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    Volume 6 Issue 7 | February 23, 2007 |

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Kalidas' sojourn in New York

Fayza Haq

Kalidas Karmakar

Kalidas Karmakar is an artist who is well known in the international art circuit. Yet every time he visits a country, art lovers are sure to expect something new. Kalidas's recent visit to New York was to take part in for an Artist in Residence programme from the Asian Cultural Council, New York. The council is responsible for artistic and cultural exchange between countries. The ACC's programme was for three months. They provided Kalidas with a studio in Brooklyn Point B work lodge plus some funds to support his residency there. With the fellowship he did his own work and visited galleries, museums and artists to feel their cultural trends.

"I visited New York over 25 times but always as a tourist. This is the first time I went as a working artist. There were eight studios in one complex bringing artists from all over the wold. They included architects, photographers, digital artists and painters, " Kalidas says.

Alluvial Reality. Acrylic- mixed media on canvas.

During his stay he not only did research on his work but met different artists of various mediums from different countries. He met 39 artists from over 36 countries who visited that area. Thus there was a cultural exchange between Bangladesh, Middle East, the Pacific regions, Europe and South America. Incidentally, Mauritio Salaza from Venezuela followed Kalidas around for three months with his camera. In the process he took over 5,000 pictures based on Kalidas's activities and selected some pictures, and made a DVD of his stay in New York. Kalidas, meeting people from around the world, learnt from them.

In his stay he did over 100 works , which included 35 big paintings. There were 200 sketches and drawings as well."From my window I could see only the sky with the birds and clouds, and when I shut the door, I shut myself from the rest of the world. Through the skylight you could see the rain and snow. There was no interruption while you worked. I think I did two years' work in my three months' stay. I continued my own style but the social and political unrest back in my country which I read about in the internet influenced me tremendously. The agony and pain of the unrest entered my work subconsciously," says Kalidas.

Alluvial - 2. Mixed media on canvas.

He had one exhibition in Washington D.C . The Bangladesh Ambassador Shamsur Mobin Chowdhury lent the embassy premises for a display. Shubir Chowdhury of the Bengal Foundation in Dhaka provided the invitation cards and catalogue. Khurshid Alam Salem, a New York based artist for 20 years, joined Kalidas in the exhibition. Many congressmen and senators attended the show, along with local Bangladeshi art lovers.

Kalidas says, "My work at the exhibition reflected the hopes and agony of my people back home. I expect my achievement at Washington will inspire young artists in Bangladesh to go overseas and display their work. Contemporary art today has no boundaries. There is nothing like Bangladeshi art or Indian art. An artist is a part of the world contemporary art. If one talks about traditional or folk art, well, that is different. Publicity about our country tends to be negative with play up of natural disasters and political upheavals. The exhibition presented a positive side of Bangladesh."

Apart from this exhibition in Washington Kalidas had one in his work place area and this was inaugurated by the director of the Asian Cultural Council, Ralph Samuelson. He exhibited about 55 works. He also did some neon art in the context of the Liberation War and this too found favour. This combined paint and light.

Alluvial Reality 4. Pen and ink. Mixed media on paper.

The stay in New York was followed by his solo exhibit at the Bengal Gallery in Dhaka. In this ongoing exhibition he has brought in the paintings and sketches that he exhibited in USA. In this he has shown the reality of the sufferings of an alluvial people of Bangladesh, who have been colonised for years. After this came the War of Independence of 1971. But this was again followed by repression. Masks resting on cracked bolsters and lighted lamps speak of suffering and pain. He has also highlighted on amulets that are used to dispel evil. There are also collages with paper and semi precious stones. Human faces sometimes stare from behind paintings and Kalidas has brought in his own portrait at times.

In one of his paintings are massive swirls of reds and yellows against a backdrop of variations of gray. Lines, dots and flecks are included in the details of the work. In another is a stream of silver lined by vermilion, standing against a backdrop of orange and yellow with a base of black in the forefront. Triangles, rectangles and other geometrical forms cover his other paintings. The sketches are detailed and bring in faces of the alluvial soil. There are sometimes touches of colours here and there in the sketches too.

Kalidas has won awards in Japan, France, Poland, Iran and Bangladesh.



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