On 22 and 23 April an art exhibition showcased 29 experimental artworks at the Bistro E Club of Bay’s Edgewater in Gulshan. Titled ‘Reclaimed on a Frame’ the exhibition displayed artworks by Runi Khan.
'Reclaimed on a Frame' re-assembles Bengali "cultural fragments" using fabrics and old wooden printing blocks juxtaposed into a geometric unity. Each fragment of the composition has meaning and cultural relevance in its own right, but is brought together such that the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
“I have been a professional all my life. But all throughout my professional life, which was in finance and banking, my real passion was in culture and arts.” This is how Runi Khan described herself and her work.
A passionate ambassador for culture, Runi Khan is a British-Bangladeshi based in London and Dhaka. As a cultural activist she has for decades been promoting the Arts from behind the scenes. As a British Bangladeshi she is considered one of our foremost cultural exponents of Bangladesh’s cultural heritage in the UK, which has its natural overflow into the rest of Europe.
“In 1965/66 people like Ali Akbar Khan used to come to our place. We would just sit and listen to music. There were concerts all the time,” Runi Khan said, as she was providing a background on her cultural upbringing. Her house in London was a cultural melting pot in the truest sense of the expression.
“I remember celebrating Allah Rakha’s birthday in London. Me and my sister made tabla shaped cake,” Runi Khan recalled.
Her inimitable experiences of meeting and interacting with world class artists like Allah Rakha and Ali Akbar Khan ignited her sense of and appreciation for our unique culture. That is perhaps behind her motivation to continue to engage in cultural activities and promoting arts.
She is the founding director of Culturepot Global. Through this non-profit Company she produces groundbreaking global collaborations across art forms, unleashing the unheard and unseen onto the world stage. Her aim also is to secure a sustainable place for Bangladesh on the global cultural map.
Runi Khan was much too humble to comment on her own work. She was quick to delegate a lot of the credit to Montu, who did the framing work.
“I look at different things and try to imagine them in different contexts and on different backgrounds,” Runi said. Her artworks make use of many different elements including intricate block design moulds, old sari, the gamcha patterns (a Bangladeshi block design style, typically used in towels).
When asked how long it takes to compose and assemble an artwork Runi Khan said that the process is quite long. Sometimes she finds a piece of something that she can use and she thinks about the composition for hours. And then the actual framing process takes a long time too.
Runi Khan’s pieces are vibrant in Bangladeshi colours and the three dimensional characteristic in many of them coalesces a sense of ancient artifacts meeting contemporary rural Bengal.
The exhibition at the Bistro E Club sold 9 artworks. Another exhibition is taking place at the Bay Gallery in Red Shift, where 10 more pieces will be added and the exhibition will continue until 28 May.
“I am very grateful to the people at the Tivoli Art Gallery. I couldn’t have done this without them. And of course Montu,” a smiling Runi Khan added.