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Art Transcending Boundaries: Bangladeshi painter’s journey at Harlow Open 2024



Gokul Chandra Biswas:



The recently concluded ‘Harlow Open 2024’ art exhibition at the Gibberd Gallery in Harlow, UK, featured the works of acclaimed British painters alongside those of Bangladeshi artist Ashis Mitra. In an exclusive interview on 10th April, Professor Dr Gokul Chandra Biswas, former Principal of Government Fazlul Haque College in Bangladesh, shed light on Mitra’s remarkable journey. Tragically, Mitra became a victim of racism in his home country in 2007, forcing him to leave his job and endure physical attacks. With his life at risk, he had no choice but to seek refuge in the United Kingdom in 2009. Mitra’s passion for art remained undiminished despite the challenges of starting anew. Since 2013, he has actively participated in art courses and exhibitions, allowing his creative expression to transcend boundaries.

The Harlow Open 2024, held from 2nd February to 16th March, provided a platform for Mitra’s artistic brilliance to shine alongside celebrated British painters. His inclusion in this prestigious exhibition celebrates his talent and symbolises the triumph of resilience over adversity and the power of art to unite diverse cultures.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself?

Answer:  Good afternoon, and nice to meet you, too. Well, thank you for asking me the questions. I am a self-motivated and passionate artist. I was born in the village named Madra, Swarupkathi, in the district of Pirojpur, in the southern part of Bangladesh. I studied there till higher secondary. I obtained my Bachelor’s (Honours) and Master’s degree in accounting from the renowned B M College, Barisal, Bangladesh. Though I could not complete it, I was admitted into ICAB (CA Foundation Course). I love to introduce myself as a natural artist.

Q: What motivated you to be a natural artist?

Answer: Basically, I grew up in the midst of vast nature. So, I was introduced to lives, to the colours of lives intimately, and I possessed a great passion for art from a very early stage of my life. The scenic beauty of my surroundings helped to create different stories within me, and I used to feel the urge to portray them on canvas. So, nature, I believe, was my first inspiration to be a natural artist.

Q: What else helped you continue it, and what are the specialities in your works?

Answer: Along with academic studies, I always enjoyed co-curricular activities, and those interests helped me learn about cultures as well. My creativity and artistic skills gradually developed as I participated in various art-related works, workshops, and competitions. Since 2006, I have sincerely been engaged in artwork in Bangladesh. As a genuine lover of nature, I can vividly depict the beauty and truth in my artwork through my ideas, imagination and experiences. To do so, I love experimenting with different mediums, such as oil, acrylic, watercolour, pencil sketch, etc.

Q: Did you take art as your profession from the beginning?

Answer: Not really. After completing my academic career, I worked as an accountant and as an Assistant Accounts Officer in two well-known organisations in Bangladesh from 2001 to 2009, but I couldn’t continue.

Q: If you don’t mind, is your passion for art that made you discontinue those jobs and come to the UK?

Answer: Unfortunately, I became a victim of racism in our capital city, Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2007, and it compelled me to leave my job. Not only that but I had also been attacked by a group of people more than once there. To save my life, there was no other choice except to escape from my own country, Bangladesh, to the United Kingdom in 2009.

Q: Mr Ashis, please tell me about your life in the UK.

Answer: Well, coming to the UK, I had to struggle a lot to survive, but I did not stop my artwork. Rather, since 2013, I have regularly been participating in art-related courses and exhibitions. I achieved an award in Creative Techniques following two modules (Drawing and Painting – Still Life and Certification Module Level -2) from Rosetta Art Centre, London, by the awarding body “City & Guilds” in 2013. Some of the notable exhibitions I participated in are Harlow Open 2024; Exhibition in Gibberd Gallery, Harlow in 2023; Summer Art Exhibition 2023, Bishop’s Stortford, UK; Spring Art Exhibition 2023 Bishop’s Stortford, UK; A Group Art Exhibition, 2021 Bishop’s Stortford, UK, Summer Art Exhibition, 2020 Bishop’s Stortford, UK; Harlow Open 2020; Hertfordshire Exhibition in 2018; ECCO Art Exhibition; A Sacred Autumn – A Solo Art Exhibition, 2018; A Divine Sketch and Colours – A Solo Art Exhibition 2015 Chichester, UK; Bayswater Road Sunday Art Exhibition, 2015; Art and Worship, 2013 and Art, Spirit and Devotion, 2013. Montefiore Art Centre London

Q:  Good to know about all these, Mr Mitra. Is there any other work you have done, or are you still doing, except art in this country?

Answer: Thanks for asking. I volunteered in several organisations here: Betar Bangla 1503AM (Community Radio Station), SBLA (Sarbojanin Baba Lokenath Association) UK, and Age Sentinel Trust, UK.  I joined the Bayswater Road Art Society in 2014 – 2015. Presently, I am one of the members of Bishop’s Stortford Art Society, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, UK.

Q: Thank you for sharing the information about you and your artwork. I wish you success in your life. Best of luck, Mr Ashis Mitra.

Answer: Thank you very much for your generous questions.

(The interview with Ashis Mitra was conducted on 10 April by Professor Dr Gokul Chandra Biswas, Ex-Principal, Govt. Fazlul Haque College, Chakhar, Barisal, Bangladesh).