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     Volume 7 Issue 43 | October 31, 2008 |

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Different Strokes

Fayza Haq

Making a passion like art into a fulltime profession is often a luxury for women who have to hold multiple roles in society. Yet despite the pressures of domesticity and discrimination, women artists like Rokeya Sultana, or Kanak Champa Chakma and Nasreen Begum have established themselves and secured a significant niche in the art scene. But for most newcomers, more so if they are female, getting recognition can be an uphill task. Despite the odds, however, the number of women artists is increasing and a good number of them have developed original and mature styles that are getting attention.

Afroza Anjum
Mafruha Begum

A recent exhibition that ran from October 21 to 29, by four women artists who call themselves "Chaturanga", at the Zainul Art Gallery demonstrates this surge of artistic release among female artists. The four artists, Kamrun Nahar, Afroza, Rowjjatul and Mafruha went into teaching art and commercial art -- as pursuit of Fine Arts alone has yet to be recognised as a serious profession in the case of many women artists who have not become big names. It is heartening that these artists have joined their energy and imagination to have a painting exhibit of their own.

In Kamrun's solo exhibits and display of painted saris where -- each flora and fauna had been presented in detail with remarkable finesse. Her Oriental Art training, at the outset, has certainly given her brush a light fantastic touch, giving painstaking detail for every little exact proportion, without the painting appearing like some photograph. She adds impressionistic and symbolic elements to create harmony and depth in her presentation of life through the plastic media.

Many women artists have pointed out that they too bring in the bread and butter, apart from looking after the home and hearth. Kamrun takes life in her stride, and smiles through the vicissitudes of nearly past two decades. Buoyant and confident, she has dealt with her work at Proshika and done her foray into the intriguing world of fine arts with dexterity and panache. Lively and quick-witted, she dwells on her venture into fiction in print, as well -- as she speaks at one breathe about her past time in stories for children and other short stories.

She explains that Oriental Art was only her beginning at the Institution of Fine Arts. DU. She moved on to graphic designing, as she felt that was her forte. Her charming presentation of lines, colours and forms makes one dream of the moon, cloudy skies, flowers and buxom young women, with pouting lips and sculpted figures. With subtle touches of colours and minimal strokes of lines, Kamrun has created fantasias and realities with depth and imagination. She is not weighed down by the dictates of Oriental Art; she has moved on to something more gravitating to the contemporary scene.

Rowjatul Jannat
Kamrun Nahar

Even presenting the crowd of a contemporary circus, she has obviously mastered her theme, and the projection of her idea, in selected colours and strokes. She uses lyrical and delectable splashes, dots and lines -- with undoubted felicity. Whether presenting idylls or the rough-and-tumble of reality, Kamrun remains confident and cool with her brush and palette. Fond of earthy colours, jade shades and sparing outlines of jet-black, she brings in egret white to lend the subtleties.

Afroza Rosy, another artist of the group presents children in action playing, swimming, climbing and swinging from trees, tugging at one another to come and join the fun and frolic. The graphic designer has used the simplest of forms and lines-- which remain curving and winding giving the impact of the joy of youth in the shady villages. This is certainly "far from the madding crowd", and bursting with the nostalgia of a carefree past -- where enjoyment began and ended the day for the innocent and guileless.

The presentation is undoubtedly admirable, though not quite earth-shaking. Yet this too calls for a quick hand with the brush and capacity to hold the viewer's attention. With the predominant use of beige, burnt-sienna and variations of greens and cobalt blue, the compositions and subjects are praiseworthy -- although not quite dramatic as that of Kamrun Nahar's projections of man and nature.

Dealing with cranes, the opalescent moon, well-built and tall figures of fishermen and farmers-- draped in soft wisps of cotton, in shades of white, pale ruby and splashes of pale turquoise and aquamarine -- the idylls of folklores of the Bangladesh are seen in the works of Mafruha Begum. Impressionistic and dream-like, the blue, mauve and green shades of colours and lines glide and blend with one another. Thus we have another passionate painter of the "Chaturanga" group. Revitalised with the prospect of presenting her talent and imagination in a group, Mafruha has sailed forth with her brushstrokes of deft touches.

A scene from the four artists' exhibition at Zainul Art Gallery

Rowjattul Jannat, the last, though not the least in the group, has a truly daring and modernistic approach to painting. She applies layers of thick colours and blends geometrical lines -- with backdrops of opalescent greys, muted hints of amber and light- fantastic blues. The play of light and shade and the contrast of scintillating shades touch one's hearts, as the artist steps boldly into the world -- where the camera and computer have been quick to present scenes of havoc, pain and poignancy. With numerous recurring natural disasters, both at home and overseas, and with man-made calamities adding to the panic and pain, the artist's works are " assez bien".

Rowjattul has participated in group shows in France, India and Dhaka with considerable success.

The steady waves of viewers of all ages spoke of the support of the family and friends of the artists, as well as that of the common art lovers -- who patronise romanticised paintings. Connoisseurs also came to have a taste of women artists' efforts. A sense of pleasure and leisure are most often seen at the exhibits at Zainul Gallery -- which beckons the city bourgeoisie -- at any season.

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