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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

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A posthumous exhibition for Sanatan

The Daily Star,

He made all arrangements for his first ever solo exhibition. Just prior to the event, he went home to his village of Hurka in Bagerhat--to see his parents, maybe to get their blessings. But fate had something else on the cards. Within 12 days of a brain hemorrhage, Sanatan Biswas died on December 24 last year. In his brief lifetime of 37 years, artist Sanatan could not hold a single solo exhibition.

To cover this gap, Sanatan's friends and well-wishers have organised Ekbar Paay Tarey, an exhibition of his works. The display is being held at the Zainul Gallery of the Institute of Fine Arts (IFA), Dhaka University.

One of Sanatan's paintings done in acrylic on paper


Born in a remote village in Bangladesh, Sanatan showed interest in painting at a very early age. However, regular lessons began later. In 1990, he went to Khulna Art College and took admission in the pre-Bachelor of Fine Arts course. In 1994, he received the certificate from Rajshahi University and came to the capital to study at the IFA. Here he got admission in the Department of Oriental Arts. Sanatan completed his course in 2003.

Meanwhile, Sanatan participated in a few workshops under eminent artists of the country. In 1993, he took part in a watercolour workshop in Khulna conducted by SM Sultan. After coming to Dhaka, he participated in a workshop conducted by the now defunct Artists' Guild. There he learnt watercolour from artists like Mustafa Monwar, Rafiqunnabi, Nasrin Begum and Shishir Bhattacharya.

The exhibition includes about 40 paintings from over 500 art works Santan completed during his student life. 'It is amazing that an artist could have done so many paintings before he completed his MFA,' says Tokon Thakur, Santan's friend, poet and one of the organisers of the exhibition..

Sanatan's paintings at the exhibition are mostly in acrylic on paper. There are also a few watercolour pieces. Sanatan's skills in watercolour especially reached such a height that he often could bring the acrylic-effect through the medium. He did not have many oil paintings, for the cost of the colours and canvas was beyond his ability. His acrylics, however, are a compensation.

Long brush strokes and the use of somewhat unconventional colours remain the striking features of Sanatan's paintings. His human figures, especially those of women, project sharp body outlines. Besides, other works often display a dream-like confusion about the subject of his drawings.

A series of 16 pen-sketches have been put on the display that encompass Sanatan's reaction at the brutal attack on the boarders of Shamsunnahar Hall by the Police in 2002. The small sketches bring out the horror and absurdity of the heinous incident that took place in the dead of night.

Sanatan's brilliance spoke out for him during his lifetime. Besides taking part in the annual art exhibitions of IFA, he earned award for the best medium in 1996. He travelled to the universities of Rabindra Bharati and Shantiniketan and other parts of India to observe the nature of oriental art.

A memorial book, containing memoirs of Santan's friends, teachers and followers has been published on the occasion of the exhibition. The proceeds from the exhibition and the book will be used for establishing an art school in Sanatan's village.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Santan's father Shyamapada Biswas. The poor father, clearly overcome with emotion, cried, 'Please, forgive my son.'

Sanatan will not draw any more paintings; nor will he hold any more exhibitions. He trod the earth just once, as poet Jibanananda Das wrote in his poem Ekbar paay tarey/Paay nako ar. But Sanatan's works and memories will remain forever.

The exhibition runs until July 30.

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