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     Volume 7 Issue 24 | June 13, 2008 |

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Absurd and Surreal

Nader Rahman

When one thinks of Shishir Bhattacharjee, politics is never from one's mind. He has made a name for himself as the foremost practitioner of the delicate art of the satirical political cartoon. In a country like Bangladesh the political cartoon is a loaded gun in a very public game of Russian roulette. No one really cares if you fire blanks, but when one finally reaches the bullet the results are usually sweet and sour. Either the cartoon is a success and around the country people spill their morning tea laughing at the perfect combination of wit and sarcasm or the artist receives a call, "politely" being asked to cease and desist. Suffice to say Shishir Bhattacharjee has accounted for more tea stains on trousers than anyone else in this country.

It takes a brave man to step away from one's forte and for his third exhibition Shishir did just that. Not content with being the finest cartoonist in the country, he decided to expand his canvas (no pun intended). Editorial cartoons were replaced with large drawings, which blurred the lines between absurdist, surrealist and kitsch art. To add another dimension to the exhibition, his mixed media works in their garishly bright colours made up for the absence of colour in his drawings. The lack of colour stood beside the overdose of it, as his work questioned more than just politics, society and mainstream culture. He openly challenges one to interpret his work and one feels his satirical laughter may be the appropriate response to even the most cultured of critiques on his art.

From the June 6 to the 20, Galleri Kaya in Uttara, Shishir's potpourri of drawings, lines and lyrics will be open to the public. If one is interested in purchasing one of these highly sought after pieces of art, it may already be too late as most of them were already sold on the first day of the exhibition. On the current exhibition an art critic commented that Shishir's work represents the inner psyche of the human mind that sometimes we act like animals. While in a way one could say that is correct, it seems more like the artist wants to show the tension between humans and nature, highlighting that fact that essentially everything organic is part of nature, even though humans want to distance themselves from that fact. There is a lovely drawing of a face covered in leaves, wrapped like a wound in gauze, thus only showing the shape of a human figure without revealing it to be human. While our relationship with nature may be symbiotic, in the world of today it is increasingly a bond we are trying to break. In his work often shadows are formed out of grass as if to bind us with nature even more. There are animals and plants which merge with human bodies creating images so striking that one cannot look away.

Aside from the relationship between humans and nature he also has a few pieces, which provide his usual dose of social commentary. They are politically tinged, guns and tanks along with stereotyped kitsch images from Bangla movies. His mixed media work glows with colour as he portrays the humorous side of 21st century life, proving the ultimate reality TV show stars none other than us. We view each other through the voyeuristic flickering of a cinema reel; our lives are stranger than the fiction movies. His art is multifaceted, non-linear and three dimensional, and with every pun intended he forces us draw our own conclusions.

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