TBS: Tell us about your journey as an artist.
SAC: I graduated from the Fine Arts faculty of the University of Dhaka, majoring in Drawing and Painting. From the very beginning of my student life, I started practicing computer graphics and prepared myself for broader career options. I didn't want to confine myself to only traditional drawing and painting, so I used as much opportunity as available to learn more about contemporary and modern art techniques that could help me in the future.
I worked in many different sectors as a part-timer. But from 2004, we, the artist community, realised that art and artists were no longer confined to an artwork created on a canvas. Through computer graphics, artists were ruling the corporate world globally, and I took the chance and became involved in the corporate world. Since then, for the last 20 years, I have been working in the advertising sector, and I have worked in various positions. In these 20 years, I taught myself different skills and techniques from time to time, to arrive at the position I am at now - Executive Creative Director at CarrotComm. My experience says that art is not for arts' sake anymore, it has a broader horizon to incorporate business and other sectors as well. I don't have much of a story to tell, but I believe I have lived my story and being a Fine Art graduate is one of the things that makes me proud of myself.
TBS: How do you evaluate the typical career graph of our Fine Art grads? Where they are now and where should they have been?
SAC: My educational institute taught me the basics of drawing and painting. But I learnt computer graphics, animation, a little bit of motion graphics out of my own interest. Apart from what I had learned from the department, I gathered additional knowledge on contemporary parallel art techniques to make my career prospects wider.
Our Fine Art academy curriculum is based on conceptual art, which requires aesthetic comprehension, more than anything. But when a graduate starts looking for a job, he or she realises that even art depends on demand and supply. So knowing about the kinds of art that are required in the industry is crucial here. And your capability and workmanship on that particular art form and technique is the basis of getting a job in the present-day market. So just limiting yourself with the kind of work you like or the technique you learnt from your department will be a foolish thing to do.
There was a time when artists were only painters, sculptors etc., where they were confined to a particular medium or style. But now fine art students can make their career in fashion designing, corporate industry, media and journalism, gaming and IT industry, and whatnot. So I would say, you have a bigger field to play in now. Students should take basic knowledge from the academy and they should explore the sectors they want to work in and prepare themselves according to it.
TBS: How should an aspirant artist prepare from day one at university for a successful career?
SAC: I don't believe an academy or institution can build a careerist; it only gives you the knowledge, it prepares you to walk on the way, but it's you who has to decide the journey. It's the student's choice how they want to use that knowledge to build their career. Especially, students of this digital generation should not depend on the academy at all. Parallel learning is essential now. And it is not tough to get, as every information is available now on the internet and you can be self-taught. You just need to identify your interest and preferred sector of work. Then teach yourself the necessary techniques through tutorials.
TBS: Are our artists catching up to global standards? Where is the weakness, if any?
SAC: I don't want to judge art from any perspective or trend. I believe, art is a language and it is supposed to vary from place to place, and with time it is supposed to change. We might have a critical scale to measure art trends, but we can never measure art. And from that point I want to add that Bangladeshi art is much more than just basic fine arts techniques, it is rather a part of our living. Our pottery, Nokshi Kantha, all these cannot be measured with measuring scales. But yes, we are a bit behind on pop art or contemporary art, than the rest of the world. If we consider pop art as a product then, we would need production resources and technique and consumer demand. Besides that we don't have enough of a market for pop art. So compared to global standards we are lagging behind a bit on demand and supply in some sectors. But I can see we are growing. The young generation is very much aware of global standards, and they are catching up to global speed.
TBS: Your advice in a nutshell: The DOs and DON'Ts.
SAC: Fine arts and applied art is entirely different from one another. Even as a Fine Art graduate, I would suggest Fine Art academies should incorporate these in the curriculum as individual departments. Fine art is not just a hobby, it's a passion. Taking it as a career might not give you a sustainable journey, but I am not discouraging it. And applied art is more career-oriented and close to reality. So we have to teach the students a perfect blend of these.
In my opinion, our academy's applied art syllabuses are outdated, compared to the global standard. And I am sure we are working on updating the curriculum, but it's a lengthy process. So students must work on developing their skills and techniques by themselves.
One more thing I want to suggest to the Fine Art students is that they have to be more flexible. Arts students always have a craving to produce pure art. But professionally, you have to create what is required or asked of you. This is where many artists stumble in their career, or even quit. Because their interest clashes with the job requirements. We must realise that it's like any other job, we need to do what is asked of us and how it is required. We can't be too stiff on the art and should be more flexible.
Students must accept global content and the institutes must teach more global contemporary techniques to expand the students' career options.