Eight Bangladeshi artists interpret Tagore on canvas

New Delhi: Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is being interpreted on canvas by eight senior artists from Bangladesh in a weeklong art residency programme here titled `Rabindra Tuli`, part of celebrations to mark Tagore`s 150th birth anniversary.The camp is part of a cultural exchange programme between India and Bangladesh, which are celebrating the poet`s 150th birthday together.

The works will be on display Wednesday at the end of the residency at the Lalit Kala Akademi, the Indian government`s official visual art hub.

As a muse, Tagore is interpreted differently on the Bangladeshi canvas, as compared to his representations by Indian artists.

While Indian artists, in a series of exhibitions in the capital early this month, have captured the visionary in Tagore, the Bangladeshi artists are more simplistic in their interpretations of the poet as a nature lover and writer of romantic poetry and songs.

Award-winning artist Mohammed Iqbal`s `Amar Sonar Bangla` is made of two semi-abstract compositions of Tagore`s ideal Bengali village peopled by colourful animals, men and the poet.

"I innovate on the traditional Japanese artistic calligraphy known as `shodo` in my canvas with a special brush that produces the finest and the densest of strokes, resembling Japanese letters. The poet`s beard is an example," Iqbal tells reporters pointing to a "cascade of swirling beard drawn in random and intricate lines".

In the canvas of artist Mohammed Eunus, Tagore "looks out of the window from an abstract background of oil and acrylic textures".

An alumnus of Tama University in Tokyo, Eunus is known in Bangladesh and far eastern countries like South Korea and Japan, where he sells most of his art, for his complex surface textures in oil stick (a variation of crayons).

"My journey has been one from abstraction to realism. In my canvas, I have locked Tagore in a frame within a frame," he tells reporters. The poet is painted as a seated figure by a lighted window.

Leading outdoor installation artist Hamiduzzaman Khan`s Tagore is a wizened figure on the canvas, almost like the artist himself, with a wreath around his neck. While the poet is framed against a textured landscape of brown, yellow and red in one canvas, in the other, he is drawn as a sculpted figure.

Khan is the creator of a 35-feet high stainless steel sculpture "Unity" outside the 30-storied Bangladesh Bank building in Dhaka.

"My drawings have been inspired by the Bangladesh landscape that Tagore saw in his country," said the artist, an alumnus of the Baroda Fine Arts University.

Nasreen Begum, the only woman in the group of eight artists, draws inspiration from Tagore`s description of "jhara pata" - leaves shed by trees carpeting the ground.

Her colourful compositions show the poet surrounded by a storm of falling leaves.

"My pata (leaves), all drawn from Tagore`s poems, depict the transient leaf - at its birth, youth, maturity and old age - a symbol of life," Nasreen Begum, who teaches at Dhaka University, told reporters.

For Abdul Mannan, Tagore is the great shadow that looms over the green vistas and cloudy firmament of Bangladesh - an imagery that comes alive in his lyrical compositions that play with forms and clouds.

According to senior portrait and figurative artist Sheikh Afzal, who trained at the Tsukuba University in Tokyo, "the handsome face of Tagore in his middle-age has so much character that a few strokes bring it to life on canvas." His stylised and deftly textured portraits captures the poet in his maturity.

"You cannot trap Tagore in geography. He is almost like god, a global icon," artist Ghulam Faruque Bebul of Rajshahi University told reporters, daubing paint on a semi-abstract interpretation of the ruins of an old guest house the poet was fond of as a young man in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.

Tagore spent 10 years of his youth managing his family estates in Shilaidaha, Shahazadpur and Patishar, where he wrote several poems. These areas lie in present-day Bangladesh.

In `Shilaidaha Kuthibari`, the former country residence of Tagore, the poet wrote under the shade of a tree which still stands on the premises.


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