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     Volume 8 Issue 58 | February 20, 2009 |

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Combining Tranquillity with Vibrancy

Fayza Haq
Kalidas Karmakar

Kalidas Karmakar, in his ongoing exhibition at the Bengal Gallery "Alluvial Dairy" presents his feelings and emotions over the last few years. He says, "There was no political, social or economic stability. What I brought in was minimal art. Earlier I had drawing dominated works. This display has symbolic pieces and includes the digital lithographs which I did in New York. While staying in New York, from 3am to 6am, when I used to work myself, I used to hear piano music from the neighbourhood. Eventually, the neighbouring old lady was carried out in an ambulance.

"Later I learnt that the lady had been a gold medallist from the Warsaw Academy. Being an insomniac, she played music at night, the musical notes being gentle and sweet. From the garbage thrown out, I found sheets of music which inspired me. On top of the musical notes I used collage, drawings of figures and colour. The mixed media work represents my memories and emotions."

In bringing in the reality around him, Kalidas has used "gamcha", burnt paper, and black shadows in his other paintings to denote the social unrest in the country. At the same time, he was optimistic about the future and so brought in god and silver flecked with vermilion and orange in his paintings, along with his earthy colours.

A recent art camp at St Martin inspired some other paintings, where he brought in the laying of eggs by giant turtles on the seashore during full moon. The turtles looked back when they returned to the water, as they are parents and tend to be protective. There again, the colours and lines were minimal and basically symbolic.

Kalidas has studied at different places, like Kolkata, France, Poland and Japan. "I attended many residencies and got scholarships and fellowships. I had interactions with the influences of the countries that I went to. However, I don't believe that art can be taught. You can learn the woodblock technique, serigraphy or etching, but art itself comes from within you, from your soul. As a student, I always had my dreams that I'll study the old and contemporaries masters, whose work I saw in the books. My roots and my development in my own country are the origins that are reflected in my work in different ways. The education overseas taught a grammar -- I still don't know whether I'm a good artist or not. Every day I learn and try to use the grammar that I've learnt as a process of my work."

Alluvial Diary-72: Acrylic, mixed media on canvas.

Asked which places he stayed and worked in will always be memorable for him, Kalidas says that the Japanese and Korean have had a great influence on him. He says that he finds their culture and lifestyle very soothing. Bangladeshi culture, in comparison , for him is very vibrant. Before he went to these Far Eastern countries, he felt that he was fighting with his colours and forms. His life, he says, has had many vicissitudes. When in Japan and Korea, the tranquillity of life there influenced him subconsciously, so that his work took a more subtle turn -- subduing forms and colours. Thus today we see a number of his work which is just white, gold and grey. Nevertheless, drawing, for which he has been known from the outset, remains his passion. "Sketch is the lifeline of an artist," says Kalidas. While in Kolkata and Dhaka, Kalidas struggled hard to master the fluidity of lines." As a surgeon, if you don't know the anatomy, you cannot operate. So you cannot just splash colours on the canvas without having gone through the basics.

Asked which teachers had gone deep into moulding his personality and style, Kalidas says that in Bangladesh Mustafa Manwar, the famous water-colourist, taught him to overcome his failures and keep trying until he achieved his goals. When we come to the Art College, we all dream of being a Picasso, says Kalidas. However, when we actually begin to draw and paint, we get discouraged with failures, he adds. It was Mustafa Manwar's encouragement and mouldings that helped him overcome his initial failures. In Kolkata, similarly, says Kalidas, his teacher, Chitra Moni Kar, one of the founders of modern sculptures in India, taught him sculpture in Rashtra Lalitkala Kendra.

Also in Paris, for five years, his association with Hayter, a professor of print-making, went a long way in influencing his passion for prints. Hayter invented the viscosity technique, where one impression brings a multicoloured effect. Kalidas studied print because he thought he could make it popular in Bangladesh, where people are not lacking in culture but in monetary funds. He set up "Atelier-17" in Dhanmondi when he returned from Paris. Even last year he held his technique to young artists of Dhaka. He says," the artists of this generation are more versatile and talented due to the technological development. At the same time, says Kalidas,"I have my regards for our masters, who brought modern art to Bangladesh, like Zainul Abedin, Md. Kibria, Qamarul Hassan and Murtaza Baseer.

Alluvial Diary-91: Acrylic, mixed media handmade paper.
Alluvial Diary-71: Acrylic, mixed media on canvas.

Asked what he liked doing best, painting or prints or mixed media, Kalidas says, "If I'm honest, I enjoy mixing many materials like wood, cement, colour, metals like brass and metal. Each and every material has its own essence and this gives life to the artist's work."

Talking about his plans for the future Kalidas says that he hopes to revive his atelier with more printing machines, so that Dhaka can rival European cities in print making.

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