Internationally-acclaimed Bangladeshi artist Kalidas Karmakar has achieved many awards and honours for his contribution to arts, and added the prestigious Ekushey Padak to his accolades this year. Kalidas' artworks echo symbolic, abstract and semi-abstract imageries and represent the connotations of our glorious Liberation War, various social phenomena and their perceptions, unwanted political unrest and the life sketches of the people of this part of the world. He has been recurrently choosing the word 'Alluvial' to title any of his solo exhibitions.
In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, the artist shared many aspects of his artistic career and Bangladeshi art scene. This is the first of the two-part interview. Excerpts:
“Any recognition or honour for creative works inspires me. But, a creative person never does it for recognition; they do it for their inner joy. Quitting two government jobs, I choose to flourish a career of a freelance artist. In 1975, the first group exhibition was held in our country. The exhibition later turned as the national exhibition. Artist Syed Jahangir was the convener of the show. I had an artwork titled 'Communism' (Metal Collage) at the show.”
“Holding my first solo art exhibition at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) on August 7, 1976, I went to USA. The erstwhile Brazilian ambassador Paulo De Costa Franco, an art collector, helped me sell the artworks. I sold artworks worth taka 7 and half lac at that time. Art critic and playwright Sayeed Ahmed, one of my revered persons, went to Washington for training at World Bank. He offered me to visit USA to hold another solo exhibition. I did so. I roamed around 39 states of USA by bus for three months as my solo exhibit was delayed. Later, my solo show was held at Bangladesh Embassy in Washington. The ambassador MR Siddiqi arranged the show that was the first exhibition of a Bangladeshi artist in USA after independence. Saber Reza Karim, the economic councilor of the embassy, offered me to stay USA permanently as he assured me of a scholarship. I thought that I could never become an artist if I stay in USA. I could become a Sunday painter and not a full-time painter, if I took the offer. Later, I took a scholarship offered by the Polish Government.”
“Back in the '80s, I returned to Dhaka and held a solo print exhibition at Alliance Française de Dhaka (AFD). At that time there was no gallery at AFD. Through holding my exhibition, AFD started their journey of holding exhibition. The then French Ambassador Louis Moro and Patua Quamrul Hassan jointly inaugurated my show. For which, a few years back, the Director of World Alliance Française visited Bangladesh and sponsored my exhibition with a workshop to memorise the first exhibition.”
“Later, in 1985, eminent architect Professor Shamsul Wares provided me a space (garage) beneath his office and I started my printmaking studio over there with two printmaking machines the Polish and the French government presented me. Master artist Quamrul Hassan and former finance minister M Saiduzzaman inaugurated the studio with a workshop.”
“I studied Japanese famous Woodblock Printing. Mingling French viscosity technique with the Japanese woodblock Printing, I created unique works and exhibited them in Japan. The exhibition was highly appreciated.”
Prior to completing his graduation in Fine Arts from Govt. College of Fine Arts and Crafts, Kolkata, India, Kalidas had a two-year pre-degree study at the Institute of Fine Arts, (now Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.) He attained several scholarships and fellowships including Polish Govt. Scholarship in Graphic Art at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art, Warsaw University; French Govt. Superior Scholarship in Fine Arts, for research in multicolour etching at Atelier-17, in Paris; Japan Foundation Fellowship on Japanese Woodblock Printing, at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music; ICCR Special Scholarship for research in Contemporary Modern Sculpture, West Bengal Lalit Kala Academy Studio, Kolkata, India and Asian Cultural Council New York, Fellowship with Artist Residency program in USA.
(To be continued…)