On the opening day of the Dhaka Art Summit 2018 at Shilpakala Academy on Friday, esteemed art historians and curators from across the continent discussed the past, present, and future of inter-Asia Artistic exchange during a session titled “Another Asia.”
Rustom Bharucha, a professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the West Heavens Project’s Johnson Chang and Chen Yun, Yin Ker from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, independent curator Suman Gopinath, and former director of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Syed Jahangir were among the speakers at the session.
The former Shilpakala Academy director reminisced on the vast strides art had made in Bangladesh over his illustrious 32-year career as a painter.
“When I started painting, there was no modern art practice in Bangladesh. However, many successful exhibitions and events have been held since, and the artistic landscape has changed thanks to the contributions of other countries,” he said, adding that Japan was one of the first countries to make donations to Bangladesh in support of artistic events in the early years after the Liberation War.
Prof Rustom Bharucha highlighted Rabindranath Tagore’s pioneering role in putting Asia on the artistic map, as well as on the Nobel laureate’s outspoken stance against nationalism.
“A new epistemology and theory on the idea of nationalism needs to be invented, and it is up to the artists to do this,” he said.
He added that the exchange of art between Asian countries is one way this is achieved, as it helps build a sense of nationalism that transcends traditional borders.
Johnson Chang and Chen Yun discussed how the exchange of artistic ideas between Asian countries contributed to the overall improvement of art in the region.
Meanwhile, Yin Ker drew attention to Tagore’s establishment of the renowned university at Santiniketan, where many Southeast Asian artists were able to flourish and enhance their abilities.
In addition, Suman Gopinath described two distinct faces of Asia, one which is surrealist and another that is consumerist, and how these different components contributed to the style of Asian art.
The panelists unanimously agreed that Asian countries should support each other in artistic endeavors and should showcase and publish art from various countries rather than only their own.