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     Volume 8 Issue 54 | January 24, 2009 |

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The Beauty of Clay

Fayza Haq

The use of ceramics is not limited to household items alone. One must realise that famous artists like Picasso, Matisse and Chegall, have, at some time or another, experimented with ceramics. Debashis Pal brings in the beauty of the countryside and its legends in the ceramic wall hangings at the ongoing exhibition at Bengal Gallery. Deftly coloured with earthy hues and touches of pale blue and green, they bring out the simple sophistication of early portrayals of women, birds, flowers and the charming elements of folk art. Embellished with dots, lines and curls, they take one away to the land of damsels waiting by the window sides for their beloved ones. Sketched in figures of farmers, fishermen, folksingers in muted colours are included in the backdrop.

Entwining lilies present village beauties with elongated faces. Birds in blue and red add to the simple but artistic setting. Tiny sketched figures in brown at the bottom stress on the origin of the countryside. One portrayal faces the front while the other is a profile. The artist brings in other elements of village life like the "kula", earthen cooking pots and fish, in orange, green and black.

Circles of orange heighten the effect of portrayal of female faces. At times the sari contains little motifs of dots at the side. Catchments of green and pale blue glass hint at the existence of water in the lives of the country people in the ceramic delineation, where otherwise grays and browns have been adhered to --- and yet the scenes are far from dull or unimaginative. At times the younger woman is seen confiding to an older one. Sometimes the pining lover is seen talking to a bird, for lack of companionship. One also brings in a nursing mother, in which the long hair of the little girl forms a pattern, as does also her dress.

A "baul" has a standing woman at his side. Another entrée has a cow as the main subject with 3-D effects of the horn and tail. The "baul" at the side adds more elements of the countryside and its charms.

While Debashis is fascinated by the natural beauty of his village home, he is also stirred on to create scenes of suffering and destruction, as in the recent Sidr scene. Here he has brought in the broken down huts, stranded and hapless people and animal, looking out desperately for escape and refuge. Grays and browns also usher in the scenes of despair of 1971. Flat and 3-D images merge with one another. Fragments of curled newspapers have been included with screen-print and firing.

Crustations-- in the form of scorpions and crabs-- are another subject which intrigues the artist. He has brought them in shades of turquoise blue and brown, curled up in rounded containers. Flutes and hands of herdsmen are also presented in a lyrical manner, along with decorative leaves. In this, as with all presentations, the traditional is combined with the conventional. The impact is that of a small mural.

Another such medley of creations from nature, includes an owl, a dragonfly, a handful of bird's eggs, "pitha" (traditional sweetmeat), and flowers on long stems. The items are placed on a rectangle base, with neat segments. Dots, lines and scratches add to the texture work.

Debashis also dwells on contemporary subjects like "The description of the Olympics", "Contemporary face of Bangladesh" and "Observer". His photographic images and typeface engravings typify his mature play with ceramics.

Along with other awards, Debashis won the Bangladesh Shilpakala Award in the 17th National Art Exhibition in 2007.

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