From animals to human figures, Kutubul Islam Ovi has created a world of miniatures from graphite lead, soaps and matchsticks
A dead elephant is lying on the ground and her calf is hugging its mother. With beautiful detail, Ovi sculpted this miniature masterpiece on a piece of graphite lead which is less than two centimetres in diameter.
Kutubul Islam Ovi was only nine-years-old when the idea of creating miniature sculptures crossed his mind.
He passed by a carpenter's shop in Jashore on his way back home from school. Ovi saw a piece of wood with four nails in it, which created the shadow of a human figure. Ovi's young mind was filled with amazement and it gave him the idea to make miniature sculptures of his own.
"During my childhood, I had to read all the time. I thought if I can make miniature sculptures, it will be easier to hide them behind the books and no one will see it. This is how I started."
As a child, when his peers were busy playing outdoors, Ovi would be busy making miniature sculptures while pretending to read books. His interest in the field was so strong that Ovi graduated in Fine Arts majoring in Sculpture from Khulna University.
It takes immense patience to work on miniatures. Depending on the subject, it can take up to seven days to complete a fully-detailed sculpture. But sculptures can be made using everyday objects like matchsticks, candles, anti-cutters, syringe needles, etc.
Miniature artists sometimes also use magnifying glasses for the detailing process.
Ovi, however, does not use a magnifying glass. He relies solely on his vision.
"As I do not use any magnifying glass, I can work on my sculptures anywhere. I often make sculptures on matchsticks while having tea at the roadside tea stalls. It does not end up as detailed pieces. But it makes me happy," said Ovi.
The problem with miniature art is that it is very fragile. Even the slightest pressure on the artwork can break it and soap-based sculptures can lose their shapes.
"It is important to be aware and control your breathing while working on a sculpture," Ovi said. Patience, he says, is his most important asset.
"The pencil can fall and the lead can break from one accidental cut. Many of my sculptures broke this way just as they neared completion."
One of Ovi's favourite sculptures is the village tree and house. Beautifully detailed, it features a tree beside a village hut.
This took him five days to complete. Unfortunately, the sculpture broke while he was showing us the work.
Though miniature artwork is considered as valuable objects, there are only a handful of artists who invest in this process in Bangladesh.
"When I started doing miniatures, it was a mere hobby for me and till now it has remained this way. I have sold a few pieces but I still have no idea about the actual value of miniature sculptures. I even gave away some of my sculptures to my friends so they can impress their beloved ones."
From animals to human figures, Ovi has created a world of miniatures birds, tools, trees, human figures and even two elephants on a single piece of graphite.
Over the last six years, the 27-year-old from Magura has carved more than 100 miniature sculptures and participated a few exhibitions, including the Asian Art Biennale in 2018.