British Council INSPIRE exchange with the University of Dhaka
Co PI’s Susan Collins (Slade), Lala Rukh Selim (University of Dhaka)
The Slade School of Fine Art and the University of
Dhaka Faculty of Fine Art, Bangladesh are the recipients of a three-year award
as part of the British Council INSPIRE strategic
The objective of the project was to stimulate collaboration between UK and Bangladeshi academics, and explore the differences and similarities in the educational challenges faced in these two very different contexts.
For the University of Dhaka Fine Art Faculty a key interest lay in exploring the potential for curriculum development in relation to the Slade’s experience in Fine Art Media, New Media and Interdisciplinary approaches. For the Slade with its very international student body this has been a key opportunity to further develop our global perspective in relation to contemporary art practice and theory, as well as discover and learn from the Bangladeshi context and traditions of making.
The project began in 2010 and since then there have been a number of visits in each direction by faculty from both institutions which have included lectures by Professor Susan Collins in Dhaka (2010 and 2012) and Shishir Battarcharjee at the Slade (2011), an interdisciplinary workshop led by Dryden Goodwin in Dhaka in January 2011 and a Sculpture workshop led by John Aiken, Slade Professor in Dhaka the following month. Further visits included a painting workshop in Dhaka with Lisa Milroy in 2012 and a making workshop and Contemporary Art Lecture on Bangladeshi icon making by Lala Rukh Selim and Nasima Haque Mitu at the Slade in Autumn 2012.
The three year funded project culminated in an exhibition, Inspired!, at Zainul Gallery, Dhaka University Faculty of Fine Art in January 2013, a workshop for artists and lecturers across Bangladesh at Dhaka University which coincided with the opening of the exhibition, together with a publication documenting the three-year British Council INSPIRE strategic exchange project.
The Inspired! book was published in January 2013 as a result of the exchange between the Slade School of Fine Art and the University of Dhaka, Faculty of Fine Art, Bangladesh.
Professor Rafiqun Nabi
The INSPIRE (International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education) programme of the British Council gave us the opportunity to build links with one of the leading art education institutions of the world. I was Dean of the Faculty of Fine Art, Dhaka University when the INSPIRE project was launched. Professor Nazrul Islam who was then the Chairman of the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh is a renowned art critic, connoisseur and a self- taught artist. It was through his enthusiasm that Fine Art was given priority in this programme.
When I was informed by the British Council about INSPIRE I decided to involve Lala Rukh Selim, Professor, Department of Sculpture and Nisar Hossain, Professor, Department of Painting in preparing the proposal for the project. Slade Professor John Aiken took initiative on the part of the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, UK, to develop the partnership and gave Professor Susan Collins, who was then Head of the Undergraduate Fine Art Media area in the Slade, the responsibility to coordinate the project at their end. Ultimately, Lala Rukh wrote a solid proposal in collaboration with Susan Collins and it received a Strategic Partnership Grant award. It has been my pleasure to observe the different activities of the project which have had a positive impact on the teachers and students of the Faculty. The whole hearted involvement of the students and commitment and hard work of the faculty has made the project a great success. I hope that its impact will be made more visible with time.
It was a main aim of this project to initiate a new department at the Faculty focusing on new technological developments which are now increasingly being used in art as well as to develop the curriculum of the Faculty to make it more contemporary. I will be very pleased if a new department is introduced to the Faculty as proposed because it is a need of the times.
I was invited one morning into Professor Aiken’s office and asked if I would be interested in being the Slade lead on a possible future exchange project with Bangladesh. The Faculty of Fine Art at Dhaka University was interested in looking into Fine Art Media, and since I had set up the electronic media area at the Slade in the mid-90’s and was then running the Slade’s Undergraduate Fine Art Media area I seemed like an obvious choice. Soon after this Professor Rafiqun Nabi (the then Dean of the Faculty of Fine Art, Dhaka University) received some British Council grant funding to visit the UK and Slade on a speculative fact finding mission. It was interesting to host him and find out more about the school in Dhaka. That it had just become its own faculty with quite distinct departments – for example oriental painting as well as painting. I knew what they were interested in learning from us, but I was equally, and especially, wanting to know what we could learn from them.
Eventually this was followed up when Lala Rukh Selim was invited to take this forward at the Dhaka end. Introduced to each other by email we together forged the plan, program and proposal through late night email exchanges. I had a sense we might have a lot in common – despite the geographic divide – through these exchanges. We had both been at our respective institutions the same length of time, both had been graduates from them, and we definitely had a similar take on how to proceed.
Lala Rukh took the lead on the form and had a clear vision of what they were hoping to achieve from the exchange at the Dhaka end (our approach was more speculative) and through this I discovered that their current educational model was derived from an early British Art School model and had come to them via the Calcutta School, and it was this they were seeking to update and also to look to new forms and media with a view to developing a new department. At our end, with a very internationally diverse student body, and as part of University College London, which had recently been rebranded as “London’s Global University”, we were keen to enhance our understanding of other art educational systems internationally. This was in part to understand better the background and portfolios of prospective students who have come from very different educational models, but also to understand the context and economic climate existing for art worlds elsewhere. This ambition is not restricted to Bangladesh....
We received news that we had gained the funding in spring 2010, the project began at the end
of March 2010 and officially runs until March 2013.
Lala Rukh Selim
In 2009 the British Council called for proposals for their INSPIRE (International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education) programme and Fine Art was one of the priority areas. INSPIRE aimed to build links between Central and South Asian and UK education institutions. This presented an opportunity to try and connect to a global institution which embraced the contemporary and had a different educational culture from ours. We were very interested to take this opportunity to establish links with the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, UK. We felt that it would be very interesting to collaborate with the Slade as the founder of the Faculty of Fine Art, Shilpacharjya Zainul Abedin studied at the Slade in 1951 under a Commonwealth Scholarship, his teacher Ramendranath Chakravorty of Kolkata Art School who had a deep impact on him had also been to the Slade (1937) and Rabindranath Tagore had studied at UCL. Thus, there were historical links which could be explored in a contemporary context.
The British Council, Dhaka assisted in connecting the two institutions. Slade Professor and the then Director of Slade John Aiken showed great interest in developing the exchange in his discussion with Professor Nisar Hossain, Painting Department, University of Dhaka. The connection was cemented by Professor Rafiqun Nabi’s exploratory trip to London in March 2009. He felt that the Slade with its rich, well equipped technical facilities and its emphasis on developing conceptually strong, professional artists, well versed in contemporary ideas would benefit the Faculty. He was particularly interested by the Slade’s Fine Art Media subject area as it addressed contemporary needs, using the latest innovations in technology in making art. As the subject areas of the Slade are Painting, Sculpture and Fine Art Media, it was decided that the Departments of Painting and Sculpture of the Dhaka University would be partners in the exchange. It was hoped that the scope of the Faculty of Fine Art would increase if the variety of media developed over the past few decades were included in a new department in the Faculty, and the partnership would be an opportunity to explore this idea. It was our intention to update the curriculum as the opportunity for this was created when the Institute of Fine Art became a Faculty of the University of Dhaka in 2008. A partnership with an internationally reputed art institution with a history of change embracing the contemporary was an exciting prospect. As introducing a new department focusing on contemporary media was a core concern for Dhaka, Professor John Aiken nominated Susan Collins, then the head of undergraduate Fine Art Media as the lead partner in this exchange on behalf of the Slade. I was given the responsibility to be the lead partner from Dhaka by Professor Rafiqun Nabi. Susan and I set about writing the proposal through email exchanges. It was exciting to draw up the first draft of the proposal and get input from Susan. Not even a year into our project, Susan became the first female Director of the Slade and a Professor. The proposal was submitted and our project was awarded a Strategic Partnership Grant and we were off on an exciting journey which was not solely about education exchange but also about opening up boundaries of cultural understanding.
The Slade and the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh entered into the exchange project with different expectations. We at Dhaka foresaw changes in our curriculum resulting from this exchange. We specifically thought we would end up by introducing a new stream in the Faculty focusing on new technology and media which had become accepted in the international and local art worlds outside the sphere of the art schools. The Slade’s Fine Art Media area interested us. We wanted to gain experience from the Slade, founded in 1871, which had a history of transformation with the passage of time. For the Slade an exchange with Bangladesh would be a completely new experience and the expectations from it were not as concrete. It would be a contact with a less known culture. They had many exchanges globally but this would be the first with Bangladesh.
The partnership with Slade truly took off with Professor Susan Collins visit to the Faculty of Fine Art, Dhaka University in July – August 2010. She met with faculty and students, lectured on the Slade introducing its history and educational philosophy. It was most interesting to see Bangladesh, our institution and art world through Susan’s eyes. Many things were brought to our notice through this contact. Susan’s camera was active throughout her 10 day trip. She reveled in the sensory feast of Dhaka, the colors, the art in the transport decoration, the hand painted sign-boards, the costumes, and the density of Dhaka. All the handmade objects, signboards, decoration teeming in Dhaka and outside which we took for granted were transformed when seen through her eyes. What people of lesser means used for decoration was precious to her. In the economic reality of Bangladesh cheap labor made handmade objects cheaper than machine-made ones. The exact opposite value is attached to handmade objects in the UK.
Susan brought to our notice the tranquility and almost out of the world atmosphere of the Faculty of Fine Art, a haven of calm in the heart of turbulent Dhaka. The contrast of the outside and the inside was very dramatic for her. She remarked on the method of our instruction which is focused mainly on mastering naturalism through the 7 different practical departments of the institution, namely – painting, sculpture, printmaking, graphic design, oriental art, ceramics and crafts. We emphasize working from life, which is not a priority anymore at the Slade. She also noticed the degree of skill our students have, not only in their academic pursuits, but beyond. I analyze this as a result of our cultural and economic context. We came to know how Slade students are treated as artists from the very beginning and their work is self-directed while our students have specific courses that they have to complete based on medium or subject. Another surprise for Susan was the fact that there was no provision for interdisciplinary exchange for students in Dhaka or to change their department once they had been admitted. Through our discussions it became apparent that we in Dhaka also felt the lack of interdisciplinary exchange and this was something we thought needed to be addressed. Susan’s appraisal was not really a big surprise for us because there have been questions raised by our teachers and students as to how effective our teaching methods are in preparing professional artists in the contemporary context. It was this need that had prompted us to work on this partnership. Historically, our institution roughly followed the model of Calcutta Art School where most of the founding faculty of our institution had been students and teachers. Calcutta Art School had been founded by the British in 1854 basically as a vocational training institution modeled on the British design schools. However, historical, social, and political circumstances transformed it contextually. The art school founded in Dhaka in 1948 developed its own contextual characteristics, something between a vocational and a fine art school. It was also true that providing a vocational background had been an objective because art had to be useful to have a place in society when the school had been founded. That situation has not really changed in Bangladesh, a country still grappling with basic economic problems. Our students have no art background when they are admitted to our institution so the foundation of art education begins in the institution whereas Slade students are already prepared through their school education or a foundation course. The contrast in our situations became very clear and so the exchange also led to reflections on the relationship of education, culture and economics.
The first trip for the project was my trip to Dhaka in July 2010. Although I was coming from a one-month residency in Bangkok, itself a vibrant colourful city full of traffic mayhem, nothing could have prepared me for the sheer saturation of Dhaka on every level.
Looking back at my first notes and observations, the key things that initially struck me were the depth of visual culture prevalent throughout. As well as the famously painted rickshaws there are hand painted trucks, buses, number plates, signs, just about everything. The buses had a handmade quality to them – hand painting and handmade articles have a value in the UK over the printed, mass manufactured images and signs. The reverse seems true here. The ability to make and create seems far more embedded in the culture and results in a visual feast - even security railings in Dhaka are made noteworthy through design and geometry - making me re- view our own cities and streets as drab and utilitarian by contrast.
There were different models for supporting contemporary art that I became aware of. For example on my first day in Dhaka I was taken to see the Bengal Art Foundation’s ‘Art Camp’, where 150 distinguished painters from East and West Bengal were brought together for a few days of frantic creative activity. I understood that many of the works produced during this camp (and in others like it) would then become part of the Foundation’s extensive contemporary collection.
Seeing London, in particular the Art Galleries, though Lala Rukh and her colleagues’ eyes was revealing. There are very different priorities and sensibilities at play in the modes of presentation of work in both countries. To me the art spaces in Dhaka seemed to crowd in the paintings, no space left uncovered and no sense or opportunity for a single work to ‘hold’ a wall. This was in stark contrast to the luxuriousness of space within our cultural and commercial art spaces (and all too often a limit to the amount of truly quality contemporary work within them).
In broader cultural terms I had the privilege of being shown around the Bangladesh national museum by the deputy keeper, and whereas in the UK (and most of Europe and America) the museum visitor tends to emerge blinking into the bright lights of the bookshop (or gift shop) to take advantage of all the merchandising opportunities, or at the very least take home a clutch of postcards as an aide memoire of the visit, in this instance no such consumerist opportunity - so much an expectation in the west - was in evidence.
The Slade as the chosen companion British art school could not represent a greater contrast in terms of curriculum design. Unlike many other British art schools – and most American art schools - the Slade does not adopt a modular structure, rather gives each student a studio space and encourages them to determine their own studio practice as individuals from the first day. Students are accepted into the school of Fine Art and choose their subject area as appropriate for the development of their work, on occasion even moving between areas if the work demands it. The University of Dhaka Fine Art Faculty by contrast follows a very strict curriculum, students are accepted into each subject area at the outset and there is no opportunity to change or move between areas even for graduate study. One thing that both sets of students have in common however is a very high level of ability, enthusiasm and commitment to their work, as evidenced by the very exciting levels of engagement in the workshops shown by student participants both in Dhaka and Slade.
My visit to the Slade in October 2010 expanded my view of what the culture of education can be and also how cultures can develop independently even though the root may be related or common. At the Slade I saw that though there were three separate areas, the students confidently moved from one to the other. This is made possible because their study is self- directed and not medium specific. In my total of three visits to the Slade I sat through seminars and crits, observed students shows, sat in on assessment boards and was given tours of the extensive studio, workshop and laboratory facilities of the Slade which ranged from the analog to the digital and contemporary. I had the opportunity to interact with the faculty and in my perception I felt more visible, more of a presence with each of my visits. I was fascinated by the confidence of the students and the patience of the teachers. The seminars where students discussed their work, not only with tutors but also their peers were also a new experience for me. In contrast, our students were more diffident, less eloquent yet in terms of quality, I felt that they were the same. The differences stemmed from differences in culture and economies. This idea gained strength with my three visits to the Slade over the course of this three year exchange
Susan and I decided that an interdisciplinary workshop for students would create a context for discussion, a way to bring in a diversity of medium and interaction between the departments at our Faculty in Dhaka. Thus in January 2011 Dryden Goodwin from the Fine Art Media area of the Slade came to Dhaka, lectured on his own practice and led a workshop which systematically explored the process of art making from observation to translating experiences into particular media to present to viewers.
The aim of my five-day workshop was to create a discursive environment centred around the process of translating into artworks, experiences of distinctive locations discovered by the 12 participating students in their incredibly dynamic city of Dhaka.
To mix up different sensibilities and approaches I asked the students to work in pairs, it was important that each pair was made up of students from different disciplines, each a different combination from the various areas of the school. At each stage of the project a deconstruction of the process was essential, discussing their discoveries with the rest of the group, Lala Rukh Selim, Duke and myself. The key stages they moved through were Observing, Capturing, Processing and Presenting. They were encouraged to consider these stages separately but importantly how each stage had an impact and influence on the others.
For the purposes of the workshop I encouraged the students to extend their usual processes of working, allowing the specifics of what they encountered in their locations guide their choice of combinations of media. Within these lightly defined parameters the pairs developed strategies to enable them to translate and distil their experiences and observations of locations as diverse as a historic ruin, encroached on by the ever expanding building developments, an intensive factory workshop for the weaving of material to make clothes to supply the large department stores and a traditional tea stall, one among the thousands across Dhaka, often a place of meeting and conversation. Encouraged to be responsive to a matrix of oppositions such as -light/dark, moving/still, fast/slow, ascending/descending, symmetrical/ asymmetrical, claustrophobic/agoraphobic etc - each pair, through close observations and discussion, began to unravel the complexities of their chosen situation. Initially time was spent just observing, note-taking, drawing, identifying and discussing the different activities, dynamics, movements, emotions, qualities of light, space, time, colour, sounds etc. They were asked to consider what is distinctive about their location? What is obvious? What are the more subtle characteristics? What oppositions and contrasts have they observed and experienced? What were the most effective means, methods and media to capture, process and present these oppositions?
As each pair discussed and negotiated the materials they had collected and brought back to the studio their distinctive approaches began to emerge. It was exciting to witness and engage with how each pair found ways to navigate their chosen location; the activities they discovered, the people they encountered and the relationships and oppositions they focused on. Each pair became immersed in a process of translating, distilling conscious of engaging a viewer in their discoveries.
As they followed through the logic of their developing ideas, the scale of their task to realise their ambitions in the five-day duration became apparent. They met this challenge with real dynamism, their enthusiasm and energy igniting the interests of other students from the faculty and suddenly more than 50 students were involved, helping, for example, to manufacture wooden structures, edit videos, print photographs, wire up an outside light installation. Working through the night the studios and outside sculpture areas were a scene of industrious invention.
When the exhibition was opened up to the rest of the school and the public, five projects were realised inside the studio and one outside. The intensity of how the students engaged with the workshop was born out in the realisation of their completed pieces; there was a real sense of concentrated resolve and exploration. The responses of the visitors to the exhibition opened up further discussions and reflections on the discoveries that had been made during these 6 investigative journeys. A real excitement came from the resourcefulness and sense of purpose shown by each student’s responses to the workshop, pointing to future explorations and projects.
The way we conceive of our environment does not always reflect reality. This is probably due to the lack of deep observation. I was confronted by this conflict when I participated in Dryden Goodwin’s workshop which made me more aware of my surrounding environment. At the same time it has opened up new ways for me to prepare myself before I make my artwork.
Sadatuddin Ahmed Amil, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
Dryden was able to bring out the artist in us by challenging us in the way he guided us through the workshop.
Manabendra Ghosh, Department of Sculpture, MFA 1st Part
If seen from a different perspective, if a particular process is followed and the subject is presented in a different way, whatever the medium may be, the commonplace can become art. What? Why? How? We went through many questions to unify what the two of us experienced separately to create a new subject. This process plays a part in the way I now think about my work.
Nadia Yeasmin, Department of Printmaking, MFA 1st Part
The Interdisciplinary Workshop for Artists constantly made us think in greater detail about subjects, objects, and ourselves.
Shammi Akter Sumi, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
Sumon Wahed and I presented the folk art of Bangladesh in our project done for Dryden’s workshop. We focused on the tea stall to show the distinction that folk art has retained in the present.
Md. Zahid Hossain, Department of Printmaking, MFA 1st Part
Participation in Dryden’s workshop was a new experience in my academic studies. I think that the way is different and more effective from the academic method followed in our institution. He inspired us to study and work in a controlled and methodical way which has played a positive role in my work. This has brought a qualitative change in my selection of subject, concept development and presentation.
Imam Hossain Sumon, Department of Sculpture, MFA 1st Part
Any small or big subject or element can be the subject of art. Dryden’s workshop helped us develop the eye to look around us in greater depth. Because we looked for elements from our surroundings, the work done for the workshop took on a local character.
Shimul Datta, Department of Sculpture, MFA 1st Part
The interesting thing about the process was that the students discovered their own potentials, they were challenged to be articulate and they rose to the challenge. They created a marvellous group of work in groups of two, each from a different department, sharing their ideas and skills. I was amazed at the amount of hard work that they put in and the support and cooperation they got from their fellow students. The otherwise rather messy third floor studio of the Sculpture Department was transformed by the exhibition of their work.
In February 2011 Slade Professor John Aiken came to Dhaka and delivered lectures and directed a workshop on sculpture specifically on the relationship of form and space. It was attempted by us to accommodate students from all the departments of the faculty to further the goal of interdisciplinary exchange.
The project titled Shaping the space between proposed a place to explore and negotiate the space that exists between three-dimensional objects and two-dimensional forms. Through a process of drawing and making, the space that exists between specific objects and forms can be better understood, made manifest and developed within the framework of the expanded field of sculpture. The project questioned how the viewer perceives space and environment, challenges preconceptions and applies a rigorous methodology that engages process, perception, personal expression and choice.
On a broader level the project looked at difference, edge and border. In an effort to understand where to locate ‘edge’ and engage with diverse contexts, the objects constructed their own identity, not only demonstrating the ‘space between’ but also becoming independent and autonomous.
The journey an object makes through juxtaposition with diverse elements and contexts can add a significant new dimension to the work, indeed it can generate a completely new work of autonomous art. Re-presentation, often mediated through the transformative power of lens- based media can express and reveal a powerful edited perception of the original object. Newly located beyond its three dimensional status and revealed as an object embedded in the context that frames it.
I found the whole project very rewarding, the students who had been selected from each of the subject areas engaged with the project in a very serious and committed manner. The work they produced was of a very high standard and each of them rose to the occasion even though in most cases the project extended and to some extent challenged their normal method of working and development of practice. Support from a wide range of faculty staff was also much appreciated and this enabled the project to be achieved in a way that was ambitious but also realizable within the time constraints of a 10 day workshop. It was clear to me that there was a strong desire amongst core staff to develop the curriculum for visual arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts and that the senior management of the University including the Vice Chancellor were in accord with the ambition to internationalize the curriculum.
I had some time to see the city and some of its surrounding rural areas during the visit and I found this experience fascinating. There is a very strong sense of a visual dynamic in Dhaka and also in a different way in the small area of rural Bangladesh that I experienced on a weekend excursion. The relative calm of the rural areas and the strong relationship between the earth and the lives of the people was particularly noticeable and interesting. This was especially true in relation to a visit to a small riverside village that specialized in the production of earthenware pottery. Here the clay bed that the village was built on was literally the source of the raw material for making the pots and there was a very strong sense of harmony with nature and a community spirit.
The noise and energy of the city is a stark contrast to the village life but I found this equally visually exciting although in a very different way.
One of the unexpected highlights of my visit was that my time in Dhaka coincided with the Hindu festival of Sarawati Puja the Goddess of Knowledge, Music and the Arts. The celebration included many sculpture installations of the Goddess located at strategic points all over the city and tailored to depict specific institutions, craft guilds, occupations etc. One particular place included a very large sculpture floating is a lake that was made by some of the students working on my project. On this same site each of the Faculties and Departments of the University of Dhaka had erected large-scale temporary constructions that represented their subject areas as a context for individually sited statues of the Goddess.
The visit to the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka was a great experience that I will not forget; I enjoyed working with the students who I found very responsive and dedicated. Their wholehearted participation at all the stages of development ensured quality outcomes and the resulting exhibition of work was strong and educationally productive. The Faculty of Fine Arts especially the Sculpture Department were very supportive and generous with their time and energy and I am also very grateful to the British Council for initiating the INSPIRE project that made everything possible.
I felt the whole workshop to be an exercise to see an invisible relationship in a new way. Though as a student of sculpture I always have to think about different relations, similarities, and dissimilarities, this workshop helped me to think in a different way.
Syed Tareq Rahman, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
An artwork expresses itself in different forms in different environments and presentations. This is what I realized through this workshop.
Mousumi Sultana, Department of Crafts, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
I could feel many unseen forms in the space between objects. It was a wonderful experience.
Rupam Roy, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
It was amazing to see the sculpture made at the workshop exhibited in different spaces. The sculpture either blended in with the environment or transformed it.
Emtiwaz Ahmed, Department of Ceramic, MFA 1st Part
The relationship of objects with people and the different forms that emerge with different perspectives is what I tried to represent with my work at this workshop. This workshop has transformed my work.
Shirin Akter, Department of Graphic Design, MFA 1st part
I discovered a new dimension in geometric forms and open air, environmental sculpture by participating in the workshop conducted by John. I believe that this will enrich my future artistic endeavors.
A.B.M. Rokon-uz-zaman, Department of Crafts, MFA 2nd Part
This sculpture workshop influenced the composition of my following paintings.
Sumon Kumar Baidya, Department of Oriental Art, MFA 1st Part
I realized in John’s workshop that a particular form takes on a different kind of beauty and importance when placed in different spaces.
Ratnashwar Sutradhwar, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
I combine the positive and negative sides of a form when I work in ceramics. In this workshop we learned to consider how the space between two shapes can create a new form. This has made a big impact on my ideas on art.
Bikash Kanti Karmokar, Department of Ceramic, MFA 1st Part
Working in Sculpture I have combined positive and negative shapes but I had never tried to articulate the space between two objects though I was curious about it. The workshop has inspired me to research into this new subject.
Sanad Kumar Biswas, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
My visit to the Slade School of Fine Art in March 2011 was no doubt an important event in my life. It has benefited me personally as an artist and also as a teacher.
On 9 March 2011, the day after I reached London, Professor Susan Collins took me to the Slade from my hotel. She introduced me to the office staff and a number of teachers and showed me around all the subject areas. The Slade does not have a huge campus like our Faculty. It is accommodated within one building. I was amazed by the space of the sculpture studio. There is a seminar room, computer lab, a well equipped photography section, print studio with very ancient print machines, a fully fledged bookbinding section. I had not realized at first sight that the building contained so much. After seeing everything my first thought was that though we have a lot of space we have very little of what is necessary in the present age.
As per schedule I attended the seminars of graduate painting in the mornings of 10 and 11 March. Susan had already introduced me to Lisa Milroy who taught in painting. The seminars were under her supervision. Every student presented their contemporary work to other students and teachers. Everyone participates in the discussions with questions from students and teacher. The student who is presenting work has to answer questions and explain. Though I had similar experiences in the past, I noticed the difference in the role of the teacher. The teacher makes no negative comments and gives references if necessary. If something is not clear the teacher asks for clarification. Finally the teacher encourages the student to explore ideas further. The teacher does not force anything on the student. I noticed that painting students were freely working in other media.
I really enjoyed the presentation of the graduate students. I found the explorations of the ‘Body’ project at the Slade Research Centre quite amazing (our students are not given the opportunity to do projects). Here also the work was displayed like an exhibition. Here Lisa again wanted to know about each student individually. The variety of improvisations with the ‘body’ was fascinating. The ensuing general discussion was very useful and informative. I also took part in it.
The MFA Critical Studies seminar on 14 and 15 March was also quite important. This was quite organized with plenty of time and each student was quite serious. Each student projected their presentation and spoke about the work – like an artist representing his/her own work. How the work was initiated, what the personal improvisations were, finally the philosophy behind the whole concept, etc. The question answer session came at the end where both teachers and students participate. The whole process was very inspiring for me.
When I was at the Slade interviews for new students seeking admission was underway. I observed how the interviews were conducted. There is no admission test system like ours in Dhaka. Each student displays a selection of their work, the student is given some time to speak, teachers ask questions and write their remarks independently. The student is photographed with her/his work. Finally everyone decides which students will be accepted. This process make students conscious about their work, concept, and how to present their work. The organized critical presentations of MFA may be said to be an ultimate result of this process. This is why the whole system was quite exciting for me.
The undergraduate seminar with Andrew Stahl was also quite good. I enjoyed the casual way in which Andrew interacted with the students and his humor.
At the very end, on 17 March Susan had organized a presentation of my work. She had put up posters on the doors of the studios. I presented my work in a gathering of students, teachers and a curator after being introduced by Susan. I answered quite a number of questions. I was honored by the enthusiasm of the audience. Thus my visit to Slade came to a conclusion with me thanking everyone and expressing my gratitude.
In June 2011 Professor Lala Rukh Selim and I visited the Slade as part of the exchange program between the Faculty of Fine Art, Dhaka University and the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. During our visit I observed the final assessment process of the graduate and undergraduate programs. The experience was very significant. The clear and confident presentation of the activities of the Slade sculpture students is a result of their continuing practice. The students are highly skilled in presenting themselves and their work systematically. Our students in Dhaka are much more dependent on description in the presentation of their work. In comparison Slade students are much more to the point. Cultural differences may be a reason behind this. The difference in the curricula of the institutions may be another reason for this. There is scope for greater research on this subject.
Notable was the conscious effort on the part of the teachers to attempt to remain objective in their judgment during the assessment. The completeness of the graduate show impressed me. Particularly the transformation of the studio spaces into exhibition spaces at the Slade is an experience from which we can learn. I noted how the graduate jury continued to discuss the work of the students at length and with care until they could reach a common decision.
Experiencing the work of the undergraduate and graduate students I could see that not only students of Fine Art Media, students of Sculpture and Painting areas were also free to use any media in their work. Thus, though there are three subject areas at the Slade, the fact is that the entire program is primarily interdisciplinary. Susan Collins, Edward Allington, Tim Head, Dryden Goodwin and other teachers took us around the whole of Slade. All the Slade students share common laboratory and workshop facilities. The common workshop is under the supervision of responsible and skilled personnel. Students can work on carpentry, metal casting, welding, and other technology supervised by responsible staff. This makes the whole process efficient in terms of costs, space and management. This seemed to be something that would be very effective if followed by the Faculty of Fine Art in Dhaka. Besides this multi-purpose workshop the printmaking, bookbinding, sound, shooting and other studios seemed very advanced in terms of technology.
It was possible to go into some comparative discussions with members of Slade faculty. The Slade curriculum placed importance on individual needs which made it very successful in developing definite concepts or knowledge. On the other hand the Faculty of Fine Art at Dhaka aspired to a more generalized attitude through the contextual study of ideas in art history, aesthetics, philosophy and other fields. The Faculty at Dhaka also placed much greater stress on studies to develop skills. Besides visiting the Slade, experiencing contemporary and historical art at the British Museum, Victoria and Albert, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Serpentine, Barbara Hepworth Museum and other art spaces was yet another wonderful experience for me.
Though this exchange program was conducted between the Slade and the Painting and
Sculpture Departments of the Faculty of Fine Art, its activities affected the other departments
of the Faculty. The younger teachers were particularly inspired by it. It indirectly influenced the
continuing process of curriculum development. The influence is directly evident in the teaching
process of the Sculpture Department. Halfway into this exchange the enthusiasm for the
interdisciplinary was evidenced in the students of the Faculty. This can be considered an indirect
outcome of the exchange. Students and faculty at either end are interested in continuing similar
exchange programs. The credit for the success of this exchange program can be attributed to a
large extent to the British Council and the University Grants Commission, Bangladesh.
Lisa Milroy, Head of Graduate Painting at the Slade came to Dhaka in September 2012 and delivered a lecture on her own work, conducted a drawing workshop and joined the painting department faculty for student crits. Her workshop accommodated students from all the practical subject areas of the Faculty and her energy and interpretation of the drawing process fired up the students who produced an immense amount of work in a single day.
The event that I directed during my visit to the Faculty of Art in September 2012 was a two-day practical workshop entitled What you see - What you know. This workshop provided an opportunity for students to explore their relation to objects, depiction and imagery through drawing. It tested the role of observation, memory and recall, and examined the formation of mental images through making. It looked at the familiar and the everyday as a source for artistic engagement. The workshop also celebrated the pleasure of visual description and the sensuality of the drawn line. What you see - What you know took place in a large well-lit studio where students could spread out over the floor to work. It was open to students in all subject areas to encourage interdisciplinary exchange, and twenty students participated. All participating students came to the workshop equipped with a meaningful personal object.
The workshop began with a discussion around the objects to examine their physical characteristics and explore their emotional value and history. I then asked students to draw their objects from observation. After 20 minutes, all objects and drawings were removed from the workspace and students repeated the exercise, but instead drew the objects from memory for the same length of time. We compared the two sets of drawings and discussed experiences that arose from each drawing context.
The workshop next focused on line and mark-making. I asked students to make lines and marks, dots, squares, circles, blobs and dashes with different grades of pencils and charcoal on different types of paper according to a set of verbal instructions, which included different time lengths and different physical attributes and emotional registers, such as heavy/faint, left/right, fast/slow, up/ down, eyes closed etc; and lines and marks that could be interpreted as happy, sad, angry, bored, tired etc. Students exchanged pencils and charcoal for paintbrushes and black ink and followed similar instructions to explore the quality of liquid line and mark. They were then asked to draw their objects from memory using a paintbrush and black ink on different types of paper according to a similar set of instructions. Students finished the practical part of the workshop with free-form drawings of their objects.
The workshop included a seminar that touched on the nature of drawing from observation and from memory; the physical nature of drawing; the drawn line as opposed to the painted line; the value of experimentation; the relation between motif, medium and execution; questions of the real and imagined; style and taste; tradition; habit; the relation of the everyday world to the art studio.
What you see - What you know generated an enormous amount of work from which the students selected an extensive group of drawings and examples of mark-making for a display in the studio space. All Fine Art students, faculty and the public were invited to the studio to see this lively presentation.
The students I worked with were all eager and hungry to join in discussions and debates around the nature of painting and art, and it was a pleasure to engage with them in the workshop, seminar, a studio critique and individual tutorials. In talking with students and observing studio practice, I made some surprising discoveries, which made me reflect on art education and art conventions, and how these are shaped and defined by different social, historical and cultural contexts. In this respect, I was struck by the division between the Oriental Painting and Painting Departments, and the apparent lack of communication between the two. Although I was nervous of misunderstanding various contexts in the art school due to my relative ignorance of the history and culture of Bangladesh, and my own Western perspective and values as an artist and teacher, I nonetheless felt that if a critical dialogue between the two areas were to open up, there could be a rich complexity for students to draw upon, in bringing together diverse approaches to painting to explore craft, history, tradition and the conceptual nature of different ways of painting in today’s world. Another aspect that caught my attention was the academic approach to teaching painting based on copying exercises. I was also curious about the difference between some of the Bangladeshi paintings that I saw in art galleries in Dhaka and also documented in catalogues, and the paintings done in the art school: the influence of Bangladeshi folk art traditions was much more evident in paintings outside the art school. This vibrant cultural and visual resource did not seem to have a value within the school, and I wondered at what point painters picked up folk art influences after they left the institution.
I was intrigued by the calm and quiet of the Painting studios, and their dimly lit grayness, both in physical and atmospheric terms, as opposed to the chaos, noise, crowdedness and colour of Dhaka. For a Bangladeshi student, I wondered if this pared down, cool atmosphere could seem strange, intriguing, different, attractive and imaginatively stirring in relation to the familiar packed and dense environment outside the art school. I found the red brick modernist architecture of the Faculty of Art beautiful, and enjoyed the landscaping of the surrounding gardens, particularly the huge basin-like crater brimming with a tangle of trees and plants
Thanks to Lala Rukh’s introduction to the artist Abdus Salam, I was able to explore Bangladeshi rickshaw painting, which is of enormous interest to me in my own painting practice. Ten years ago, curator friends at the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan gave me a book on Southeast Asian “Traffic Art” in relation to a show they had curated on rickshaw painting. Documented in this book were the paintings of Mr R K Das, which I especially enjoyed. I asked Lala Rukh if it would be possible to visit rickshaw painting studios during my stay in Dhaka. The age of digital photography and cheap printing methods have put paid to cinema billboard painting and many of the hand-painted advertisements in Dhaka, but rickshaw and lorry painting still thrive. Abdus Salam took me to the studio and home in Old Dhaka of Mr R K Das himself, now in his seventies. It was a great honour to meet this wonderful painter, and there on his desk was his copy of the “Traffic Art” book that has enchanted me for the past decade.
I was thrilled by the presence of painting everywhere in Dhaka - it is a city covered in paint and the human touch! Spray-painted styrofoam signs; hand-painted signage on city walls; colourful painted decorations and surfaces of houses; hand-painted buses and auto-taxis - even the license plates are hand-painted; in the bazaars, open pots of gooey paint clutter workshop benches and jars of brilliant pigment are stacked up in poster shops.
My visit to Dhaka has made me feel more open to the Bangladeshi community in Poplar, London, where I live and have my studio practice.
The interdisciplinary is enjoyable in any form of education. As a student of art it was wonderful to participate in workshops and seminars organized through the INSPIRE project. The teaching method of the Slade School of Fine Art is very different from the Faculty of Fine Art in Dhaka. The students have greater freedom to exercise their individuality. Through the exchange with Slade we came to know about the work of Slade teachers and other contemporary artists, their ideas and experiments.
Jafrin Gulshan, Department of Printmaking, MFA 2nd Part
This workshop encourages studying the relationship with objects, descriptions and observation of objects, memory test and many other processes. The organization of workshops like this will be very helpful for us.
Sohel Ashraf Khan, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 2nd part
After a speedy session of mark making the brain storming part of experimental drawing turned into a very funny and energetic one! My perception of the object suddenly changed and I felt more attached to my favorite object as I had to find out its emotional, humanlike appearance through lines.
Dhiman Sarkar, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
We all brought an object about which we have some feeling or affection. After we began drawing the object acquired a new form through various processes of simplification. This experience will influence my future work.
Kanta Rahman, Department of Graphic Design, MFA 2nd Part
The subject of the workshop was an object that I liked. We drew the same object all day but in different ways. But we were not at all bored by the exercise.
Mahmuda Khandakar, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
Unknowingly we are much too conscious when we try to grasp the more difficult aspects of painting. Spontaneity is gradually lost. I discovered the joy of spontaneity in this workshop.
Sayed Fida Hossain, Department of Drawing and Painting, MFA 1st Part
It was my experience in this workshop how show a variety of expressions through a variety of lines.
Shahanoor Mamun, Department of Ceramics, MFA 1st Part
I enjoyed the process of expressing emotion through drawing, a traditional, longstanding process.
Antu Chandra Modak, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
I realized the significance and importance of the line in a new dimension through Lisa Milroy’s workshop. I was fascinated by the exercise of the variety of lines. This kind of exchange encourages diverse perspectives.
Liton Paul, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
We learned how to observe the object in a new way in Lisa’s workshop. I enjoy drawing but in her workshop I found a new dimension in drawing. She has made us braver by liberating us from inhibitions. I really enjoyed the workshop and feel that we will be benefited if more workshops like this were organized.
Md. Shafiqul Islam, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
In my work I try not to change the primary form of objects but to express my emotions and ideas through various expressive lines. This workshop has made my work easier.
Md. Ariful Islam, Department of Graphic Design, MFA 1st Part
To gain knowledge of a subject, one must know its grammar. As a student of art it is primary to learn about the line and the dot. I learned different techniques of applying lines and dots. Lisa Milroy’s novel method of teaching has expanded my knowledge. Chandra Nath Pal, Department of Sculpture, BFA (Hons.) 4th Year
During my second visit to the Slade in June 2011, Susan suggested that I should conduct a making workshop at Slade. So far we had not considered this possibility as the Slade students are not used to being directed by tutors in this particular way. However, Professor John Aiken had seen traditional clay icons of the Hindu goddess of wisdom in Dhaka and had found them fascinating, thus Susan had the idea that we could perhaps have a traditional making workshop based on the icon making process. This was a considerable change from the beginning where we had not thought that a making workshop of this kind would be of interest to the Slade students. I was also asked to deliver a lecture on Bangladeshi art for the Contemporary Art Lecture Series at Slade. I should mention here that Rafiqun Nabi, Dean and Professor, Painting Department, Shishir Bhattacharjee, Associate Professor, Painting Department, Nasimul Khabir and Nasima Haq Mitu, Lecturers, Sculpture Department also visited the Slade for the exchange. Shishir Bhattacharjee delivered a lecture on his own work while Nasima Haq Mitu and I jointly conducted the traditional making workshop. I felt that the Bangladeshi presence at the Slade, which has a very international ambience, gradually built up and invoked interest through the exchange and also through Susan’s enthusiasm and efforts. Many faculty members and students turned up for my lecture which was followed by an interesting question and answer session.
The workshop playfully titled “Hay, Clay” by the participating students was a very fulfilling experience. The students were committed, attentive, serious and very definite. They showed deep interest and curiosity about Bangladesh and our institution and wanted to visit as exchange students. We were comfortable to the point where we could almost relate to them as our students! This workshop was Susan’s idea to make the exchange more even on both sides. It made a world of difference to be in direct contact with students.
The Bangladesh icon making workshop was the perfect culmination to the series of visits to the Slade by our colleagues in Dhaka. It was very important for us that there was an opportunity for equal exchange. I had been very excited about the folk art on my visit in 2010, both in terms of the paintings and also the large constructed, painted objects, so when John Aiken returned from his visit to Dhaka in February 2011 with a powerful set of photographs documenting the constructions and sculpted objects of the festival of the Goddess of Knowledge the idea for staging this workshop in London took hold.
The impact of the workshop was felt long before Lala Rukh and Nasima Haq Mitu arrived in London. Our Studio Manager Alan Taylor was tasked with finding all the items needed for it (most of which are every day, affordable items in Dhaka) and some samples were sent back to London with Lisa Milroy. Trying to match ‘sticky clay’ or ‘sandy clay’ to what might be available from specialist ceramic suppliers in London meant that Alan embarked on a sometimes very entertaining journey of discovery. Sticky clay it turned out is quite particular and sourced from the riverbeds of Bangladesh. Alan found the closest match he could – and we all exhaled when Lala Rukh and Mitu declared that it would work. The hay was eventually found at a city farm and arrived as we all expected it to, in neatly trimmed bales. Apparently this is not at all how it appears in Bangladesh, where the hay is left longer, untrimmed. British cows apparently are lazier than Bangladeshi ones. Lala Rukh and Mitu did their best with the materials we could provide, bringing the ones that they knew would be harder for us to source with them (tamarind seed for the glue, and special pigments).
The best thing about the workshop was to meet Lala Rukh and Mitu. They are wonderful, centred and inspiring women and have a different story to tell about art school. A workshop environment, exploring new materials together was a very valuable experience, a model of how collective learning and exchange could be increased and encouraged at British art schools. It was exciting to see how everyone dared to let go of their inhibitions and concepts and let the methods lead the work. I am interested to learn more about the art school in Dhaka and wish there was an exchange programme for students to go and visit the Bangladesh. I think this would broaden our understanding of what art practice can be.
Babette Semmer, Painting, BA 3
I thoroughly enjoyed the Bangladeshi making work shop, it not only allowed me to learn new skills, it encouraged me as a painter to think more three dimensionally. I already make objects which go on the wall but this was my first time to make something free standing and it was really nice to do it in a workshop. I benefited not only from the experience of working with Lala and Mitu but also working with a range of different students from across the departments and meeting different tutors who popped by to say hi because they had been to Bangladesh. It was nice to make something in three days and the show at the end, inspired by Susan Collins, made it even more special. Thank you for organizing such a wonderful experience!
Sarah Pettitt, Painting, MA 2
The workshop was in itself a highly enjoyable experience. It seemed to take me somewhere else then the art institution - it may have been the smell of hay or the traditional dresses that our tutors Lala and Mitu wore when they welcomed us. The atmosphere was also very cooperative as we needed to work together to move many kilograms of clay and bales of hay, and prepare the materials. It was physical, messy and a bit like being a kid again but at the same time everyone was committed to making the most out of the opportunity.
Working so closely together allowed me to have new dialogues and make friends from other courses at the Slade. The instruction was very well structured, fast paced and with clearly defined activities. There was a certain rigidity to the stages of making the sculptures which pacified my internal art critic and gave meafreedomtoexploretheprocessinitself. Even the decorating stage involved using unusual bright pigments, which meant that the final sculptures had different aesthetics to what we would normally see in the studios. There has been a lot of positive response and genuine interest generated by both the works and the uniqueness of the process. Finally, I enjoyed the opportunity to have a number of conversations about the Bangladeshi art and influences of tradition on contemporary perspectives.
Anja Borowicz, Sculpture, MA 2
The workshop was extremely hands on, engaging and indulgent. It is a process widely used in Bangladesh, but completely unfamiliar to us. Clay is a material we are all acquainted with, but using bamboo, hay, raw jute, tamarind glue and natural pigments were new. It was a privilege to have the freedom to experiment with them and be able to incorporate works made with them into my practice. I worked on a colonial bollard that fit in with my research on post colonialism. The fact that it was made of all natural materials which when put into a body of water will dissolve was a process that interested me most. It was exciting to learn a way to make sculpture where the process and its shape are never the same at two different times. It keeps on altering. The outcome was a successful one, the bollard surprisingly, still standing. It was good to know that I can put it into the water at a time that suits me and until then it will remain strong. I come from India, but even though we belong to the same continent, the culture in Bangladesh is different in many ways. It was exciting to learn about how this process of making came to be, why it was useful and the meaning behind its usage today for ritualistic prayer services.
Ayesha Singh, Sculpture, BFA 3
My visit to the Slade School of
Fine Art was a delightful and satisfactory one. I was visiting another
school in another country for the first time. I was full of expectations
and of course, some apprehensions. Reflecting on my experience of those
ten days, I can only say that I am happy that I got the opportunity to
visit the Slade. We spent some quality time in the company of some
wonderful people—students and teachers of the school.
The atmosphere of exchange was great. There was real keenness on the part of the participants of the workshop that we conducted on “Protima” or icon making and the outputs of the workshop speak for themselves. I have derived a great degree of satisfaction by co-conducting this workshop. This was actually one of my core areas of apprehension. I was not too sure how much creative energy this remote art form would generate among the participants. But it was a truly successful workshop. Thanks go also to the organizers whose planning was so meticulous.
Looking back, I can say that meeting students from so many different cultures and backgrounds was a unique experience for me. Here, in Bangladesh, I am used to teaching students from our country only. So, the diversity of humanity that you get to know in a school like Slade is really exciting.
My general observation is that the students at Slade are very communicative and very eloquent when it comes to expressing themselves. They are very vocal and can present their “idea” of art with a great degree of lucidity. In Bangladesh, our students do not lack in creativity; in fact they are as good as anyone. But they do have a general weakness in putting things into words. Perhaps, to a certain extent, that stems from a somewhat stiff teacher-student relationship that we have. Point to ponder....
The teachers, at Slade, are avid listeners. It is the students who do most of the talking. The process is quite the reverse here in Bangladesh. Students listen while we do the talking. I have come to understand from my experience at Slade that we need to know the aspirations, ideas and doubts of the students and the best way to do so it to encourage them to talk.
There is a general tendency of the students at Slade to try to become global or cosmopolitan in their art making. A common language of expression and presentation is a highly sought after thing. This sometimes leads to a monotonous, uni-standard perspective in art. But these students are coming from highly different cultural traditions and each one of them has a very different story to tell from a very different angle. This diversity of expression is sometimes sadly missing. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried to talk to the students personally. They do not need much persuasion to bring out the true colour and form at the core of their creative minds. My humble feeling is that one needs to encourage the students to look behind for inspiration and then fuse it with what is there on offer in the global scenario. It may bring out the best in them and the world of art would be really enriched.
Here, in Bangladesh, we do not have any formal art education till class 12. Thus, the students we get are totally uninitiated, apart from their genuine love of art. One may argue that it is the best way to begin. But coming back from Slade, I have a feeling that, some sort of initiation beforehand is not bad at all to start undergraduate studies in art. At least, the maturity of seeing the world through different eyes help and art education at school level, with all its limitations, can do that. Most of the students at Slade, having gone through that, are better prepared for the challenge of creativity.
It was extraordinary how much was achieved in the three-day workshop. The students who participated found the whole process very exciting and also enjoyed the chance to find out more about life and art school in Bangladesh. Lala Rukh also gave a very compelling Slade Contemporary Art Lecture to the whole school contextualising contemporary Bangladeshi art within both its own history and the folk art tradition.
The exchange with Slade has opened up our minds to the different ways in which art education can be approached. It has evoked enquiry and curiosity. The Sculpture Department has opened up its new curriculum and integrated certain ideas that were gained through this exchange with Slade, particularly focused on expanding the scope for students to develop individually. It is expected that other departments will initiate changes in their curriculum as a result of this partnership. There is also a proposal for a new department on interdisciplinary studies to be introduced into the Faculty. All change must come from within and in response to the rapidly changing context of the world. We can only hope that we will be prepared to extend our territory and challenge our boundaries.
Professor Lala Rukh Selim, Department of Sculpture
An exchange that takes place over three years has a very different flavour than one that takes place over weeks or months. We still had the intensity of discovery and delight through our initial contact in the first visits, however with each subsequent visit in both directions the level and depth of engagement grew as did our understanding not only of our partner’s cultural context but also our own. Lala Rukh and her colleagues have become recognized visitors at the Slade over time and this building up of the relationship has been very important in terms of how open colleagues and students have been to engaging in a deeper dialogue. Things that we take for granted - for example not simply how we conduct our seminars, but the fact that we have seminars; why we conduct our admissions and our assessments the ways that we do - all became reflected upon through this process of observation and exchange. On both sides we
feel there is now a greater sensitivity and awareness of other points of view and perspectives. The inspire project has led us to value but also question our own processes as much as those of our exchange partner, and the open and frank discussions we have had at both ends have been energising and shed new light on our own situation in sometimes surprising ways.
The project could not have been as successful as it has turned out to be without the support, enthusiasm, intelligence and sensitivity of the many participants, not least my main collaborator on the project and the key driving force, Lala Rukh Selim, who was truly inspiring to work with. Whilst the initial three-year project is drawing to a close we are hoping this will be a start rather than a finish. There are now a growing group of staff and students at the Slade who are clamouring for an opportunity to visit Dhaka, and we are also keen to have further ‘making’ workshops and visits by our colleagues in Dhaka to the Slade.
While it isn’t unusual for cultural exchange to take place, or for artists and educators to spend time in one another’s institutions, the British Council in supporting this project has enabled the difference between a single encounter, exciting and enriching as that is, and establishing a more significant relationship over time. This has allowed for a different, deeper understanding to emerge, one which I believe, despite the very different goals and expectations of the project partners at the outset has led to a very equal and evenly matched exchange of ideas and values.
Professor Susan Collins, Slade Director
The exchange partnership between the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, UK and Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh has been successful with the cooperation and support of many faculty members, staff and students of the two institutions as well as the British Council and the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh.
Professor Nazrul Islam, the then Chairman of the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh deserves special thanks for his enthusiasm for Fine Art which made this exchange materialize.
The Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, Professor A. A. M. S. Arefin Siddique has lent the project his whole-hearted support as have the Deans of the Faculty, Professor Rafiqun Nabi, Professor E. H. M. Matlub Ali and Professor Syed Abul Barq Alvi.
At Dhaka University in addition to the faculty featured in this publication, Professor Farida Zaman, Professor Jamal Ahmed, Professor Nisar Hossain, Sahid Kazi, and Abdus Sattar Toufiq, Lecturers, Department of Drawing and Painting, Professor Md. Hamiduzzaman Khan, A. A. M. Kaoser Hassan, Assistant Professor, Mukul Kumar Barai, Assistant Professor, Md. Atiqul Islam, Part-time Teacher, Department of Sculpture, Joya Shahrin Huq, Assistant Professor, Asmita Alam Shammy, Lecturer, Department of Printmaking, Kantideb Adhikary, Lecturer, Department of Oriental Art, Masuda Khatun Jui, Lecturer, Department of Art History, Mohammad Subbir-Al Razy, Chinmaye Sikder, Lecturers, Department of Ceramic, Farhana Ferdausi, Lecturer, Department of Crafts have all contributed to the exchange.
Harun-Ar-Rashid, Lecturer, Department of Graphic Design deserves special credit for designing all the printed materials for the lectures and workshops held at the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka.
Ashim Kumar Halder, student, MFA, Department of Ceramic, Dhaka University has facilitated the activities of the exchange with his technical support.
At the Slade School of Fine Art in addition to the faculty featured in this publication many members of staff have contributed to the exchange and welcomed Lala Rukh Selim and her colleagues into seminars, discussions, crits and assessments. These include Dr Sharon Morris, Head of the Doctoral Programme; Dr Amna Malik and Dr Joy Sleeman, History and Theory; David Burrows and Jayne Parker, Fine Art Media; Andrew Stahl and Jo Volley, Painting; Professor Edward Allington, Melanie Jackson and Melanie Counsell, Sculpture.
The project administration at the Slade has been assisted and supported over the three year period by Lucy Toseland, Jennifer Jennings and Liz Bruchet.
The Bangladeshi icon making workshop at the Slade was supported by a number of staff including John Bremner and Thomas Jenkins, who also documented the process, and James Keith who was responsible for printing photographs of the icons for the exhibition in Dhaka. A very special thank you goes to Slade studio manager Alan Taylor for going to great lengths to source the right materials.
And finally it is important to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the British Council. The project would not have been possible without the British Council INSPIRE (International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education) programme, and the British Council, Dhaka who have been supportive throughout and played a vital role in the smooth running of the project.
Published by Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London, 2013
Edited by Susan Collins and Lala Rukh Selim
Design by MJC, Slade Press
Printed by Mati ar Manush, 179/3 Fakirapool, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
Shimul Datta, MFA 1st part Department of Sculpture
Sadatuddin Ahmed Amil, MFA 1st part Department of Drawing and Painting
Shammi Akter Sumi, MFA 1st part Department of Drawing and Painting
Md. Shiful Islam, MFA 1st part Department of Graphic Design
lmam Hossain Sumon, MFA 1st part Department of Sculpture
Mir Md.Abdullah AI Mamun Ali, MFA 1st part Department of Graphic Design
Sumon Wahed, MFA 1st part Department of Drawing and Painting
Md. Zahid Hossain, MFA 1st part Department of Printmaking
Marzia Farhana, MFA 1st part Department of Graphic Design
Nadia Yeasmin, MFA 1st part Department of Printmaking
Manabendra Ghosh, MFA 1st part Department of Sculpture
Sazzad Majumder, MFA 1st part Department of Printmaking
Shaping the Space Between
Sumon Kumar Baidya, MFA 1st part Department of Oriental Art
Emtiwaz Ahmed, MFA 1st part Department of Ceramics
Shirin Akhter, MFA 1st part Department of Graphic Design
Mousumi Sultana, BFA (Hons) 4th year Department of Crafts
Syed Tareq Rahman, BFA (Hons) 4th year Department of Sculpture
Rupam Roy, BFA (Hons) 4th year Department of Sculpture
Shubho Saha, MFA 2nd part Department of Printmaking
A.B.M Rokon-uz-zaman, MFA 2nd part Department of Crafts
Bikash Kanti Karmokar, MFA 1st part Department of Ceramics
Ratnashwar Sutradhwar, MFA 1st part Department of Drawing and Painting
Sanad Kumar Biswas, MFA (Hons) 4th year Department of Sculpture
Sharmeen Ahmed Shormy, BFA (Hons) 4th year Department of Sculpture
What you see – What you know
Sohel Ashraf Khan, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Painting
Ratnashwar Sutradhwar, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Painting
Sayed Fida Hossain, MFA 1st Part, Department of Painting
Dhiman Sarkar, MFA 1st Part, Department of Painting
Soma Surovi Jannat, BFA 4th Year, Department of Painting
Kanta Rahman, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Graphic Design
Md. Ariful lslam, MFA 1st Part, Department of Graphic Design
Jafrin Gulshan, MFA 1st Part, Department of Printmaking
Asman Hossain, MFA Ist Part Department of Printmaking
Sinthia Arefin, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Oriental
Art Am it Kumar Nandi, BFA 4th Year, Department of Oriental
Art Mohammad Robiul Hossain, MFA 1st Part, Department of Ceramics
Md. Shahanoor Mamun, MFA 1st Part, Department of Ceramics
Mahmuda Khandakar, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Chandra Nath Pal, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Liton Paul, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Antu Chandra Modak, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Md. Shafiqul Islam, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Asheef-ud-Dowla Noor, MFA 1st Part, Department of Crafts
Shyamal Sutradhar, MFA 1st Part, Department of Crafts
“Protima” Bangladeshi traditional icon making workshop
Beatrice Bonafini, Painting, BA 3
Anja Borowicz, Sculpture, MA 2
Sheenagh Geoghegan, Painting, MFA 2
Frank Harris, Sculpture, BA 4
Soo Hee Kim, Sculpture, MFA 2
Sarah Pettitt, Painting, MA 2
Florian Roithmayr, Sculpture, MPhil/PhD 1
Babette Semmer, Painting, BA 3
Dovile Simonyte, Painting, BA 2
Ayesha Singh, Sculpture, BFA 3
Paola Vernizzi de Ramos, Painting, BFA 3
Jiwon Yun, Sculpture, MFA 2
Performance Art Workshop
Md. Pervaj Hasan, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Drawing and Painting
Md. Soikat Hossain, BFA 4th Year, Department of Drawing and Painting
Md. Bazlur Rashid, BFA 4th Year, Department of Drawing and Painting
Nadia Ferdous Nodi, BFA 4th Year, Department of Drawing and Painting
Rumana Islam Rupa, BFA 4th Year, Department of Graphic Design
Nazmun Nahar Akanda, MFA 1st Part, Department of Printmaking
Rashida Akter, BFA 4th Year, Department of Printmaking
Amit Nandi, MFA 1st Part, Department of Oriental Art
Sunjida Akter, BFA 4th Year, Department of Oriental Art
Mohammad Robiul Hossain, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Ceramics
Sadia Sarmin Dipa, BFA 3rd Year, Department of Ceramics
Md. Aminul Islam, MFA 2nd Part, Department of Sculpture
Mohibul Islam Arif, MFA 1st Part, Department of Sculpture
Arzana Tubassum, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Tanvir Mahmud, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Alok Rajbongshi, BFA 4th Year, Department of Sculpture
Sabrina Ahmed, MFA 1st Part, Department of Crafts
Shanjida Akter, BFA 3rd Year, Department of Crafts
S. M. Mamun Hossain, BFA 4th Year, Department of Art History
Ruxmini Reckwana Q Choudhury, BFA 4th Year, Department of Art History
Performance art workshop, 16-19 February 2014, Department of Sculpture, University of Dhaka
This performance art workshop was designed and guided by Gary Stevens, artist and lecturer in Fine Art Media at the Slade School of Fine Art. The workshop participants were from both graduate and undergraduate programs of the eight departments of the Faculty of Fine Art, University of Dhaka. Performance art is not part of the curriculum of the Faculty at the University of Dhaka and is therefore, for most of the students, a new experience within their academic environment. The workshop was a step towards introducing a variety of media and methods within the framework of institutional art education and encouraging interdisciplinary practice. Gary Stevens is a veteran in the field of performance and has conducted many workshops with art students in different countries.
This workshop was part of the second phase of the education exchange programme between the Slade and the University of Dhaka, which has, since 2010, been supported by the International Strategic Partnerships in Research and Education (INSPIRE) Project of the British Council.
Lala Rukh Selim
Professor and Chair
Department of Sculpture
University of Dhaka
The participants of the five-day workshop were asked to collaborate on ensemble performances. Simple systems that govern the behaviour of the performers required them to observe and listen to one another closely in order to copy, respond and build on what they have seen and heard. They also must communicate clearly within the group. As artists, the students were invited to engage critically and constructively in the development of the emerging pattern.
The students evoked a space through a verbal description of imaginary objects as they gestured to one another to indicate the objects’ place, orientation and size. The performers’ position on the floor establishes the relationship that the objects have to one another. The quiet and empty interior that emerges through the accumulation of details is in stark contrast to the frenetic and noisy manner of representation, as each student repeats and adds an object of their own.
The aim was to encourage discovery through the practical process and to be surprised by the results. A number of exercises were developed and modified. The deceptively simple experiments emphasised the means and manner of representation through live performance. The workshop aimed to blur a distinction between objects and events.
Lecturer in Fine Art Media
Slade School of Fine Art