Art

Shared heritage of India and Bangladesh

Building bridges: Prof. Nisar Hossain

Building bridges: Prof. Nisar Hossain  

Printmakers from India and Bangladesh come together in the spirit of the give and take of art

After 1947, printmakers from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, were no longer in touch with their roots, and printmaking virtually came to a standstill.

“Before Partition, Calcutta was the centre of printmaking for both West and East Bengal. However, from 1947 till 1971, when East Bengal went to Pakistan, we had no link with printmaking activities in West Bengal. Pakistan had no tradition of this creative expression,” says Prof. Nisar Hossain, Dean, Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.

He says that it was only after Bangladesh was born that artists from the country started coming to India, to study in Santiniketan much like he did himself.

Prof. Hossain is the co-curator of Confluence: Celebrating India-Bangladesh Printmaking, an exhibition where 24 artists, 12 each from India and Bangladesh, are showcasing 150 prints.

To give people a clear idea of the way the Bangladesh tradition developed, he has arranged artworks chronologically.

Work of Anisuzzaman, a Bangladeshi printmaker

Work of Anisuzzaman, a Bangladeshi printmaker  

“For the first generation of artists, Calcutta was the main centre. So, our pioneers were students of Art College. Saifuddin Ahmed, who did a lot of wood engravings, honed his skills in Calcutta. He was a pioneer,” he says. Some of his students travelled Westward, to Spain, Greece, Germany and specialised in abstract art. “These are second generation artists. The third generation are present-day artists who learnt this medium of expression in India,” he says.

Lubna Sen, co-curator of the exhibition

Lubna Sen, co-curator of the exhibition  

Co-curator Lubna Sen, whose parents hail from East Bengal, and made India their home after Partition, says: “We traced our shared history through works of printmaking masters — Somnath Hore in India and Safiuddin Ahmed in Bangladesh. Safiuddin taught printmaking to Somnath in the Government College of Art and Craft in Kolkata. Though they were children of undivided Bengal, after 1947 Saifuddin went to what is now Bangladesh,” says Lubna, who selected the 12 artists from India. She is the founder-CEO of The Art Route, which is organising the exhibition.

Despite their common heritage, Hossain says that generally speaking, Indian artists are mostly literal (flora, fauna) and Bangladeshi artists specialise in the abstract.

However, the new generation of artists from Bangladesh that has studied in India is creating art works that have direct and indirect influences from their friends in India. “After returning home upon completing their art studies in India, they have gravitated to figurative art,” says Hossain.

What ties them together is the fact that “for a printmaker the motivation is not just the final output; it is also the process.”

Hossain, who visits his alma mater on work, remembers the late K.G. Subramanyan: “He was also an unparalleled teacher,” he says.

Celebrating India-Bangladesh Printmaking was born out of the need to promote printmaking that has managed to survive despite cultural and technological changes over the years. However, the mission here, is not just to show how it continues to be relevant in the sub-continent, but also to promote artists and their art forms.

Prof. Hossain remembers the importance of printmaking in the freedom movement, where they were used in campaigns. Then, it was a medium for all. After independence he says art became an elitist pursuit.

“Unless you take art to the common people, the elite will continue to have a monopoly over it. There are two types of art lovers: one wants to see a painting for visual pleasure, while the other wants to learn what the artist has to say about society. The former is pure aesthetics, while the latter is socio-political.”

At the Visual Art Gallery and the Open Palm Court, India Habitat Centre; on until 31st January; ₹25,000 upwards

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 9:50:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/shared-heritage-of-india-and-bangladesh/article30651567.ece

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