In an effort to promote Bangladeshi art and its artists worldwide, celebrated artist and faculty Bishwajit Goswami is taking giant strides in ensuring just hat. He recently made visits to China, India and Nepal and returned home with productive results – outcomes which will have far-reaching impact for Bangladeshi art in future.
The Chinese expedition
Along with fellow artists Aitkul Islam and Alok Roy, he was invited to visit a sculpture exhibition in China. But the visit had more potential as being an opportunity to network and discuss collaborative practices, as he later accompanied Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts (Charukola)’s dean Professor Nisar Hossain to Yunnan Arts University for a fruitful meeting.
There they duo was able to successfully reach an agreement with the university’s painting department, which will now enable faculty visits, workshops, seminars and exchange programmes for students between the two universities.
Not only that, but Bishwajit also told Dhaka Courier that in February next year, he will be curating an exhibition in Bangladesh for celebrated Chinese artist and Associate Dean and Professor at Yunnan Arts Academy’s Painting Department, Chen Liu. Liu, a recipient of the Ikuo Hirayama Award and an artist whose solo exhibitions have been held in Kunming, Milan, Hong Kong, New York, Taipei, etc, had previously visited Bangladesh as part of an art camp organised by Gallery Cosmos back in February last year. His artworks will consist of themes and subjects related to Bangladesh and its culture.
Later, they met with officials from the fine arts department of Yunnan Normal University, where it was agreed that multiple workshops will be held in Bangladesh soon, at Zainul Gallery, where faculties from both the universities will conduct workshops on painting, oriental art and graphics design. Bishwajit believes that art students will greatly benefit from attending all these genres.
India was the venue for a video presentation and open discussion based on a student art project Bishwajit had curated in March this year, titled “Brihotto – Immensity”. It was held at the Painting Department premises of Kolkata’s Rabindra Bharati University.
Bishwajit had led an art residency project for students back in December last year, the culmination of which was a month-long open studio programme at the Abinta Gallery of Fine Arts, followed by an exhibition. Ten students from various academic backgrounds, but with a passion for art, were deliberately taken to a remote rural area in Lama, Bandarban for a four-day residency camp, in order to develop their own artworks after coming in close contact with nature.
A concept he had been thinking about for the past few years, this endeavour was his efforts to bridge the gap between the academic theoretical structures of art, which students learn in classrooms, with practical application in the real world. “Getting grades enough is not important,” the artist stated, “but to be able to develop ideas after coming into contact with the real life context and being able to execute them was the purpose of Immensity.”
Voyage to Nepal
Despite being relatively low-key in the global art industry, Nepal is trying to mark its territory as a steady player. It was solidified with the recent South Asian International Art Camp, organized by Nepal Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), which was followed by an exhibition of the works derived from the workshop.
Out of the 68 artists in the workshop, six were selected from Bangladesh by Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, including Bishwajit. “They are trying to catch up in recent times,” Bishwajit said, “but they have a very rich tradition of art.” They want to work more closely with Bangladesh in future, he added.
Mother series expanded further
The visit to the three countries had one thing in common – they helped gain more cultural traits to Bishwajit’s “Travelling with Mother” series. After Austria, he had the chance to showcase the mothers of China, India and Nepal.
When he was in Austria as part of an art residency project in Alte Apotheke Murau, he introduced his “Traveling with Mother” series, where he met various mothers from all walks of life, interacted with them and photographed them. “I categorised my project in three stages, which were evident in the photographs - firstly, the dream of being a mother, secondly the love experienced by the mother during pregnancy and thirdly, the spirit which is borne by the baby through its mother. I carried a form of “Ma” written in Bangla and painted in rickshaw paint, which my subjects posed with in those photographs. Despite a strong language barrier, the idea of motherhood was well-received by everyone I met and was a great ice-breaker, it was a challenging yet interesting experience.”
It was both exciting and challenging at the same time, the artist revealed, as Bishwajit kept accumulating personal experiences while fulfilling collective objectives. “If you look at Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin’s journey, he made it a point to gather the best artists of the country to establish the country’s first art college. I believe the same. Everything must be thought according to the greater good, it lends perspective and helps to place Bangladesh in the global art context.”
He surmised that each country is different, with each country having their individual identities, merging their traditions with global tunes. India has regularly been collaborating with Bangladesh in art purposes, while China is catching up and Nepal sure to follow.