Early experiences color Sunil Howlader’s paintings
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 joyful, 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 now.”
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.”
What: An opening reception for "Late Autumn Exhibition' featuring live music by Bill Morrison & Kent Hewitt Jazz Duo. The public is welcome. In addition to Howlader, three other artists have simultaneous individual exhibitions at the gallery: Guido Garaycochea of Groton displays new mixed media paintings that combine figurative abstraction with organic remembrances, layering, and overlapping elements. Karen Roarke of Middletown, R.I., exhibits her nonrepresentational acrylic paintings that focus on color, light, transparency and pattern; and Laura Shechter of Brooklyn, N.Y., is showing her luminous cityscapes of New York in the style of contemporary realism.
When: Reception is Nov. 6, 6 to 8 p.m. Exhibition continues through Dec. 12.
Where: The Alexey Von Schlippe Gallery at UConn Avery Point,1084 Shennecossett Road, Groton.
More information: online at www.averypointarts.uconn.edu or call (860) 405-9052.