Dhaka Courier

Sadhana Islam’s folk motifs and natural splendor of Bengal

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Duet art show at Gallery Chitrak

Sadhana Islam is a hard-working, sincere and honest painter by nature. She completed her BFA from Bangladesh Government College of Arts and Crafts (now the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka) in 1974. Batik was her subsidiary subject and she successfully produced lots of pieces of batik. She earned popularity through the medium. She knows about the ins and outs of the medium and it has remained connected to her umbilical cord. The medium is arduous, time consuming and needs intense contemplation. She provides all those things and fruitfully works with the medium. Her first solo exhibition of Batik was held at Bangladesh Government College of Arts and Crafts in 1977. Besides local art enthusiasts, lots of foreigners felt attraction for the exhibition. They were puzzled to see the working style. Afterwards, they enormously encouraged Sadhana to work with the medium. The artist has tried heart and soul to establish the medium in our country. And she has a great dedication to uphold the Bengali heritage and tradition through her creations. Batik, which is both an art and a craft, has become more popular overtime and also garnered attentions in the West as a wonderful creative medium. The art of decorating cloth in this way, using wax and dye, has been practised for centuries. Batik is historically the most expressive and subtle of the resist methods. The ever-widening range of batik techniques applicable, offers the artist the opportunity to explore a unique process in a flexible and exciting way. Sadhana’s batiks are not limited to illustrating the traditional ballads only. She also uses calligraphy stylistically on batiks which sometimes includes human figures along with birds, nature and animals. Each work depicts a complete story that highlights the Bengali identity. Her works are closely related to the local myths, beliefs and visions. Her second solo exhibition of batik was held at Bangladesh Government College of Arts and Crafts in 1981.

Besides batik, Sadhana Islam has done many paintings through the egg tempera. During the early-80s and mid-80s of the last century, oil was gravely deficient in our country. During that time, Sadhana started to work with the egg tempera. The painter feels that the medium is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of coloured pigments mixed with a water-soluble binder element – usually a glutinous material such as an egg yolk. Tempera paintings are very long-lasting and Sadhana can easily handle the medium.

Through the medium (egg tempera), Sadhana Islam has widely focused on folk motifs. Over a large span of her career, she has been working on folk motifs and ancient ballads. Folk ballads of Nakshi Kanthar Math (verse narrative written by the folk poet Jasimuddin) have found prominent places in her works. The verse is considered a masterpiece in Bengali literature and has been translated into many different languages. She has used different kinds of birds, rural life and different social, cultural and religious rituals, boats, riverine life and greenery – all as pleasant and decorative motifs. The childlike drawings and compositions are not just duplications of a child’s fantasy. These compositions reflect the innocent realisation of life as a whole. With these she has used the traditional style of Nakshi Kantha. The meticulous stitches of Nakshi Kantha are faithfully scratched in the paintings, highlighting the stylistic character of this traditional village art. The ecstasies and torments of the village women, the unexpressed words of the shy village maidens, the simple hopes and aspirations of the village folks find life in these stitches of coloured threads taken from the worn-out sharees to ornate the handmade quilts. Her third solo exhibition of egg tempera was held at Divine Art Gallery in the city in 1994.

Beside batik and egg tempera, Sadhana Islam has also worked with acrylic, oil, dry pastel, charcoal and others. Her paintings delve deep into folk, pastoral life and rural traditions. Most of her works highlight bucolic and rustic elements; and the recurring motifs are flowers in different genres, birds, greenery, rural women carrying pitchers, peasants fluting under the tree, lush foliage, bulls and buffalos. To portray flowers, Sadhana mainly deals with the seasonal flowers of Bangladesh. She is overwhelmed by the vivid colours of spring flowers, especially Sonalu, Radhachura, Krishnachura and Chandra Prabha. Her very picturesque and appealing natural observation is profoundly embedded in her psyche. Her acrylic-based paintings are created spontaneously as her skilled hands brush the easels with colours. The painter depicts close-up views of the branches of trees containing patches of flowers of different colours and then distorts the work by splashing colour pigments.

Sadhana’s works on canvas reveal the celebration of triumph and broad-spaced vision. She gets pleasure by painting what moves her creative soul and enables her to translate an individual language through colours and figurative expressions. Her themes are always upholding the greatness of life. Through the process, the viewer also gets to know the artist’s individuality and mental state.

  • Sadhana Islam’s folk motifs and natural splendor of Bengal
  • Vol 36
  • Issue 39
  • Takir Hossain
  • DhakaCourier

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