Bangladesh Brings International Appeal to Venice Biennale

Photo of Marinel Valentini
27 January 2016

The Bangladesh Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, running from June 1 – November 24, will bring to Venice eight prominent names from the Bengali contemporary art scene, all of which are part of the Chhakka Artists’ Group. In addition, the curators Francesco Elisei and Fabio Anselmi selected the Charupit Art School to represent the country. The inclusion of works by South African Gavin Rain and Venice-born Gianfranco Meggiato, makes the Bangladesh Pavilion a truly international space.

Bangladesh National Pavilion Poster

Following a successful debut at the Venice Biennale of 2011, Bangladesh will make its second appearance at the world-renowned contemporary art exhibition. Artists from Bangladesh, South Africa and Italy will centre their works around the theme of Supernatural. This year’s Bengali representatives include Mokhlesur Rahman, Mahbub Zamal, A. K. M. Zahidul Mustafa, Ashok Karmaker, Lala Rukh Selim, Uttam Kumar Karmakar, Dhali Al Mamoon, and Yasmin Jahan Nupur. The Bangladesh Pavilion will furthermore showcase works from South African artist Gavin Rain, Venice-born sculptor Gianfranco Meggiato and the Charupit Art School.

The Bangladesh National Pavilion will showcase the country’s rich cultural and artistic heritage. With a blooming contemporary art scene in spite of limited resources, the 54th Venice Biennale gave contemporary artists a global platform, marking Bangladesh’s entrance into the international artistic arena. This year’s representatives include several well-known Bengali contemporary artists.

Mokhlesur Rahman, a printmaker and mixed-media artist, often depicts the natural beauty of rural Bengal. Uttam Kumar Karmakar, also a mixed-media artist, was born in Bangladesh but now resides in Italy, where he has produced the majority of his works. In addition, the Pavilion will include works by multimedia visual artists Dhali Al Mamoon and Ashok Karmaker.

Two female artists, Lala Rukh Selim and Yasmin Jahan Nupur, will also be representing Bangladesh this year. Lala Rukh Selim, who is a professor of Sculpture at the University of Dhaka, works in several media. She is particularly well-known for her condemnation of the idea of classifying artists based on what they produce, arguing that this narrowness limits creativity. According to Selim: ‘I work as a sculptor, painter, art educator, art critic, activist and others, at the same time. Every type of creative work like writing or painting, which compels me to do work, I regard as artwork’.

Two Works by Gavin Rain

Yasmin Jahan Nupur is a visual artist who works primarily with video. Entitled I am walking on borderlines, being together, Nupur’s video installation at the Venice Biennale is a deeply political piece. ‘Every country is divided by a line, which we call border,’ she explains. ‘Politically, we have to maintain the border. We cannot cross this line. Through this work I try to visualize the very nature of nationalism which requires that boundaries be drawn. Likewise, it can tear nations apart, resulting in long periods of social upheaval and political chaos.’ Through a video installation involving handmade embroidery with muslin fabric, Nupur seeks to abstractly cross the political border by maintaining her own dignity and nationalism. ‘Through this work I try to cross the border because we believe we are human and we have the same rights,’ she stated. On the Biennale’s opening day, the artist will put on a performance which will be recorded and shown to the public as part of her video installation. Nupur’s most recent work, Crossing Paths, another politically charged work, received an Honourable Mention at the 15th Asian Art Biennale in December 2012. She has exhibited extensively in her native country, and she has taken part in numerous workshops organised by Britto Arts Trust, Bangladesh’s first ever artists-run non-profit organisation.

To give the Bangladesh Pavilion a more international appeal, Elisei also invited Cape Town-based painter Gavin Rain and Italian Gianfranco Meggiato to showcase their works within the South Asian pavilion. Rain is a Pointillist/Neo-Pointilist painter, whose style is very colourful and unique. Influenced mainly by the quintessential Pointilist painter Georges Seurat, Rain’s artworks are made of a multitude of circles consisting of five layers of different colours each, which merge together to create a darker or lighter shade. These circles cover up a rough sketch or a photograph on the canvas, which can be viewed up-close or from afar, thus giving the viewer two different images according to their perspective. For the Bangladesh Pavilion, Rain will exhibit a work entitled Lena. Rain has stated that ‘Lena [is] one of the first images that became a digital standard test image. A lot of my work is to suggest that I’m moving images back from digital into analogue (paint). Lena was part of the wave that started things off – it seems fitting that I should experiment with reversing it’. Rain’s most recent exhibitions have been both in Italy (Milan and Venice) in 2012.

Gianfranco Meggiato is a renowned Italian sculptor who is particularly known for his complex technique of lost-wax casting of bronze. Commenting on his own work, Meggiato has stated: ‘You could almost call my work ‘intro sculpture’ from the way the viewer is drawn into its interior, rather than being limited to observing the outer surfaces…In my view, sculpture must retake possession of its deepest nature, as in ancient times. It must no longer limit itself to being a mere ornament…It must entail suffering for the artist in his endless quest of mastering the techniques of his craft…’

Bangladesh Team

Artists: Mokhlesur Rahman, Mahbub Zamal, A. K. M. Zahidul Mustafa, Ashok Karmaker, Lala Rukh Selim, Uttam Kumar Karmaker. Dhali Al Mamoon, Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Gavin Rain, Gianfranco Meggiato, Charupit School

Commissioner/Curator: Francesco Elisei

Curator: Fabio Anselmi

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