Thursday, October 29, 2015

In Memory of S.M Sultan: An Artist never to be forgotten

Details of large portrait of S.M Sultan 

features at the S.M Sultan Memorial Gallery

in Narail
The infamous S.M Sultan was born in East Bengal, which is now known as Bangladesh. Even from an early age, S.M Sultan showed passion and immense talent in art. After attending school for 5 years, he joined his father at work as a mason. It was whilst working with his father, that he took an interest in the buildings and began sketching them with great detail and finesse. This was when he started dreaming of attending an art school in Kolkata to enhance his talents as an artist.

Due to his parents not having the necessary financial means to send him to study abroad, a local landlord offered to assist the family in sending S.M Sultan to Kolkata. He arrived in Kolkata in 1938 with a bleak future of getting admission into the school due to his lack of experience. Luckily, with the help of Hasan Shahid who was an art critic and respected poet, S.M Sultan was able to attend the art school he had dreamt of only too often. But his free spirited nature resulted in him not completing his education and he decided to travel through India and Kashmir. It is known that during his travel, he ran into many soldiers, whom he sketched along the way. Sadly, none of these works survived as he took little care to use materials that would preserve them.

S.M Sultan's artwork of agricultural local farmers.
The artist’s large canvases seem to portray the vastness of life and are inspired by the simple elements of life. His artworks are a dreamlike interpretation of the agricultural laborer’s, simple householders, fishermen and hardworking men and women. What makes his art so unique is the depiction of real life situations, but with a twist of surrealism. The skinny, weak laborers are sketched as heavy muscular men. Perhaps this was as an indication of hope for a better future. His magical strokes of watercolor and oil were mainly focused on the themes of his surrounding nature and rural life.

S.M Sultan was a man that found value in all he saw. When he travelled through India, tranquil landscapes filled their way onto his canvases with watercolor and oil. However, it was in Narail that he formed his most iconic style- the rural scenes of figures with exaggerated muscles instead of the actual reality where peasant farmers are thin and bony.

He was the founder of Fine Arts Institution in Narail where he taught many, of varying talent, often for free. He always sought to encourage, challenge and to propagate the ever-present liberation and self-realization in art. In his lifetime, S.M Sultan won numerous awards for his work. He was declared ‘The Man of Asia’ in 1982 by University of Cambridge. Sultan’s desire for contentment and happiness can be seen in his dreamlike works. His drawings can be described as powerful, and he is still viewed as one of the most prolific artists to have emerged from Bangladesh.

Art Exhibition of S. M Sultan
Sultan had gone to several places to showcase his exhibitions, which included New York, Washington, Chicago, and Boston. He also went to London later for an exhibition. His first art exhibition was hosted in 1946 in Simla. He had his first Dhaka art exhibition in 1976.The great artist breathed his last breath on the 10th of October in 1994 in his own house in Sonargaon, Dhaka.

Photo Courtesy: The Daily Star & Web

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