Broken Pieces of a Dream
Top: Drawing-3, Bottom Left: Boat-1 Bottom right: Yellow Sail
A childhood spent in a rural community, next to the Burgiganga River, had exposed the artist Nagarbasi Barman to the lives of local populace who are heavily dependent on the river for sustenance. He observed their struggles, learned about their hopes and dreams and plans for their ever-changing future. He remembers a time when he used to love watching schools tiny fish swimming in the transparently clean waters of the Buriganga, a sight rarely seen today, due to the thick, polluted and odorous substance which seems to have replaced the once translucent, liquid that reflected the colour of the cloudless blue sky.
Barman mourns the loss of the free spirited boatmen, who used to sing to their heart's content while they rowed across the river, but are now lost somewhere inside utterly despondent and demoralised empty shells, mere shadows of their former selves, who perform the same task, mechanically and indifferently. Uneducated fishermen, who are oppressed by the government and society, are also scammed by middlemen who cheat them out of their rightful income.
It is the plight of the river people and the gradual decline in their lifestyle, that is represented in Barman's work, showcased his second solo exhibition, titled 'Spiral' being held at Galleri Kaya in Uttara. 68 of his works, created over the last five years have been displayed, most of which are etchings and aquatints. 19 pieces have been done in Chinese ink and 7 have been done using watercolour and pen. The size of the works range from large to miniatures, but the magnitude of the river folks' plight remains the same in each piece. The larger pieces include beautifully intricate details. While some are full of energy, the pain and desperation remains stagnant, and is represented by darker shades of gray, giving an impression that there is no hope for change. Others hint towards a possibility of a better future suggested by the use of brighter tones or the use of illuminated spots, which are infrequent and temporary. The underwater images of aquatic life seem to contain most of these lighter tones.
Barman uses drawings of fish, fishing nets, fishing instruments, tortoise heads, hand held hookahs, lamps and lanterns as a part of the imagery and sometimes as motifs in all his work. These represent expectation and disappointment, lives damaged beyond repair and sometimes even death. The use of darker, monotonous tones depicts the dull, unchanging lives of seamen, while the skeletons of fish represent their deprivation and want.
Each of Barman's paintings is eye catching and absorbing and the viewers will find themselves overwhelmed by the frustration and desperation exuding from them. However, while Barman wants us to experience the reality of the lives of these people, he also wants to send out a message that there is hope for a better future for them. He uses images of broken boats, jagged pieces of wood and other objects in his work to represent broken pieces of their dreams which can be put back together if we lend a helping hand.
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