Samar Majumder has spent over three decades working with artisans, and his culminated life experiences, intentionally or otherwise, has made an impact on his papers and canvases.
Forms were deconstructed in simplistic configurations, resembling styles normally seen in traditional folk art. Set on top of soft backgrounds, Majumder's works beautifully depicted the lives and struggles of village people.
Majumder was always fascinated by art. He had been doodling and painting since his early childhood.
"I could not help but become an artist. For as long as I can remember, I loved to draw and paint. It gave me peace. Both my parents were supportive of my artistic nature but, like all parents, they did not appreciate it if I skipped out on schoolwork to make art."
Majumder studied Drawing and Painting at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
"At the time, one could enrol into the Arts College after completing their matriculation examinations. After I completed my SSC, I found out about a place called Charukala where one could study art. I was always fascinated by drawing and painting, even as a child. So, I applied for enrollment. This was the place where I truly belonged."
Majumder is best known for designing book covers. He is a recipient of six Best Book Cover Design Awards from National Book Centre, Bangladesh. As he explained, "I have done a lot of freelance work throughout my career. As I had a full-time job, I preferred designing book covers because I did not need to invest a lot of time on it."
However, it was his full-time work which went on to inspire the artworks he would actively pursue after his retirement. Majumder completed his BFA in 1980 and went on to work for Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), serving as Assistant Chief Designer. He worked in the organisation for more than 35 years, where he also received mentorship from artist Quamrul Hassan.
Artisans in rural Bangladesh have a proud heritage of making exquisite crafts. They produced various textiles and household items, some of which were revered as legendary – such as the famous Muslin of Dhaka. However, these industries were negatively impacted by industrialisation, where craftsmen struggled to compete with the faster and cheaper products. Samar Majumder spent his career in BSCIC aiding, supporting and modernising techniques for various artisans.
Majumder primarily worked with textiles and tapestry, but his work allowed him to travel throughout the country where he got to know the lives of artisans and rural people in general.
"I grew up in a village but I have also had the opportunity to travel to many others in my line of work. I got to see the lives of village people first hand. It was during my tenure at BSCIC when I first decided to paint the lives of artisans, farmers and rural Bangladesh," said Majumder, adding, "I was also very busy with my job to complete intricate pieces of art at the time. So, I mostly made layouts of paintings."
These layouts would manifest into beautiful pieces of art currently on display at Majumder's solo exhibition 'Soul Searching: A Personal Journey' at Gallery Shilpangan in Lalmatia.
Much like the art of Quamrul Hassan, Majumder's works also resemble folk art – particularly the two-dimensional style, and the use of flat colours without creating any form of tonal variations. 'Soul Searching: A Personal Journey' is open to all until Wednesday, 20 July 2022.
TBS Picks | A selection of exhibits from the show with a description
Fishing at night . Acrylic on paper . 2019
I used to go fishing with my father when I was young. We would take a lamp with us on a boat at night or very early in the morning. My father would cast a net into the water and reel in a lot of fish. I would sometimes sketch the scene while I sat there. Anyone who has grown up in the village is very familiar with this sight. I tried to recreate the relationship a father has with a son in this painting.
Girl with her pet . Acrylic on paper . 2018
When a cowherder is not at home, sometimes their daughters take out the cattle for grazing. Young boys and girls play with each other while the cattle graze, at times they would lazily lounge around or play the flute. And sometimes they would lie down napping and the cows would lie down next to them. I tried to show the relationship a cowherder has with his or her animals.
The girl with cat . Acrylic on paper . 2018
A girl is sitting while reading a book while her pet cat sits next to her. I try to recall things I have seen growing up. I have not painted anyone in particular here, I have painted this from imagination. Most of my paintings are drawn from imagination.