Arts Review: Ways - 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney (Until 2nd August 2014)

Omar Chowdhury, Locus II (still), 2014, single-channel, 1.33:1, 1080p ProRes 422

Artist Omar Chowdhury doesn't just film events, he experiences them. This is evident in every shot, every frame, every angle, so carefully orchestrated yet surprisingly devoid of any cliches. The first floor of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art houses a three channel video installation, Vastness in Eclipse (2014), is the result of two years observing the workings of a plantation in India. The artist himself has childhood memories of such plantations and this familiarity is accurately portrayed through the narrative of the farmer.

Upstairs is Torisions (2014) which follows two separate religious processions, one Hindu, the other Shia Muslim as they move through the streets of Old Dhaka. It is a sensory feast as you are assaulted by sounds and colour as men, women and children loose themselves in the ritual. Such devotion, tradition and faith is a somewhat foreign concept and such a display of it is mesmerising. Chowdhury often uses a single still shot where it is the people who move in and out of the frame instead of the camera following the action. This serves to make the images even more engaging and somehow real. With studios in both Sydney and Dhaka, the artist is well acquainted with the country and it's people, perhaps this is why, in the middle of a religious festival, no one pays much attention to the camera. A glance here or there is all it receives and as a result Chowdhury is able to capture unguarded moments.

The third works, Locus I and II (2014) were commissioned especially for the exhibition by 4A with the support from the Keir Foundation. Locus I was filmed at an ISKCON temple while Locus II depicts activities at a Sunni mosque, both detail the religious ceremonies and everyday occurrences that go on. More than simply a place of worship, these were spaces for resting, eating and conversation.

Chowdhury's first solo exhibition, Ways, is an avid search for spiritual transcendence, seen in both his subject matter and his practice. With aspects of documentary film-making and cinematic narrative structures, the artist exposes both the private and communal moments with a level of intimacy that could only be captured by someone familiar with the subject. Allow yourself at least two hours in the space. Once you enter it will be very difficult to pull yourself away.

The exhibition continues until 2nd August 2014. More details: