Monday, 29 May, 2023

AloptoginTushar’s masterful representation of figures

The artist’s solo show at Galleri Kaya in Uttara

When I heard about the first solo exhibition of AloptoginTushar at Galleri Kaya, I was really astonished to learn that until his mid-50s no galleries and institutions had taken any initiative to host his solo exhibition. Needless to say that Tushar is a devoted and skilled painter who has done many outstanding paintings, and drawings in different periods with varied mediums and themes. Famed for his reserved and soft-spoken nature he lives the life of a recluse-- away from the crowd and noise that accompany prominence, which he never hankered after. Tushar is presently the chairman of the Department of Fine Arts, Jagannath University. The present show at Galleri Kaya is his first solo exhibit, and justifiably quite important in the artist’s career.

I have several times visited Kaya’s art camps and art trips where AloptoginTushar took part. During that time, I have closely observed his working processes and techniques. When he gets immersed with his paintings, he completely loses himself. He applies colours and creates figures, and images in his own way. He puts layers upon layers of paint and draws details continuously until he feels that he has achieved what he has been striving for. Most of the time, the outcome is pensive, distinctive, precisely balanced and the arrangement of colours and space does not fail to draw an art enthusiast’s eyes.

When I first saw Tushar’s paintings about a decade ago, I was very much fascinated by his figural compositions and their proper articulations on canvas. He had truly engrossed himself with his themes. Over the years, the artist has been intensely documenting nature’s picturesque beauty as well as alluring women in all their curvaceous beauty, he also portrays women of his surroundings. His work expresses the aesthetic beauty of our Bengali women and their varied moods. The artist has splendidly rendered attractive women in all their curvilinear beauty and he has been enthusiastically studying the movements of figures (female) and arrangements of compositions for a long time.

At different phases of his career, Tusher has also portrayed elegant women in all their shapely grandeur. His ponderings on portraits, especially women, involve a vast range of themes from reality to fantasy, imagination to imperfection. Sometimes the artist delves deep into a psychological voyage through his surrounding characters. The artist borrows some characters of his portraits from fiction and sometimes from his imaginative world. Sometimes, Tushar portrays characters, which have no existence in the real world, play in his subconscious mind, and through which one gets a touch of surrealism. He paints figures and portraits from different perspectives and with varied modes of expression. Sensual figures, figures in a contemplative mood, figures in close proximity as well as their affections, longings, yearnings, conflicts and movements are noticeable in his works. Tushar brings in romanticism to his portraits as well. He tries to synchronisecolours, textures and formation of visages. His colours are often brightened and sometimes subdued to translate the significance of the characters in his portrait works. Then there are times when the shades appear dreamy and romantic. The artist has used charcoal, pastel, pencil, watercolour, acrylic and oil on paper and canvas.

In this sense, AloptoginTushar is very careful about his arrangement of figures. The painter takes considerable time to finish each piece of his work. By means of his measured and unhurried brush strokes and soft textures, the canvas/paper gets a splendid look. His nude, semi-nude, athletic structure of human beings have really strong tone of lines and sense of serenity. His lines have created a distinct language where one can learn about his perseverance, longing and devotion to art. The charcoal, pastel and ink/pencil sketches, in particular, are very polished and captivating. Tushar has an athletic figure and he built it during his student life. Experimentation is his passion and he has done many self-figural sketches in his career. His cherished study of human beings permits him to hold a distinguished position.

Tushar sometimes concentrates on drawings of bulls and the evocative works delineate the movement of the virulent animal. The animal seems desperate to break free. Through the artworks, the artist wants to underscore liberty. In this segment, he has experimented with bold lines and has shown a great ability to give an appealing view to his works where one can get a taste of pure realism. Charcoal is a flexible medium for Tushar, because the medium helps him to provide a realistic sensation about his characters' sensibilities, articulations and gestures splendidly. Charcoal sticks particularly force him to focus on large shapes and realistic contours because of their blunt ends. The artist has massively used charcoal which can bring a permanent imprint on paper.

One of Tushar’s famous themes is "NacholBidroho", where the charcoal-based drawing shows the Santals waging a war armed with bows and arrows. Tushar has a great passion to work on historical events. Through the series of works, the painter recollects the Santali Peasant Revolution of 1949-50 in which the Santal community in Nachole area under ChapaiNawabganj sought to establish their rights over their land. 

Tushar has also done a number of still-life at different periods of his career with watercolour and acrylic mediums. His still lives show inanimate objects from the natural and man-made world, such as fruits, flowers, vegetables, fish and jars/bowls. Inherited from the Dutch painting of the 16th and 17th centuries, the art of contemporary still life is characterised by its focus on concrete realism. Tushar perfectly paints a number of fruits both collectively and solely--- pears, green lemons, bananas, and grapes; he also tints a number of vegetables collectively--- cauliflower, tomatoes, bitter gourd, pointed gourd, sweet pumpkin, radish, brinjal, onions and potatoes. He has also painted a number of prawns with awesome looks. 

Realism is Tushar’s forte. For a long time, it has been clearly observed that his calm and deeply meditative landscape alludes to harmony in nature. He has delved deep into the ambience of pastoral greenery, tranquil landscapes, lush foliage tarns, hilly areas and streaming water. Portraying blossoming and budding flowers, the painter also uses close-up views of the branches of trees containing patches of flowers of different colours and then changes the work by splashing colour pigments.

Tushar has also portrayed a vegetable vendor, a tea shop in a rural setting where people gather from different parts of the society, resting boats at the banks of rivers, juvenile reading and sketching under a mystic ambience, a devoted violin player, labourers’ toiling, people waiting at stations, poverty-ridden people, bauls, mendicants, working-class people and more. Disadvantaged people and their daily chores have also been demonstrated in his artworks with different mediums.

AloptoginTushar is one of the distinguished painters from the late ‘80s who enjoy making portraits of prominent men and women representing different eras in the country and sub-continent. These individuals have left legacies. They have reformed, reshaped the society and some of them have given refreshing looks to art, culture, literature and the overall thinking process. Some of them are no more today but their immense contributions remain relevant in our daily lives.

Tushar is one of the finest portrait painters in our country. It has been clearly noticeable that the artist has an in-depth understanding of the characters he portrays. He did live portraits of internationally acclaimed actress Audrey Hepburn, Bangladeshi author Shawkat Osman, Bangladeshi artists Quamrul Hassan, SM Sultan, Indian poet PurnenduPattrea, Bangladeshi poet MahadevSaha, Bangladeshi writer Ahmed Sofa, Indian music composer and santoor player Pundit ShivkumarSharma and many more. He has also portrayed many legendary figures from photos like Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, BongobirAtaulGoniOsmani, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana, Sheikh Jamal, Sheikh Russel, artists RamkinkarBaij (Indian sculptor), SM Sultan,  Shahbuddin Ahmed, BirenShome, ShilpacharyaZainulAbedin, poets Rabindranath Tagore, KaziNazrul Islam, Sukanta Bhattacharya and many more.  

Painting portraits is considered to be one of the oldest forms of art. From ancient times this art form has been predominantly used to glorify the influential and powerful in the society. All high-ranking families had a personal painter, who only did portraits of each family member. Sometimes, the painter travelled with the royals in hunting missions. Many distinguished artists in the world were commissioned by monarchs. Gradually, this art form crossed the territories of royalty and became popular among the masses the world over.

Those who are usually good at drawing, excel in portraits. There is a serious dearth of portrait painters in the Dhaka art scene despite the art form being well-established globally. Our painters, for some reason, have not shown enough interest in this drawing-based form. Hopefully, talented young artists will show more interest in drawing, which is one of the most significant aspects of art.

Tushar lent his creativity through a variety of topics in varied mediums. His themes focus on contemporary issues, social and political dilemmas and always stand against inhumanity, injustice and inequality. The artist makes great efforts to leave marks of his intelligence and perseverance in every medium of his creativities. He has developed an aesthetic quality in his paintings that works on many levels from the visual to the subconscious. Many of his paintings seem to us outstanding and make us contemplate largely due to his acute seriousness and honesty towards his works. A workaholic and preservative character, the painter spends considerable time to go into details of the subjects and he never hankers after wealth and cheap popularity. 

The artist’s solo show titled “Journey” will inaugurate on May 5 at Galleri Kaya in Uttara. It will continue till May 19. The writer is an art critic and cultural curator.