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Rotis of indignation

- Rahul Dhakal, Kathmandu

Jan 11, 2018-

Mithila Yain Art Gallery, in Thamel, which in the past year has run several exhibitions of artists from South Asia, this week concluded a solo show by veteran Bangladeshi artist Uttam Kumar Roy.

Titled Epic of Hunger, the exhibition ran from the Jan 5 till Jan 9 and comprised of 18 works on canvas as well as a series of prints. All the works on display were circular in form, reminiscent of a roti. Roy’s use of colour is restricted to hues of brown which he uses to create a visual field that mimics the charred markings on a roti. Paint marks seem as if seared onto canvas, and coalesce at the centre of the paintings to form images—often of emaciated figures and haunting profiles of those who are forced to subsist on roti.

Speaking on his use of the roti as a motif, artist Roy said, “Roti is a staple diet for the poor in South Asia. From Bangladesh to Nepal to India, every household knows the roti and consumes it on a day-to-day basis; which is why I thought it would be a motif that was universal and relatable.”

He claims the idea for the theme had first occurred to him while he watched his wife prepare dinner. “I saw forms in the charred parts of a chapatti and I began to think maybe this should be the theme for my next series of paintings,” he said.

Shyam Sundar Yadav, artist and curator at the gallery noted, “It is important to exhibit works such as those of Roy’s as they utilise traditional and local motifs to express contemporary global issues. In this way they ensure iconographic continuity and coherence of cultures, old and new. They are thus valuable works of art.” Roy said that through his paintings and prints he had hoped to “relate the degradations of poverty to his viewership”. His works serve as testament to familiar images of poverty in South Asia and beyond, they are therefore rotis of indignation, not easily digested by the discerning conscience.

Published: 11-01-2018 08:55

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