Fawaz Rob comes across as an arrogant person when you meet him. The artist is sure of himself. As though he knows that his creation will hold the test of time.
He is defiantly sure of his skills, doesn’t care about social grease and doesn’t waste time on chit chatting about current events.‘So, what do you want to know’ was the third thing he told me when I met him. “Look at me and ask me directly the questions you are scared to ask. You know, the question, I see you are reserving for the last”.
It took me a while to gather myself and proceed. He is (maybe) the twentieth artist I have appeared in conversation and none was so direct and contiguous rude before.
Usually, artists are really generous and slimy with a journalist, especially the ones who is thinking of promoting them with media coverage. Everyone cares about the media, social platforms or not these days.
“So, why do you think your art is any better than others?” I tried to hold my ground and put him in defense.
“I don’t. As a matter of fact, I think there are many other artists who are more skillful than me. I am not in a competition. This is not a hundred-meter sprint race.”
“So why should we care about your art?”.This guy is not budging.
“You shouldn’t if you don’t want so. There is no compulsion”
“What are you trying to say with your art?”
“What does your art represent?”
“Who do you speak for in your art?”
“Why are you doing your art?”
Oh! come on now. We are back to square one. Usually, these four questions engage an artist for hours. They love to talk about faith and dreams. Last artist took nearly three hours. My recorder went out of charge and this artist is giving me nothing.
Fawaz Rob is a class of his own. He studied product design in San Francisco State University with a post-graduation in Architecture from a Italian institute.
His first solo exhibition held in Paris for which he was featured in Le Parisien magazine. Fawaz has done residency in many European cities and his art has been displayed in Budapest, Zadar, Paris, Kathmandu, Istanbul, Athens, Phnom Penh and Dhaka.
His second solo exhibition was in Croatia, where it was the first open air art exhibition for any Bangladeshi printmaker. Artist Fawaz Rob has spent a long time as a homeless bum in various cities of Europe in his youth. He speaks Italian fluently and has a house in France.
He is a self-taught artist and considers him an outsider in the art world. He considers sculptor Hamiduzzaman as a mentor and like him he practices art every day for hours.
Fawaz worked as an assistant professor of architecture at North South University for ten years and now taking a break from teaching to concentrate on art in full pace.
The most common saying about him is, ‘He (Fawaz) is incredibly talented but makes fun of everything, as if nothing is sacred’. He is highly respected by his students and loved by his selected few artist friends.
These are all the things I gathered from the internet and talking to his friends. But I am trying to get something from him directly.
“Are you avoiding my questions?”
“Does having an architectural background affects your art?”
“Yes. Everything affects my art.”
“Can you tell us about your art? Anything at all?”
“Sure. It’s great. You should buy one.”
I had to laugh at this point. He smiled too. I realised, I couldn’t engage this guy into any conversation, this guy is oblivious to usual art talks that everyone else seems to have mastered.
“Please, I have to write a piece, tell me something about your art”. I plead.
“OK. Write it down…There is an Eid sale. 20 percent off on all art of Fawaz Rob. Please contact Mr Azad at Tivoli gallery at Gulshan 2”.
“What do you want me to say? You want me to give you a repetitive essay on how I want to capture my time, how I care about Bangladeshi art and we should promote it? Do you want me to talk about my struggles and hardship, how I overcame all obstacles and established myself in my contemporary art world? How a French critic saw my exhibition and praised it in a Parisian art magazine? These stories have been repeated so many times that it has lost its edge three decades ago. This romantic idea of a struggling artist capturing his own time is the most overstated stories of art magazines around the world. These stories are all rubbish and should not be told ever. There is a reason mango people do not care about ‘high art’ and this whole affair ends up belonging to the small upper class of the society. This is all ridiculous”
“Why don’t you do abstract art?”
“I wish I could. If I understood it” (smiling)
“Do you have anything against abstract artists?”
“No. Why should I? Everything is abstract. My six-year-old daughter draws herself with crayon. That is abstract as well. How can I have something against my daughter?” (smiling)
“OK. Please help me out here. Tell me your own story in your own way then”.
“There is not much to say. I do art as I fit necessary. I do not do it to impress anyone, certainly not the art historians, art teachers or art critics. I do it because… it is beautiful. There is a movie called “la grande beleza”. The Great Beauty. I like the title. Everything about creating an art, from start to finish is la grande beleza. My mother used to do art. It was beautiful to see her paint. I do it because it keeps me sane in this magnanimous insane world of injustice and inhumanity. You have to believe me when I say… I really do not care if any of this becomes famous or dies in obscurity. Time… the worst revenge of God is Time. Only time can tell what becomes of an art. It is the most helpless thing. Only hundred years from now, one can know if this interview will be worth anything, when both you and me will be dead and gone. I do art because it is the only thing I know how to do without thinking.”
“Thank you. Don’t forget about the 20 percent sale”.
We smile and bade farewell. This is an accidental artist who could honestly recluse himself from all the pride and glory of being an artist. He simply doesn’t care. Somehow, I understand his art better now.
(Tasnima Sharmin Joya is a writer on modern art and literary issues)