Early ex­pe­ri­ences color artist’s work

The Day - - DAYBREAK - By AMY J. BARRY

Gro­ton — From an early age, Sunil Howlader was drawn to the pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions in books, but he had no col­ors with which to cap­ture the nat­u­ral world around him.

“I grew up in a very ru­ral vil­lage in Bangladesh. There were no paints, noth­ing,” he says. “Of course it’s very dif­fer­ent now, it’s much more global.”

By the age of 5, he had such a burn­ing de­sire to do what the artists did in the books that he fig­ured out a way to cre­ate his own color pal­ette.

“It was very funny. My mother cooked for us us­ing a turmeric pow­der that she ground with a stone, adding a lit­tle wa­ter,” Howlader re­calls. “I took some from my mom and first used it on pa­per to make a yel­low color. My par­ents brought Altha home from the mar­ket — (a red food dye) that In­dian women use to dec­o­rate their feet, and that was my red color. And I took green leaves and smashed them with my hands and it came out like green liq­uid. Those were pri­mary col­ors for me: red, green and yel­low.”

All th­ese years later, the Mys­tic artist’s paint­ings are in­fused with color that he can eas­ily squeeze out of a tube.

Howlader paints in both oils and acrylics and de­scribes his work as semi-ab­stract ex­pres­sion­ism be­cause it com­bines the beauty of nat­u­ral­is­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion with ab­strac­tion.

“I like this style be­cause it gives me the free­dom to add emo­tions, feel­ing and ideas to what I see,” he says. “I ex­press th­ese with mean­ing­ful lines, forms and col­ors. I use bold strokes, dab­bles and scrib­bles to rep­re­sent the emo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties of the psy­che.”

In 1991 Howlader re­ceived his MFA from the Depart­ment of Draw­ing & Paint­ing In­sti­tute of Fine Art, Univer­sity of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He came to the United States in 2000 for an in­ter­na­tional res­i­dency art pro­gram at the Grif­fith Art Cen­ter in New Lon­don and has been here ever since. He lived in West­brook for eight years and then, af­ter get­ting mar­ried in 2008, he moved to Mys­tic where his wife lived.

Over the past 25 years in both the United States and abroad, Howlader has won more than a dozen awards in ju­ried shows, has had 10 solo ex­hi­bi­tions, and has par­tic­i­pated in nu­mer­ous group ex­hi­bi­tions.

“Peace of Mind,” his new se­ries of paint­ings, is on ex­hibit in the Late Au­tumn Ex­hi­bi­tion at the Alexey Von Sch­lippe Gallery in Gro­ton.

“I find Sunil’s work to be very en­er­getic with an emo­tional qual­ity,” says Ju­lia Pavone, gallery di­rec­tor. “His bold col­ors and brush strokes in­ten­sify th­ese re­ac­tions to his work.”

Howlader says that cre­at­ing a feel­ing of peace and tran­quil­ity and ul­ti­mately bal­ance and har­mony in his paint­ings is im­por­tant to him.

In this new se­ries he says he has painted some new sub­jects. One theme, called “Peace of Mind,” is all about med­i­ta­tion.

“Our lives are very busy, there’s lots of vi­o­lence in the world, in the streets, th­ese are crazy times, and med­i­ta­tion is a way to calm our minds and find peace within our­selves,” Howlader says.

As an ex­am­ple, he de­scribes his paint­ing ti­tled “Peace of Mind” that fea­tures his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Bud­dha med­i­tat­ing un­der a tree.

“I didn’t get very de­tailed with the leaves,” he notes. “The point is, when the leaves are drop­ping on land or wa­ter, it’s in a very, very slow way. Med­i­ta­tion is like that. When you sit down, you try to med­i­tate and so many things are go­ing on in your mind, but (even­tu­ally) you’re go­ing to get there. I com­pare this in my paint­ing with leaves drop­ping very slowly on the river.”

A sec­ond theme is “Re­flec­tion” and in­cludes kayak­ers or sim­ply light re­flected on the wa­ter.

A third theme is “Har­mony,” which fo­cuses on mu­sic — whether it’s a girl play­ing vi­o­lin or a group of street mu­si­cians.

Howlader chooses his sub­jects by go­ing back to his mem­o­ries of his child­hood, his coun­try, his cul­ture, and now Mys­tic has be­come an­other source of in­spi­ra­tion.

“Right now my stu­dio has many win­dows, but es­pe­cially one win­dow that looks out onto the Mys­tic River,” he says, “and in the morn­ing there are beau­ti­ful re­flec­tions on the wa­ter.”

His paint­ings are both fig­u­ra­tive and land­scapes, some more ab­stract than oth­ers.

“I try to cre­ate my own iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, so the au­di­ence can con­nect with me, and say ‘Oh, this is a Sunil paint­ing,’” he says.

Sym­bols play an im­por­tant role in Howlader’s paint­ings of na­ture: Wa­ter lilies sym­bol­ize beauty; fish rep­re­sent abun­dance; and horses stand for the hu­man strug­gle to achieve con­scious or un­con­scious goals.

And col­ors also have sym­bolic mean­ings. When ex­plor­ing sub­jects such as past and fu­ture jour­neys, he uses white to sym­bol­ize the fu­ture, blue for dream­ing, green for life.

“I don’t know about other artists, but I get in­for­ma­tion from the au­di­ence all the time. I en­joy hear­ing the com­ments, sto­ries, peo­ple think­ing dif­fer­ent ways than me about a paint­ing. Some­one said my calla lily looks like it’s danc­ing. Some­one else thought it was a bird. I re­spect their com­ments; they en­joy dif­fer­ent things (about my work). Maybe they’ll give me an­other in­spi­ra­tion.”

CON­TRIB­UTED

“Re­flec­tion,” acrylic on can­vas, 40-by-50-inches

CON­TRIB­UTED

“Peace of Mind,” acrylic on pa­per, 30-by-22-inches

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