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7 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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A Grand Art Fest

By Bipul K Debnath
A Grand Art Fest

Showrave Dhor, a budding artist, was found gazing in awe at a painting for a long while recently at the National Art Gallery in the capital. “I have come here to know how to work with different media. This event has created a platform where we can meet artists from both home and abroad. Like me, every student of fine arts should visit this grand art fest,” said Dhor, a third-year student of drawing and painting department at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. “If we do not get any of the artwork here, our teachers and senior artists help us to understand. So, it helps us to develop our own art.”

Dhor talked to The Weekend Independent while visiting the ongoing 18th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh 2018, one of the largest art festivals in the Asia-Pacific region, which began on the premises of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy at Segun Bagicha on September 1.

Another visitor, Tanvir Imtiaz, a fourth-year student of Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts in Dhaka, said: “This event has brought together the artworks of international artists in the same place, from where we can learn a lot about global art. There are many attractions at the event. I have enjoyed the performance arts and new media arts the most. From these two genres, I have come to know a lot about contemporary politics, social problems and other important issues.”

“I have also seen a photography exhibition here on road accidents, which is a burning issue these days. I talked to the photographer; he said he tried to show the problem and find solutions through his photos,” Imtiaz added.

Like the two students, you can also visit the mega art carnival to get a taste of multi-dimensional artworks, including painting, prints, sculpture, photography, oriental art, ceramics, handicrafts, performance art, art installation, video art and new media art, by artists from different countries of Asia, the Pacific region and beyond.

There are 583 artworks by 266 foreign and 199 Bangladeshi artists on display at the monthlong exhibition, which runs through September 30 and is open for all from 11am to 8pm every day. An art camp, art café, a sculpture park and a children’s corner have also been designed for visitors to enjoy.

A number of foreign critics, curators and art connoisseurs are also attending the grand art fest. And if you are lucky, you may even get the chance to meet renowned local and foreign artists, who are very enthusiastic about explaining and sharing their aesthetic concepts with art lovers.  

This correspondent caught up with some participating artists at the venue on September 2 to learn about their experience at the biennale.

Shahid Kazi, a Bangladeshi artist, said: “I am proud to take part in this event. The theme of my artwork is ‘Neighbouring Window’. I feel good when visitors ask me to describe my work.”

Describing his work, Kazi said: "It is a painting-based installation art project. Through 'the window of the neighbour', I have wanted to show the relationship among people living in a society."

Dasarat Das, an Indian artist, said: “The title of my artwork is ‘My Dream’. It is an etching print. Here, I have tried to depict the dream of every individual. I have tried to highlight my own dream in my work _ which shows a boy sitting on a chair, listening to music, trying to relax and think of something to do.”

“After coming to Bangladesh, I have met many artists. They are discussing my artworks and I am also talking to them about theirs. It is a great experience for me. I hope the rest of the day, I will meet more Bangladeshi and foreign artists at this event,” Das added.

Kota Nakamura, an artist from Japan, said: “In Japan, the statues of Buddha are (often) made of gold and I have taken its golden colour to express my artistic ideas. When the visitors look at my artworks, they can see their own faces there _ I used brass for reflecting _ and become part of my artistic thinking.”

“I have some friends in Bangladesh. Through them, I have seen many works by Bangladeshi artists,” Nakamura added.

Nakamura said one gets different types of feeling from every floor of the four-storied art gallery and he enjoyed that. “I got pleasure from the installation arts and performances arts on the ground floor, it felt good. Paintings from different countries are really nice to look at and each has a different meaning,” the artist shared.

Dinh Duc Vinh, an artist from Vietnam, said: “I draw what I really want to do. I prefer colours in my painting because colours have the power to express one’s thoughts. In my paintings, you can see many people of different financial status staying in the same place. But they do not talk to each other. They are busy with their increasing their fortunes. And thus, they fail to understand the real meaning of life.”

Tetsuya Noda, professor emeritus of Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan, who is an observer at this year’s biennale, said: “I have never seen such a big art show. So, it is an interesting experience for me. This event has a positive impact on global culture. It is also a grand gathering of internationally renowned old and new artists, as well as art lovers.”

About Bangladeshi artists, Noda, who is a famous printmaker and teacher, added: “The artists of this country are doing well. I have seen many of their works. And this is also a great opportunity for me to enjoy the works of many artists at this grand event.”

Like in previous years, the biennale organisers presented nine awards, including three grand and six honourable mention prizes. Internationally renowned Bangladeshi artist Shahabuddin Ahmed, who is also the chairman of this year’s jury board, declared the name of the winners on the opening day of the festival.

The three grand awards went to Kandan G (India), Atia Islam (Bangladesh) and Salma Zakia (Bangladesh). The six honourable mention-awards winners are Wu Jun (China), Monther Jawabreh (Palestine), Trirat Sriburin (Thailand), Kamruzzaman Shadhin (Bangladesh), Fakrul Islam Mazumder (Bangladesh) and Najmun Nahar (Bangladesh). The winners got a medal and cash prizes, with grand awardees receiving Tk 500,000 each, and winners of honourable mentions getting Tk 300,000 each.

Talking about her work with this correspondent, grand award-winner Salma Zakia ‘Bristy’ said: "The name of my work is 'The Superhuman Syndrome'. The subject matter of my art is autism awareness. It is my first work involving video installation. The video runs for 7 minutes and 15 seconds. The materials I have used are canvas painting, wood, cloth, toys, mirror and a projector."

"I did not think of a reward while working on my concept. But I did my work with dedication. My target was to inform people and create hope for thousands of autistic children around the globe who struggle for survival every day," the artist said. "Of course, this recognition has inspired me a lot, and it will help me to work on another social crisis through my art in the future."

The Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, which started its journey in 1981, has been creating glorious history for nearly four decades. Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA), in association with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Bangladesh, organises the grand event every two years.

Regarding the continued importance of the art festival, cultural personality Ramendu Majumder said: “The biennale is a prestigious event for showcasing paintings and fine arts which has increased the dignity of our country in the global arena. Now then, it is important to hold this event regularly. The popularity of the event is increasing and artists from around the country are taking part in this great art show. Our artists and local visitors can see the works of international artists and become familiar with their artistic ideas.”  

Renowned Bangladeshi painter and printmaker Kalidas Karmakar added: “Undoubtedly, it is an important event for art lovers and art professionals. There are many new things to learn from here. I hope the biennale will expand in the future and enhance the image of Bangladesh.”

While inaugurating the grand event on September 1, President Abdul Hamid said “cultural activities play an important role in promoting the tradition of communal harmony, and help develop the spirit of patriotism and discipline among the youths of a nation”, local news agencies reported. “I believe such international arrangements will also play a unique role in highlighting Bangladesh's cultural heritage abroad,” the head of state added.

About this year’s biennale and participating artists, Liaquat Ali Lucky, director general (DG) of BSA said: “The art biennale will exclusively highlight the cultural heritage and contemporary arts of Bangladesh. We started this grand festival in 1981 with only 14 countries. And gradually, the platform has grown larger and at the last event (in December 2016) 55 countries took part, and this year the number of participating countries is 68.”

About new additions to this year’s festival, Lucky, who is also chief coordinator of the 18th biennale, added: “Displays of performance art and installations by artists from all over the world are special additions this year. We have extended spots for performance artists; we have invited 14 international performance artists along with 16 from our country. Besides, we have included a sculpture park in front of the main venue.”

Besides, two international seminars, titled ‘Art and contemporary narratives’ and ‘Art pedagogy and promotion’, were also held on September 2 and 3 respectively at the auditorium of the National Art Gallery.

“The world of politics, economics and culture are depicted through the artworks at this exhibition. We are encouraging students from schools, colleges and universities to attend the event. We have already talked to local educational institutions, and their student will come to visit the festival. I would like to invite all residents of the city to come to the biennale with their families,” Lucky added.

“We have arranged the show in September this year as per a government decision, as general elections are due in December,” the DG said. n

Photos: Jaki Zaman, Courtesy, File.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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