Ways is the first major solo exhibition by Dhaka and Sydney-based Australian artist Omar Chowdhury.
Chowdhury has spent the past two years working in the country of his birth, one of the most densely populated on earth, whose character is deeply informed by religious faiths and daily acts of worship. There, he has created an ambitious new body of work, which traverses urban and rural terrains searching for material embodiments of spiritual transcendence.
Chowdhury produces large-scale and richly detailed moving image works filmed on location in Bangladesh during extended periods of immersion in various cultural and physical landscapes, producing an expansive view of the country and its spiritual practice. He has captured both intimate and communal moments that show people taking part in religious ceremonies and festivals as well as engrossing himself in a level of committed observance and the transformation of every day actions. In this suite of works tensions arise – between form and formlessness, action and inaction, presence and absence – which are heightened by the artist through a cinematic style that draws on both the mechanisms of documentary approaches to filmmaking as well as more experimental narrative structures.
For Chowdhury the camera is not simply a tool for image-making but a means to frame and test acts of philosophical and artistic enquiry. How might individual gestures and the movement and rhythm of ritualistic acts embody collective experiences of spiritual transcendence? To what extent does an immersion in architecture shape the human body and mind within real and imagined boundaries? Is the path to enlightenment necessarily an individualistic and hermetic journey, or one that can be experienced and shared with others?
Commissioned especially for this exhibition by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art with support from the Keir Foundation is Omar Chowdhury’s Locus I, II, a two-channel video installation that over its long duration presents sequences of complex layers and sequences of communities and their built environment that ultimately question the symbiotic relationship between spiritual ways and physical means.
Omar Chowdhury: Ways is produced by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and supported by the Keir Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts, Dhaka.