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Her face is a bare suggestion, outlined, but featureless. But far from rendering the portrait bleak, Mystic artist Sunil Howlader suffuses his acrylic painting with joy, through an exuberant mix of harmony, color and expressive rhythm.
Titled "Harmony 3," the painting is one of several works of a young woman playing her violin that is on view for Howlader's solo show, "Expressions of Harmony," at the Fresh Ayer Gallery in Old Lyme. The exhibit will be up until April.
"There's a passion and special quality that comes through in the work," says gallery owner Jan Ayer.
"You don't always see the vision and passion in artists," adds Ayer, who trained as a sculptor at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts.
Howlader's work, Ayer notes, is distinct in a region where representational art holds court. He studied in his native Bangladesh, receiving his master's degree in fine arts in 1991 from the Drawing & Painting Institute of Fine Art at the University of Dhakha in Bangladesh.
He became known to southeastern Connecticut when he was an artist in residence with the Griffis Arts Center in New London in 2000. He is an associate member of the Lyme Art Association and the Mystic Art Association, and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts.
Some of the awards Howlader has garnered for his work include the Ralph Fabri Medal, which he received at the 58th exhibit of the National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, and a 2010 CAFA Painting Award from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. "
His works are mostly in acrylic and comprised of landscapes and portraits. However, Howlader is original in his approach - with quite a bit of abstraction and expressionism charging the work, as well as his backgrounds of complex layers, with lines and squiggles. Yet even when the work is energetic and emotive, it maintains a grace and refrain, Ayer notes.
"It's very low-key," she says.
For Howlader, the pieces are what all art should be - harmony and color.
"Without it, there is no art," he says.
The model who holds the violin is a relative of his wife, and it was during a visit to Wisconsin that Howlader had her pose with her instrument in front of a majestic open field. For Howlader, capturing the feeling of the moment is the inspiration, and that emotional connection is emphasized over a representational approach. In the painting of the young woman, for example, he expresses her ecstasy and solitude with the music.
"I painted her feelings and her music - that is the object," said Howlader.
One of the methods he uses to reflect this is the way he renders the figure semi-transparent in some areas, the background and the figure at times becoming one - not isolating the subject from the environment.
"I like when he does figures," says Ayer. "They are an essence, not one person, but an essence of a woman."
In creating his work, Howlader likes to keep concepts universal, he said, things audiences can share and relate to.
The beauty of the natural world is another source of inspiration for Howlader, whose landscapes pay homage not only to a charming moment when the sun is reflected on the ocean in one painting, "Watch Hill," but also to nature itself. His swirls of golden light radiate the munificence of a setting sun. Those swirls dominate the painting and are reflected into the water, all of which help underscore the expansive horizon.
Similarly, his treatment of water in another landscape, "Blue River," imparts the water's power in a series of vigorous, scrolling paint strokes.
"The river is so big, I wanted to capture its energy, not the waves," he explains of his choice to have the water's movement represented with the squiggles. "It is imagination; I can feel the movement of the water."
Color is bright, jewel-like and pure in Howlader's paintings. Dashes of red make for arresting focal points, whether it be the sails in his "Blue River" or a flower in "Calla Lily."
To Howlader, finding beauty both in life and in art is a thematic quest.
"I pay attention to what is around me; try to find meaning and create something beautiful. Small things that on the surface have little meaning can actually represent universal truths that unite us all as human beings," he says. "We don't have much influence on the world at large, but I hope to bring beauty to people's lives with my paintings."
What: "Expressions of Harmony," featuring the art of Sunil Howlader
Where: Fresh Ayer Gallery, 19 Halls Road, Old Lyme
When: Through April 7; hours are noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment
Contact: (860) 598-9313, email@example.com