at Zainul Gallery.
According to Nandalal Bose, a pioneer in the field, the specialty of oriental art is to express the mood of art with motion, gesture, and rhythm.
During the first decade of the 19th century—inspired by Rabindranath Tagore—a group of artists from Bengal, including the prominent Shilpacharya Abanindranath Tagore incorporated all oriental trends—including Ajanta, Elora, Mughal, Persian, Chinese and Japanese art heritage—into forming the Neo-Bengal School that upheld Swadeshi (patriotic) values. Later, following that trend, Abanindranath's disciples, especially Nandalal Bose and others, established and popularised the practice of oriental art in the entirety of India. Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin established the Department of Oriental Art in the Government Institute of Arts (now the Faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Dhaka) in 1955 so that the naked imitation of western art did not swallow our culture.
The artworks at Zainul Gallery were evocative of the use of subtle and sensitive colours. A game of light and shade; unparallel compositions; blends of classicism and modernity and their two-dimensional and three-dimensional presentations attributed an exceptional quality to the display.
Among the displayed works by Indian masters, Benode Behari Mukherjee's watercolour on silk cloth pasted on board was a rare display of the 1943 piece. The disciple of Rabindranath Tagore beautifully depicted a blossoming tree. This pioneering maestro grew up with impaired vision and turned completely blind by 50, but continued teaching in Visva-Bharati University until his death in 1980.
The work of Gopal Ghose , founding member of Calcutta Group, showed how the artist changed the genre of landscape painting during his lifetime.
Many of the artists presented were under the direct tutelage of Abanindranath Tagore, who founded the Indian Society of Oriental Art. Kshitindranath Majumdar's oriental female figure aesthetically depicts the sensation of Indian Eros and held his tutor's mantle. Stunning landscapes by the Padma-Shri-winning Biren De and Padma-Bhusha-winning Devi Prasad Roy Chowdhury were masterpieces that Dhaka art connoisseurs had the opportunity to view.
The feminine grace of Bengal is poetically portrayed in Indra Dugar's Village Women (1952) with its lyrical lines. Sudhir Khastgir's mixed media work Face of a Boy (1944) is a stunning beauty of a rough-brushed, melancholic visage. Works by Maniklal Banerjee, Mrinal Kanti Das and Nikhil Biswas, master painters from the Neo-Bengal School, works were also on display.
The works of living legends Nandadulal Mukherjee, Ramananda Bandyopadhyay also graced the walls of Zainul Gallery. Contemporary master Swapan Das created a centrifugal glow in his piece titled Omar Khayyam by keeping the midpoint almost white. His other work Owl depicts the poetic imagery of Jibanananda Das. His student Rina Roy also displayed five paintings. Inspired by the unique watercolour wash technique of pioneering master Abdur Rahman Chughtai, she depicted aesthetic figures and landscapes on kent paper using bright colours and compositions of animals like deer, water-fowl, and lotuses with a close affinity to nature. Anuradha Gaye from the Kolkata Academy of Fine Arts painted birds feeding in the natural ambience of the morning.
Other Kolkata-based artists, namely Ananaya Roy Chowdhury, Apurba Sengupta, Arghya Diptakar, Benoy Dalui, Enakshi Das, Mintu Naiya, Parag Halder, Soma Mukherjee, Sukanta Saha, Susmita Saha, and Tanmoy Dasgupta, also showcased their works at the exhibition.
Among Bangladeshi artists, Shawkatuzzaman's painting is stroke-based. Pioneering oriental art maestro Abdus Satter's outstandingly soft work is a depiction of Korean fish. Tajul Islam and Rofique Ahmed have portrayed folk-based and liberation war-inspired works. Chairman of the Department of Oriental Art at the University of Dhaka, Malay Bala beautifully intertwined Shakuntala with banyan boughs like the tree nymph she was. Lakhsman Kumar Sutradhar's vegetation painstakingly outlined how each leaf caught the sunlight.
The other participating Bangladeshi artists were Sushanta Kumar Adhikary, Zahid Mustafa, Jean Nesar Osman, Kantideb Adhikary, Zahangir Alom, Amit Nandi, Bikash Ananda Setu, Shankar Majumder, Suman Kumar Sarkar, Fahmida Haque Mahi, Hasura Akther Rumky, Horendranath Roy, Nipa Rani Sarkar, Nondita Sutar, Eite Rajbongshi, Kazi Nowrin Misha, Nargish Parvien, Samina Zaman, and Sanjida Akter.
“The purpose of holding this exhibition is to inspire both artists and art connoisseurs to search for their cultural roots and nurture the same shared legacy of art in both Bangladesh and India,” said Malay Bala who is also the curator of OPSG.
The style of oriental painting broadly captures Chinese, Japanese, and Persian paintings as well as the time-honoured artworks of the Indian subcontinent that range from the line-based vase paintings of the Indus Valley civilisation to present-era paintings.
Zahangir Alom is Staff Reporter, Arts and Entertainment, The Daily Star.