At the 21st Young Artists' Art Exhibition 2018 at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Sagor Chakrobarty won the best artist’s award. In his paintings, he desires to capture the journey and story of urban people who have been displaced from their ancestral rural homes. With use of semi-abstract forms, he explores different political and social aspects of contemporary urban life. Nahid Riyasad talks to him about his recent achievement and art work.
New Age Youth: Let’s talk about this first, how are you enjoying your recent achievement and subsequent public attention?
Sagor Chakrobarty: Certainly, I am enjoying this. I want to share something on this note. In 2010, I got a consolation prize on this same stage, as a young artist. Eight years of hard work has finally paid off. I got on the stage again, this time, to receive the best artist’s award. Through this journey, I can now evaluate my growth as a painter.
New Age Youth: Would you like to share your journey?
Sagor Chakrobarty: I grew up in a family environment in which engagement with art and cultural activities were encouraged and appreciated. Moreover, my grandfather was a professional priest and an amateur sculptor. Through his work, I got an introduction to the process of creating an art at an early stage. In addition, often, ganer ashor (informal music sessions) were held at our home that incited my interest in music. However, among all the art forms I have practiced painting, so far, attracts me the most.
New Age Youth: Have you received any kind of academic training in art?
Sagor Chakrobarty: After the completion of my school, I decided not to pursue any traditional career path; rather, I took admission in Bulbul Lalitakala Academy and completed a three year diploma course on painting in 2003.
New Age Youth: Because of your unconventional career, have you been treated differently by your friends and family ?
Sagor Chakrobarty: Well, to be honest, any unconventional career, particularly art needs immense support from the family, as well as friends. As I have already mentioned, my family has always been supportive of my career in painting and appreciated my passion for art. Most of my friends have also been supportive. Nonetheless, there were some relatives and acquaintances that criticised my career path but this award has shut everyone’s mouth. This also shows that your success is the best answer to critics.
New Age Youth: At this point, tell us more about your artistic self. What inspires you to paint or, what do you want to portray?
Sagor Chakrobarty: We are living in an age of urbanisation. These people who left their ancestral rural home and flocked to city, it is their stories that excites me. Every one of them has different story, they hide those stories behind their faces and my work is to chisel out that face, paint that story. For this reason, I often work with subjects like women, their motherhood and its association with our land, motherland.
New Age Youth: Would you like to tell us more about your painting ‘Red City’, which bags you the best artist’s prize?
Sagor Chakrobarty: I have deliberately painted this with different shades of red; I used soft pastel and a spray on top of it to make the colour stick to the canvas. This shows the face of a woman, whom I painted to make a women-centred platform which will give birth to progressive and free thinking society. My protagonist’s face also tells the journey from her home to this city of red lights. The journey that is costly in social terms. Moreover, in this consumerist capitalist society in which material gain is prioritised, extensive use of red screams against such objectification of people’s lives and labour. In a nutshell, I wanted to make a place, in my art, for those women whose narratives are often unheard and unexplored.
New Age Youth: As a painter, what other painters have inspired you so far?
Sagor Chakrobarty: I have been fascinated by a lot of artists and their paintings and it will be hard for me to pick one or two names. From Bangladesh, I would say that Mustafa Monwar’s water colour paintings are absolutely mesmerising. Apart from him, a school of art himself, SM Sultan’s paintings also inspired me in understanding the culture and history of our painting. And should we consider outside of Bangladesh, I have to say that Pablo Picasso is one my most favourite artists of all time.
New Age Youth: Do you work on political themes?
Sagor Chakrobarty: You see, living in a time like this and expressing everything that you think is not the wisest decisions. I do feel obligated to consider and work on political themes, however, till date, I have incorporated those thoughts within the fibers of my painting. For example, I was passing by a meat shop where a large skinned cow-leg was displayed for sale. It was fresh and I could see the meat palpitating — immediately, I thought of an art work. Hindu community considers cow as holy and worship it to satisfy their god. At the same time, Muslim people sacrifice cows during Eid, also to satisfy their god. Now, intention in treating the cow is same here, satisfying god. I have named that piece as ‘Evolution’. This is how I have been incorporating political ideas inside my work.
New Age Youth: Do you do anything else apart from your painting?
Sagor Chakrobarty: As a matter of fact, besides being a fulltime painter, I am also a teacher. I teach at a primary school as an art instructor, also teach at an art academy for children. This helps me to channel my ideas and philosophy to the next generation. Also, I have been singing since my childhoodI love to sing Lalon’s songs social gatherings; they do touch my soul and inspire me a lot. However, I don’t any formal training in singing.
New Age Youth: What are the major styles in painting that you follow?
Sagor Chakrobarty: Primarily, painting is the representation of reality as the artist perceives it. In order to convey my message, I use a lot of symbols. They allow me to paint things that we don’t always talk about. I often work with abstract or semi-abstract ideas to portray underlying meanings.
New Age Youth: You said that paintings need to be related with the emotion of the artist as well as the subject, would you please elaborate that?
Sagor Chakrobarty: One of the major focuses of my paintings is portraying the underlying story of a person, their journey and emotions. I believe that human souls hold art, thus, I deliberately try to chisel out the heart of those people who are now living in the urban scenario but their souls have made the journey of leaving their home town. By portraying this journey, I endeavour to place those people in the urban scenario.
New Age Youth: What are your future plans with your paintings?
Sagor Chakrobarty: I have always wanted to arrange a solo art exhibition with my art work. I might decide a specific theme for that exhibition, or else, I might take different themes but having some underlying similarity. I haven’t decided yet but I am hopeful for the future.
Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Icon