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     Volume 7 Issue 16 | April 18, 2008 |

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More Than Just Expressions

Nader Rahman

Many people have seen Sandip Kumer Deb Nath's work even before his first solo exhibition, but simply do not know it. He along with Farukh Ahmed Mollah, Pintu Deb and Zahir Ripon are the artists behind the larger than life wooden animals at the newly renovated Jatra store in Banani. Their work includes huge elephants, tigers and owls, all which add to the persona and ambience of the shop, which is known and frequented by so many in Dhaka. While the pieces are easy on the eye and merge seamlessly with the overall design of the shop, his first solo exhibition is a far cry from his work in Jatra. It is at times jarring and poses more questions than answers, but then again who said art is about providing answers?

Sandip's first solo exhibition at the Zainul Gallery entitled Expressions' proved to be a great success and with the quality of his work it is easy to see why. For the exhibition he has used three mediums to 'express' his artistic vision. Wood, Clay and Metal dominate the space as he has used all three mediums quite extensively. As one walks in a slim yet majestic woodcarving greets all those who enter. It is made to be almost life-sized and a figure of a bearded man with a slight paunch wearing a lungi can be seen. The image is quite striking as his eyes are deep set and with his hands plainly by his side, there is a sense of loss that cannot be removed from the piece. There are a few more slender pieces to compliment it, with similar but different faces but none resonate as much as the Old Man-1.

A selection from the Mask Series

Along with the Old Man series there is also an item dipped in social expression entitled 'The Oppressed'. It is a beautifully carved piece of wood showing a pencil thin, armless woman with immaculate features laying down with an over sized foot stepping on her from behind. The title is easy to understand and gives one insight into the topics and social themes that drive the artist, what must also be mentioned is that it is the only overtly political piece there and remains a highly charged piece of art.

The Oppressed-2008

It is his clay work that lead to the title of his exhibition, but as he points out' it his not his favourite medium. “When I received the news that I would be given the gallery for an exhibition I was both excited and nervous. The excitement is easy to understand but my nervousness came from not knowing how to put together an exhibition which would represent my art,” Sandip went on to say, “While wood is my favourite medium I also had a


Old Man-1

few ideas as to how to incorporate clay and wood together and decided to try that out for the exhibition.” The result of his work is the stunning Mask series where disfigured faces or expressions as he says were created out of clay and mounted on pieces of darkly polished wood. What is interesting to see is that he has only used the eyes, nose and lips for the faces as he says “They are foundation for every expression known to man.” The grotesque faces do not haunt but question the very definition of beauty. As it challenges one to call it ugly, it glows through the beauty of its expressions. Disfigured yet not disjointed, the Mask series draws people to it because of its artistic truth, which is a feat in itself for a 28-year-old artist.

Aside from the smaller Mask series, there is also the larger mask series where traditionally accepted faces and figures are revealed in ebony wood. The smooth lines and shaped surfaces seem nothing like his work in clay, yet there is a very real feeling to them, as if they might break out in conversation any minute. It is not that they are lifelike or life sized, they simply exude life from every imaginable angle.

His metal work is not to be left out either, after having completed a piece of work for a

Motif-2, 2007

class assignment he decided to see what he could achieve out of the medium by using the same subject but to a different effect. The Bird series starts with three pieces which cover owls and in the context of exhibition it is work which leaves the most to be desired. Yet when he moves on to other birds, faces and patterns that is when his best metal work comes out. 'Lady' and 'Mask' stand out along with 'Bird-3' and 'Motif-2' as his best metal work, with intricate designs and beautiful lines.

Sandip's exhibition reveals an interesting mind and one with the potential to be a major name and if his sales are anything to go by then he has already taken the first step. From the very first day of the exhibition his work has sold remarkably well, with the coffee table set he designed going for a whopping Tk 65,000. Over and above that he has sold most of the work he displayed and is already inundated with requests to copy his work, with well over a lakh in the bank he has porved to be commercially successful as well as talented. Sandip is also a budding art collector and has personal collection of folk art from all over Bangladesh which at times serves as inspiration for his own work. Sandip Kumer Deb Nath is a rising star and one might be tempted to pick up one of his creations before his prices really take off.

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