Samarjit Roy Chowdhury turns 81: The magnetism of modern folk motifs

Takir Hossain
Thursday, February 16th, 2017


Samarjit Roy Chowdhury is one of the most renowned contemporary Bangladeshi artists. His immense contribution to Bangladeshi art particularly folk painting, has earned him national and international acclaim. The USP of Samarjit’s paintings is an in-depth observation of rural Bengal and folk life – simple harmonic patterns, rural motifs, a tranquil ambiance and childhood nostalgia.


The painter turned 81 on February 10. On the occasion of his birthday, a birthday bash was held at Bakultala, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. Veteran painters, social and cultural activists, art critics, art enthusiasts and students of Samarjit Roy Chowdhury wished him with flowers, books and gifts.


Samarjit has carved a niche for himself with his hallmark style. His paintings are a deep cognizance of pastoral Bengal and folk life – pastoral designs, serene atmospheres and personal reminiscences of early days. The painter feels that reminiscence has a great link with his creative life.


However, in his early days, Samarjit was preoccupied with the pictorial aspect of life, bringing in motifs like birds, fishes, boats and human being early years. These assembled impetus over the year. His center of attention changed from the tangible reality to a kaleidoscopic inner meaning of nature. His form s and treatment of colours remain intense. His concern for folk motifs and decorative patterns spread his message all over the canvas. In his paintings, the discovery of chiaroscuro (pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to colour) led to create lyrical and dramatic compositions. He has used circles, rectangles, squares and so on. He considers these as part of the environment. Squares and rectangles are scattered throughout his paintings. In his latest work vertical lines play an important role.


In recent times, the painter has sought to blend a modern approach with his folk-based works. His recurring motifs are birds, kites, leaves, wild flowers, boats, plants and fish. Scribbles and thick lines crisscross over his paintings. His lines are not polished at all. The uneven lines create an individual language, highlighting a rural essence.


Samarjit draws inspiration from indigenous objects such as Lokkhi-shora and pata-chitra. He was also inspired by his teacher Guvenshar Chokroborty from Kolkata, his maternal uncle, Jyotindra Kar, a sculptor on wood and his mother who did fine embroidery, bringing in motifs of flora and fauna.


Samarjit’s lines and colours are also motivated by clay dolls and ancient ballads. His works present a combination of traditional and modern geometric, abstract forms. Adroit application of light and shades are evident. Besides restless curves, geometric forms, rectangular-triangular and broken lines make his images noteworthy. Playing with forms is Samarjit’s forte. Among the avant-garde second generation of contemporary artists in Bangladesh, Samajit seeks to represent our culture, heritage and traditions. As a painter, he believes he has certain responsibilities to the motherland.

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