Line of demarcation : returning to Ratan Majumdar
It was pure happenstance that in 1978 'Pleasure of Nudity', an entry by Ratan Majumdar, a ceramic artist turned printmaker, received one of the three awards in the 4th National Art Exhibition at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. Majumdar was at his prime, transferring an image of urban alienation, one that combines nuanced lines with the starkness of black and white woodcut print, to the art world obsessed with the oil medium.
One who was allowed admission in the art arena through his successful entry into the Dhaka Art College (now, Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka) in 1973, two years after the country was liberated. Majumdar always had some emotional baggage to carry. That he was denied the opportunity to pursue study in the general courses, which forced him to choose the three-year course in ceramics as an alternative, also weighed heavily upon him. But his mind was set on things of extra-curricular nature – and at the end of the 1970s he is already a practising printmaker – churning out black and white images from wood-blocks.
After an award at the national-level exhibition came the opportunity to participate at the White Chapel show in 1980, where Bangladeshi artists were exclusively showcased. The next three years were hectic – he had three consecutive solo exhibitions starting from the one at British Council in 1982, then at Alliance Française in 1983, and finally at Shilpakala Academy in 1984. But the initial success proved futile, as Majumdar simply disappeared from the art scene only to have resurfaced in 2007 with a solo exhibition at Gallery Kaya. The idiom that he floated in the late 1970s still accompanies him. Though the intermittent years have not seen him reorganizing his artistic vocabulary, his signature style now efficaciously incite a sense of nostalgia – relocating the viewers in the spatial reality where the gaze is contemplative, untrammelled by the traffic of ideas and the existing social chaos that have, in the last couple of decades, resulted in anxieties in our effort to construct urban semiosis.