South Asia in focus: 5 curated shows at Dhaka Art Summit 2014

South’s Asia’s contemporary art stepped into the spotlight at the world’s largest platform for the region’s art, Dhaka Art Summit.

The recently concluded Dhaka Art Summit 2014 was held in Bangladesh’s capital from 7 to 9 February 2014. Five exhibitions curated by renowned South Asian, as well as, international curators brought Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani art into the spotlight.

Shahidul Alam, from 'Brahmaputra Diary' as a part of the exhibition "LifeBlood" curated by Rosa Maria Falvo. Image courtesy Rosa Maria Falvo.

Shahidul Alam, from ‘Brahmaputra Diary’ as a part of the exhibition “LifeBlood” curated by Rosa Maria Falvo. Image courtesy Rosa Maria Falvo.

The Dhaka Art Summit is a nonprofit event initiated by the Samdani Art Foundation and curated by the Foundation’s Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt and Mahbubur Rahman, Co-founder of the Britto Arts Trust. Apart from five curated shows, the Summit also featured 14 solo art projects, a city-wide public art project by the Raqs Media Collective, performances, experimental cinema, and 33 galleries representing over 250 artists from the South Asian region. Diana Campbell Betancourt told The Art Newspaper that the Dhaka Art Summit is important because:

very few artists from Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal, for example, get included in international exhibitions, unless they live abroad. […] [The event will offer] the chance to explore shared cultural histories which are challenging given current and historical political conflicts.

Art Radar highlights the five curated shows at the Dhaka Art Summit 2014.

Ronni Ahmed, part of the exhibition "B/Desh" curated by Deepak Ananth. Image courtesy Dhaka Art Summit 2014.

Ronni Ahmed, ‘The Eye Land’, 2012, acrylic on paper, part of the exhibition “B/Desh” curated by Deepak Ananth. Image courtesy the artist.

B/Desh: Emerging Bangladeshi Contemporary Art

The title of this exhibition plays with words – ‘Bangladesh’, ‘bidesh’ (abroad, a foreign land), ‘desh’ (country, homeland) – exploring the fragile, ideological differences between native and foreign, national identity, and what ‘home’ really means or signifies. The exhibition was curated by Paris-based art historian Deepak Ananth and included work by seven emerging Bangladeshi artists: Ayesha Sultana, Gazi Nafis Ahmed, Naeem Mohaiemen, Omar Adnan Chowdhury, Rana Begum, Ronni Ahmed, Shumon Ahmed.

part of the exhibition "Citizens of Time" curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki. Image courtesy Dhaka Art Summit 2014.

Nandan Ghiya, ‘The Peer Pressure Glitch’, 2013, teak wood and paint, 28 x 8 x 10in, part of the exhibition “Citizens of Time” curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki. Image courtesy the artist and Exhibit 320.

Citizens of Time: Emerging Indian Art

Curated by emerging curator Veeranganakumari Solanki of India, the exhibition featured 14 emerging Indian artists including Gigi Scaria, Baptist Coelho, Nandita Kumar and Kiran Subbaiah. The underlying theme of the exhibition explores the borders of ‘time’, its variables and impermanence. The show was divided into four sections, dealing with: residual time through natural elements, memories from personal spaces and environments, time-maps of the imagination, and narratives of distorted time.

Sajjad Ahmed, 'God of Small Things (IV)', 2013, archival inkjet print on photo matte paper, 30 x 48 inches, part of the exhibition "Ex-Ist" curated by Ambereen Karamat.

Sajjad Ahmed, ‘God of Small Things (IV)’, 2013, archival inkjet print on photo matte paper, 30 x 48in, part of the exhibition “Ex-Ist” curated by Ambereen Karamat. Image courtesy the artist.

Ex-Ist: Emerging Pakistani Contemporary Art

“Ex-Ist” dealt with the ubiquitous nature of images of life and how life is filtered through these gazes and images. The visual becomes a screen exploring dichotomies between people and the world they inhabit, between interpretation and intention. The exhibition was curated by Lahore-based art critic and emerging curator Ambereen Karamat, featuring Pakistani artists Sajjad Ahmed, Farida Batool, Amber Hammad, Aroosa Rana, Wardah Shabbir and Muhammad Zeeshan.

Shahabuddin Ahmed, 'Freedom Fighter', part of the exhibition "Liberty" curated by Md. Md. Muniruzzaman and Takir Hossain. Image courtesy Dhaka Art Summit 2014.

Shahabuddin Ahmed, ‘Freedom Fighter’, 2013, oil on canvas, 120 x 160 cm, part of the exhibition “Liberty” curated by Md. Muniruzzaman and Takir Hossain. Image courtesy Dhaka Art Summit.

Liberty: Bangladeshi Modern and Contemporary Art

Curated by freelance artist and curator Md. Muniruzzaman (who is also Executive Director of Gallery Chitrak in Bangladesh) assisted by Takir Hossain, the exhibition spotlighted 44 modern and contemporary Bangladeshi artists, including those from the first generation of artists in Bangladesh (some of whom helped establish the art college in Dhaka in 1948), the expressionist and abstract artworks of the 1960s, and the political turmoil reflected in the work of painters creating art during the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. Some of the featured artists are Abu Taher, Ranjit Das, Jamal Ahmed and Nasreen Begum. According to the Dhaka Tribune, “Liberty articulates a wide range of emotions and helps visualise freedom, sovereignty and free thought”. The exhibition showcased the social, economic and political discourses in Bangladesh.

Saiful Huq Omi, from 'Breaking Ships' as a part of the exhibition "LifeBlood". Image courtesy the curator Rosa Maria Falvo.

Saiful Huq Omi, from ‘Breaking Ships’ as a part of the exhibition “LifeBlood”. Image courtesy the curator Rosa Maria Falvo.

LifeBlood: Bangladeshi Photography

Curated by Italian writer and curator Rosa Maria Falvo, the exhibition included photography by Abir Abdullah, Shahidul Alam, Rasel Chowdhury, Khaled Hasan, Saiful Huq Omi, Manir Mrittik, and Munem Wasif. According to Falvo, the exhibition aimed to present

various angles on this nation’s sensibilities to water, and the palpable and often precarious existence of living in and around the water’s edge. It explores how that same water, in very specific and profound ways, determines our landscapes – physical, social, economic, political – and sculpts the very psycho-spiritual architecture of a people and a region.

The artists explored themes such as Hindu festivals around the rivers of Bangladesh (Abir Abdullah), a journey along the Brahmaputra river (Shahidul Alam), a dying river affected by tanneries and industrial waste (Rasel Chowdhury), north-eastern Bangladesh’s stone-crushing industry (Khaled Hassan), a Bangladeshi ship-breaking yard (Saiful Huq Omi), dream-like landscapes using light photography (Manir Mrittik), and the paradox of the abundance and scarcity of water in Bangladesh (Munem Wasif).

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: Bangladeshi artists, Indian artists, Pakistani artists, emerging artists, biennials, painting, photography, overviews, events in Dhaka

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