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    Volume 8 Issue 96 | November 27, 2009 |

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Portraits of Courage and Hope

Fayza Haq

Kathrina Rudolph is here from Munich to present water-colour portraits of Bangladeshi women. She met these people in her earlier trips to Bangladesh, when she came to visit her son, Lukas, who was working here as a volunteer for a year. Kathleen was so moved by the simplicity and beauty of the people that she photographed them, and worked on their portraits, slowly and carefully, back home. " I wanted others to know that one can fight through life despite all obstacles," says Kathleen. She studied these faces in the villages, accompanied by Farhana Sayeda, another artist. She says that through these portraits she wanted to capture the life and atmosphere of Bangladesh. These pastel creations are on display at Alliance Francaise gallery.

Kathrina does a lot of her work in the gesso technique. "This takes a long time to do. You have to heat and soak the glue. You have to put the chalk in layers, maybe 12 in all. The sanding also takes a long time and has to be done carefully or scratches set in. The main thing is that you can engrave on a sheet. The colour is particularly pale," says Kathrina."The soft brightness represent the element of hope in the women," she adds

In the first picture we see a woman in a brown sari with a matching border. The backdrop is yellow with geometrical design on two sides. The lines depict the subject as someone bold and ready to take on the world in her stride . Each strand of hair and design on the blouse has been brought in, as in old- fashioned gilded religious paintings. The sari matches with the design at the back of the figure.

The next subject has ornate, intertwining , floral motifs on her sari. The same design is featured in black at the back. The delineations of the lines leads the viewer to study the character of the person. The lemon yellow in the sari speaks of pain for the artist, who sympathized with the subject -- who had lost her husband only a few days before. This portrayal too aims at presenting the struggle and strife in a woman's life. "She has no escape from her present circumstances -- this is what I wanted to stress," says Kathleen.

The next portrait is that of a Brahmin woman, with bright pink Jamdani motif in the backdrop. Kathrina tells us that she looks after not only her own family but also a temple.

Another has been depicted in a "kameez". She has a long strip of film placed at the back like a design. This is a pattern of her "kameez" which has been continued at the back of her head. The woman happens to be a documentary film maker.

The last portrait is also that of yet another hard working woman, who is satisfied, despite the problems and disappointments that she has faced in life. "These women have no cars or houses. They are not feted in public but they are admirable for the way they have faced life with courage and determination," says Kathrina." It's people like these who present a friendly front to visitors like myself, so that I can get on with my work, not knowing the language or the place."

As for the unusually large water colours, they too were done in Germany.

The portraits have been carved out delicately and precisely with special tools. Working on them in Germany, it took the artist almost a year to complete them.

Kathrina Rudolph has had six solo exhibits and six group displays.

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