Moving image artist Omar Chowdhury does not simply film an event or situation – he experiences it. For him, it’s this immersion and intimacy that brings clarity to what is being captured. ‘I have little interest in “information” about the event: its meaning or its history. I’m interested in more immediately sensorial, ontological and conceptual concerns.’
With a studio based in both Sydney and Dhaka, Bangladesh, his recent work, Tortions I and II were filmed at Hindu and Muslim religious festivals in Dhaka. We see men and women in the throes of religious ritual and it’s this sense of transcendence that Chowdhury would ultimately like to achieve through his practice. The work is mesmerising and even though we, as the audience, are placed firmly in the position of voyeur, it is not awkward or uncomfortable. The artist makes it feel completely natural and a relationship is formed between those being watched and those doing the watching. Perhaps this stems from the fact that Chowdhury does not consider the viewer at all while he is filming, instead he concentrates on experiencing. ‘My hope is some of my experiencing and thinking comes through in the work for others to re-experience and realise.’
Setting up a studio in Dhaka was one of the artist’s primary objectives when he applied for an ArtStart grant in 2012 and when he realised he’d been successful, he claims ‘I wasn’t ecstatic, I was relieved.’ Chowdhury could now move forward with his plans and ‘have a really good go at the projects that I’d said I’d deliver.’ And deliver he has.
Having recently shown his work at the Dhaka Art Summit, the artist has two shows in Sydney at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and ALASKA Projects before heading to Berlin to complete a residency at MOMENTUM and a solo exhibition as part of Berlin Art Week. Everything appears to be falling into place for Chowdhury who explains ‘My practice is what it is now because of the resources the grant [ArtStart] gives you, but more importantly, the process it teaches you about how to approach your practice. As with art, it’s as much form as content.’
Although clearly multifaceted, the artist is reluctant to respond when asked to elaborate on the meaning of his work. He admits there’s possibly ‘a thousand and one meanings’ in the work but to Chowdhury the meaning is embedded and is something to be experienced. ‘The full meaning can only arise in the spectating. If I talk about it… well, I shouldn’t talk about it.’
Omar Chowdhury received an ArtStart grant in 2012 and a Skills and Development grant in 2013.
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art
29th May — 2 August 2014
9th — 23rd July 2014
3rd — 30th September 2014