Rumki, alias Sweeti Dutta Banik, grew up amidst the tranquil hilly terrain and paddy fields of Silchar in Assam. Little wonder then that nature played a dominant role in her exhibition, Satori: In the arms of Nature, at ICCR, Calcutta, from February 11-15. It was curated by Maitreyee Mukherjee. In the Zen Buddhism of Japan, the unexplainable word, satori, can be defined as sudden enlightenment or the unattainable. Just like the masters of China and Japan as well as the artist-pedagogues of Santiniketan, such as Nandalal Bose and Benode Behari Mukherjee, Rumki seeks this state of enlightenment in nature.
Her works can be categorised, firstly, as pen and ink drawings inspired by nature; secondly, as unpremeditated washes using brush and ink; and thirdly, as various natural forms, mostly vegetal and floral, using water-soluble graphite, brush and ink. Her palette is quite limited but she can create various moods and ambiences by using these to great effect.
Rumki’s métier is in her pen and ink drawings of various flowers, rendering them directly from nature. She has a keen eye for details and can transfer her observations on paper faithfully enough without cluttering her drawings with a surfeit of information. She keeps her drawings simple and straightforward in the tradition of Nandalal Bose. Thus each petal, stamen and sepal of a flower and the veins and stalk of each leaf comes to life in her drawings. Rumki displays her drawing skills in this limited field.
She is equally good when it comes to painting compositions where a flower and its petals are the focus of her work. Her dainty washes are quite suited to the softness of the petals she paints, using ink on wet sheets of paper to create these airy, insubstantial forms.
However, Rumki’s brushwork tends to get shaky while painting landscapes and trees in an obviously Oriental style. She will need years of practice before she can come anywhere close to the originals. It’s better to confine oneself to what one can get right with confidence.