After more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, we are still largely confined to the four walls of our homes. But for painters, by and large, this has always been the case. They have to negotiate with their mediums from their rooms or studios. Keeping this in mind, we caught up with distinguished artists from Bangladesh to know more about their journey with art during these trying times.
Eminent artist Kanak Chapa Chakma considers herself lucky to not have to face any personal loss, when so many people near and dear to her have lost people they love. "I still remember the initial days of the pandemic when I would stay at home, hungrily observing the suddenly empty world from my terrace," she says. Even though the artist finished a few paintings in the first wave of the pandemic, quite a lot of them were developed much earlier. She fed street dogs and cats frequently, and donated paintings to organisations that sold them and distributed the money to artists and film production crew members who lost their livelihoods due to the coronavirus crisis.
Acclaimed artist Professor Jamal Uddin Ahmed is known for capturing the inner pains and joys of life in his paintings. "Staying indoors does not physically make much of a difference to us. As artists, our work requires us to stay cooped up for long hours, observing colours," says the Ekushey Padak-winning artist. In the past, he hired models for his paintings, but due to the movement restrictions now, he had to minimise the practice and paint figures based on his own psyche.
He was among one hundred artists who participated in Art Against Corona, organised by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. He made a painting of a mother and her two children, separated by a huge block of glass in a hospital; both of them trying to touch the other without succeeding. Ahmed donated fifteen paintings to different organisations to support struggling artistes.
Professor Mohammad Eunus says that he really lost the colours in his life when the pandemic began. The loss of lives weighed so heavily in his mind that he couldn't bring himself to add bright colours to his drawings. Instead, he resorted to black and white sketches on small canvases.
He was finally able to paint in colours when he was invited to a virtual workshop, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, in June 2020. It made him realise that in order to get away from these trying times, he needed to paint large pictures in vibrant colours, some of which were about the coronavirus pandemic. It paved the way for him to meditate on the nature of painting that he didn't consider otherwise in the past. "I truly got to understand the concept of art therapy during the pandemic. It nourishes your soul and feeds your optimism towards life. Every individual should dip their toes in art to battle with the rising turbulence in life," he asserts.
In conversation with Ekushey Padak-winning artist Farida Zaman, we got a taste of her meditative and contemplative nature. She spent almost a year and a half in Thailand, well into the pandemic. Even during her stay there, she was free from the noise of the city and had access to a quiet and nourishing atmosphere as well as all kinds of art materials. Yet, she missed drawing from the comfort of her studio. She had a lot of plans on what she would do after her return, but they had to be put aside for the time being. She is continuing to write, and hopes to start painting again soon.
The author is a postgrad student of English Literature and a freelance journalist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.