Art training in Bangladesh has much to improve

US-based Bangladeshi artist Azyz Sharafy tells New Age

Cultural Correspondent | Published: 17:39, Jan 11,2017

Azyz Sharafy

Azyz Sharafy

There are many talented and skilled artists in Bangladesh but in many cases they are not trained properly in their art education to express their talents creatively, says US-based Bangladeshi art professor Azyz Sharafy.

Sharafy, who has been teaching studio art, graphics and electronic arts at Washburn University for the past 18 years, is of the opinion that situation of Bangladeshi art and art education system will not improve unless the teaching methods at fine arts institutions do not change.

‘The 21st century reality of art and art education methods have not yet been introduced here in terms of changes that are occurring globally,’ he observes.

During his recent visit to Dhaka, Azyz Sharafy had critical discussions with students and about their artworks at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka University on January 5. He talked to New Age on contemporary art education and shared his own experiences as an art teacher abroad.

‘Art training in most institutions here still follows the very old British ‘Art College/JJ School of Art’ traditional teaching methods, which normally focuses on skills (technique) and less training in innovative and conceptual skills. Additional educational processes are necessary for developing talents further toward personal vision and conceptual growth,’ he said.

In some of the art institutions, he finds, the teachers at times influence art students to follow their respective styles instead of students exploring their own vision and seeking their artistic self.

‘More emphasis should be put on art teaching to help the students develop their distinctive visual language based on their own personal, economic and cultural background. Technology-based art education is still at a primary stage here,’ he said.

Though many artists in Bangladesh are experimenting with new mediums, in some cases, they are blindly following the western art, art process or mimicking others to earn money, popularity, fame and recognition, he noted.

‘They do not understand that such popularity lack authenticity and impairs genuine and authentic visual art expression. They actually need to be dedicated without compromising for money, award and fame as the first generation artists like Zainul Abedin, Quamrul Hassan or SM Sultan did,’ Sharafy said.

Moreover, he lamented, art criticism in most cases in Bangladesh was done superficially or like an intellectual clown juggling words for intellectual superiority making art writings too hard to make sense to most people. ‘Perceptive simple art writing with depth is yet to develop here,’ he pointed out.

Sharafy, who did his MFA from MS University of Baroda, India, and later MA in Art Education from Canada, joined the faculty of fine arts of Dhaka University as a lecturer in 1986 and left the job after three years due to restriction and objection to new changes in teaching process that he wanted to implement at that time at the faculty.

He started experimenting with materials and visual language from early stage of his career in the 1980s. He along with his peers formed a socio-political art group named Shomay.  

‘My artworks were based on pat or rickshaw format in painting. I used to do political artworks against religious intolerance, violence, coupe and military dictatorship,’ Sharafy said.

He migrated to the US and joined a US university as a teacher in 1989. ‘I taught myself computer-based art and emerging technology and now I am teaching it at Washburn University. I keep exploring my own artistic, material and conceptual processes and work on my personal vision that I have developed over the time. My work still has that socio-political context as the core of my artistic expressions,’ he said.

He was also conducting different education projects in the USA, India and Bangladesh, he informed.

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