Artists have the freedom to express themselves but they also have the responsibility to not intentionally offend anyone through their work, says Pakistani artist R.M. Naeem.
"Artists should behave very responsibly and should not hurt someone's sentiments knowingly. One can always convey one's message without hurting someone," says Naeem, who participated in the six-day Jaipur Art Summit that concluded on Tuesday.
"While commercialism in art cannot be denied, artists who hanker for overnight success and fame should realise that it won't last. It's only when you put in effort and are willing to work hard that you will succeed. Media hype can't replace talent," he says.
Naeem, bespectacled with shoulder length salt and pepper hair, teaches at the prestigious National College of Arts in Lahore. He says the art scene in Pakistan is lively and artists have freedom but the political and economic scenario makes the going tough.
"In such a situation it's easy to run abroad. But I feel it is the duty of the intelligentsia in a society to lead by example. People look up to the thinkers and intellectuals to work for betterment of society and we cannot run away from our duty."
Peace is the fuel that can power development in all spheres of Pakistan whether art, polity, society or economy says Pakistani artist R.M. Naeem.
He appreciates the development in India in all spheres. "I have seen India develop in the last 20-25 years in all areas. Today India's art market is the most happening in South Asia."
Naeem, who has roots in India, has visited Jaipur several times since 1992. His mother belonged to Jaipur while his father is from Gurgaon.
Naeem's foray into art began with painting signboards in his village in Sindh. "They were my first schools," he recalls with a smile. But in the past two decades, Naeem has been highly feted and exhibited his work in Pakistan and internationally in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, US, Britain, Australia, Canada, Iran, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. He has also curated various shows.
On the other hand, Egyptian artist Mohamed Abou el Naga says the art scene in Egypt has been much influenced by the political unrest in his country.
Cairo-based Abou el Naga says the Tahrir square demonstrations against the government acted as a trigger to drag art out of safe confines of galleries onto the streets as a medium of protest.
"Art is not confined to galleries. It has come out on the streets. Graffiti and street art are very strong," he says. But he laments the lack of freedom for artists in Egypt.
Though his work too was affected by the political unrest in his country, Abou el Naga says his paintings are mostly conceptual.
Abou el Naga works on a mix paper and fabric as he feels it is a dynamic medium and allows freedom unlike canvas which is confined. "I use mixed medium to signify the harmony and inter-mixing of cultures. This is what can lead to peace in the world. We all should work to spread love and peace," he says.
Abou el Naga has a Ph.D in Art Philosophy from Alexandria University. He received a grant from the Japan Foundation to study paper-making. He also runs an organisation in Egypt that imparts knowledge about paper making to rural communities to provide them skills to earn their livelihood.
He participated in the 2001 Alexandria Biennial where he received the first prize and represented Egypt at the 2002 Venice Biennial. He curated the 2011 Alexandria Biennial.
Talking about the art scene in Sri Lanka, Chaminda Gamage says it is mostly confined to Colombo. The art galleries too are there.
"Art and art galleries are also predominantly in major cities like Colombo or Kandy. So for artists outside of main cities it is difficult to get a break and showcase their work. For wider appreciation of art, the galleries must reach other cities too."
Gamage says for newcomers, exhibiting in galleries abroad is a struggle as most look for established names. "Some of us artists got together to form Colombo Artists group that helps painters to show their work in galleries in the country and abroad."
Gamage says galleries sometimes do demand a certain type of work. "But many artists are not looking only for market but to do good work," says Gamage who works as a creative director in an ad agency. "That way I can earn enough to do the art I want," he says with a smile.
Gamage, who studied art at the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Colombo works in acrylic on canvas as he finds it an easy medium.