Art camp participants in Chittagong
When discussing how China has exported its products and services all over the world, especially in Bangladesh – as they deserve credit for bringing in infrastructural development, smartphones and what not. But art was something that had eluded the list till now.
Be it lack of support from the government or the private sector, the intricately-detailed nature of Chinese art and their artists have finally found their way into Bangladesh.
Thanks to the gracious support of Gallery Cosmos, a group of twenty artists, from China’s Yunnan Arts University, have participated in a weeklong art camp from February 9-15, mainly at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar. Their troupe consisted of the Associate Dean of their fine arts department, two directors, the chairman of the oil painting department and more.
They were joined by a group of students from Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts (FFA,) led by painting faculty and award-winning artist Bishwajit Goswami. Four freelance artists were also part of the camp, which included celebrated artists Sourav Chowdhury, Shahanoor Mamun, Abdullah Al-Bashir and Jayanta Sarkar John.
The artists from China were asked to draw about whatever they experienced during their stay in Bangladesh, but it was mostly about the nature and elements of the country – and what better way to open up their imaginations than painting at Cox’s Bazar?
Since this was an inaugural trip for all the Chinese artists, the art camp proved to be an exchange centre for knowledge between the artists of the two nations – the perfect meeting point of cultures through fine art. As part of the art camp, they were taken to various localities, such as the Cox’s Bazar sea beach, Patenga sea beach, Maheshkhali and more.
The artworks conceived during the art camp were later displayed at the Garden Gallery of Enayetullah Khan, Chairman of Gallery Cosmos, in his residence on February 16.
“Watching Chinese artists paint eye-opening experience”
As the two country’s artists led their imaginations to run wild, one could see where the difference lied. True to their national personality, the Chinese artists had an astounding level of concept and keen on detail. One of the pioneers of Oriental Art, it could be depicted through their artworks why Chinese art is appreciated all over the world.
“Watching the Chinese artists at work was an eye-opening experience for all of us,’ said Jayanta Sarkar John, one of the participants and an award-winning artist in his own right. “Their concentration and sense of detailing sets them apart. We let our imagination run wild; they do the same, but with more focus – resulting in a terrific artwork. Watching them at work it is like witnessing a symphony being orchestrated.”
“We actually got to learn a lot about how they work,” said Rezaul Karim Sohel, a student of FFA and a participant, “our roots lie in classical Western art while their works show their roots in Oriental art.”
“This art camp was more of a casual one,” said Bishwajit Goswami, “but it was a follow-up to an academic visit I had made to their university three months ago. The setting in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar makes it all an informal affair, but the objective was to establish a relationship between artists of the two countries, something which was never done before.”
Bishwajit appreciated the support from Gallery Cosmos in stepping up to establish such artistic bilateral ties, as in China, he pointed out, both the government and the private sector plays a pivotal part in promoting fine arts, hence its popularity all over the globe.
“In China, the state and the private companies are on par in promoting their country’s arts,” he remarked, “all sorts of art is appreciated. For example, there are art villages in Yunnan, where artist residencies are located and foreigners are invited to visit. The artists reside there, contemplate what they want to draw or paint about and do just that.”
“This art camp can act as a bridge between our fine arts fraternities, as our students can go on to apply for art scholarships in the near future. Now, artists from Yunnan have come, next, it may be from Beijing.”
As far as differences between the two countries’ artists are concerned, Bishwajit elaborated that China’s advantage of a rich art history helps them in the long run. “Be it elements such as watercolour or calligraphy, you can find that their artists will add value to those with modern facilities, such as merging them with performance art or a video installation, etc. Their farsightedness reflects on their artworks, as they know that they constantly need to dish out quality artworks to remain ahead in civilisation.
“Whenever our artists go abroad, they come back famous and loved worldwide, but that cannot be possible for all artists residing in Bangladesh – because the thought of organising a proper exhibition, pondering about sales and telling a good story often pulls our artists backward. In China the artist never speaks, they always hire someone else to do the storytelling for them. They just focus on their art.”
“This is just a beginning for Gallery Cosmos to collaborate with Chinese artists,” said Sourav Chowdhury, Executive Artistic Manager at Gallery Cosmos.
Opinion from the Far East
Bishwajit went on to stress that the Chinese contingent was surprised at the quality outputs the Bangladeshi artists dished out. “A veteran Chinese artist I recently met at the Asian Art Biennale apologised profusely for keeping a negative impression about Bangladesh, which is how Bangladesh is portrayed across the globe – thanks to terrorism and militancy,” he said. “He acknowledged the diverse amount of artists Bangladesh has to offer, as well as their outstanding artworks despite being a small country.
“The Chinese artists who participated at the art camp want to return to this country, as they have been thoroughly impressed with our hospitality and honest appeal.”
“I found the artworks of the Bangladeshi students good, with a substantial amount of individuality in all their works,” said Chen Liu, Associate Dean, and Professor at Yunnan Arts Academy’s Painting Department and leader of the Chinese contingent. “Their artworks could be better but their subject matters remain quite clichéd. They just need to focus on their concepts and think about better subjects. Then they can work on their composition and colour techniques.”
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 – also advised the students that it would be wise not to go after too many artworks. “It is better to focus on one work or two, rather than five or six, to bring in the details. It will also help in understanding their subject matters and improve their skills.”
The road ahead
So did the art camp help in elevating Bangladeshi fine art students? Absolutely. It also paved way for word of mouth to make way back to China about the potential about our country’s artists, resulting in future art scholarships. This is just one avenue; one can only imagine what other avenues will open up thanks to this artistic venture.