Renowned artist Kalidas Karmakar, one of the Ekushey Padak laureates from this year, speaks to The Daily Star about his artistic philosophy and vision. The first part of the interview was published yesterday.
“My artworks contain the essence of Bangladesh's soil, soul and symbols. Bangladesh is plain land that has amassed alluvial soil. Kamol Banerjee, my friend, critic and curator of my show, suggested that I entitle all my shows with the very word 'Alluvial' and I continued to do so. Symbols are powerful; thousands of years before languages were invented, people portrayed painting at the dawn of civilization to express their mood.”
“There is nothing abstract in art; everything is found in nature. When we don't understand something, we call it abstract art. Symbols and numbers come automatically in my paintings as I believe in soul. What is art? Say for example, you are walking through Ramna Park in the evening; suddenly a gentle breeze wafting the sweet fragrance of a flower tickles your nostrils. You feel it and instantly say the word 'Bah!' (Excellent!) That very feeling is art and not the flower itself.”
“Quamrul Hassan's depiction of a cartoon with calligraphy 'Ei Janoar Der Hotta Korte Hobe' inspired lakhs of Freedom Fighters. Here is the success of an artist. An artist not only depicts art. His significance depends on how socially and politically conscious he is. It is a disgrace that we could not precisely evaluate Quamrul Hassan, who could be regarded as one of the greatest world masters.”
Kalidas Karmakar has exhibited his works in numerous exhibitions both at home and abroad. As his homage to the Language Movement of 21 February, 1952, he would like to exhibit his arts in 52 shows in 21 countries of the world in the next five years.
“The numbers '52' and '21' are significant symbols for me and us all. I would like to showcase all my experiences of the travelling exhibitions at a special show titled “Alluvial Documents” in Bangladesh. I have named the upcoming projects as GIAA (Global Initiatives of Alluvial Arts) through which I would like to represent the Bangladeshi art, culture, festival and nature to the world.”
“My daughters Kanka Karmakar and Keya Karmakar, together with my collectors and sponsors are helping me in achieving this dream; several exhibition venues have already been fixed. I just need permissions and administrative support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Cultural Affairs, BSA and Bangladesh National Museum in this regard.”
“Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin together with Patua Quamrul Hassan, Shilpaguru Safiuddin Ahmed and others planted the seed of art in this part of the world. Now we need proper platforms for art to flourish round the year. Asian Art Biennale, National Art Exhibition, Dhaka Art Summit are few arrangements of art, but there is no perennial art gallery or museum where one can watch artworks by classical and contemporary masters of Bangladesh. A few days back, the current Swiss president visited Dhaka Art Summit after his visit to Rohingya Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar. If any upcoming visiting prime minister or president wishes to see Bangladeshi art, where will you take them? A heart of a country is its art museum. When we go to New York, we visit MOMA; when we visit London, we go to Tate Modern; when we visit Paris, we must go Louvre; when we visit Delhi, we go to National Gallery of Modern Art.”
“We don't have National Gallery of Fine Arts or Museum of Modern Art. We have a National Art Gallery, one of the seven departments under the umbrella of BSA. Then, how will our art flourish? We need a separate and autonomous National Gallery of Fine Arts and a Bangladesh Museum of Modern Art right now. You need promotion of art. Former Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation Annisul Huq was a great art connoisseur. He had a dream of setting up a City Art Gallery and a City Art Museum at Hatirjheel area. Apart from the National Art Gallery and Museum, there are municipality art gallery and museum in many big cities. Why don't we have these in our country where there prevail many influential art connoisseurs and patrons? In a post-independent Bangladesh, artists have solely brought many international honours, awards and recognitions from abroad. If we can continuously arrange Asia's first biennale in Bangladesh, then why don't we have National Gallery of Fine Art and Museum of Modern Art? If you complete these in two years, Bangladeshi art will go to the global stage overnight. Art collectors from all over the world will land in Bangladesh with personal jet planes for collecting art. When Miami International Art Fair is held every year in December in USA, collectors with around 1200 private jet planes land to collect arts. If we have these platforms, we will have exchange programmes with world renowned art museums. This is a big question why National Galley of Fine Arts and Museum of Modern Art were not instituted after 47 years of independence. Bangladeshi young artists' works are international standard. We can project any artist individually; but we cannot project the overall arts of Bangladesh internationally without having this infrastructure.”
Art, literature and culture are the soul of a country. Artists are very sensitive in nature and sensible towards the society. To conclude, Kalidas Karmakar quoted Pablo Picasso as saying, “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand.”