Desolation but in its diverse formsThe current exhibition in Classic Gallery brings together the works of five contemporary artists but fails to link their individualistic themes and styles.
It’s another scorching hot afternoon, the kind of day when you are thinking of dipping yourself in ice. Those walking the pedestrian pathway are swiftly hurrying to get to their destinations in Chakupat, Banglamukhimarg, but are distracted by the paintings put up by Classic Gallery as part of its ‘Being Together 2019’ exhibition. They can’t help but brood deeper into the paintings, even in their state of hurry—which seems like a tactic to pull passersby into the gallery. And, the lure seems to work, because these artworks are relatable. They might not be surprising but they are engaging.
Inside the gallery, a faint traditional instrumental imbues emotion to the exhibition, which feels rather melancholic, but it’s apparent that is not what the exhibition wants to bring to the front. ‘Being Together 2019’—an exhibition that brings together the work of five artists: Binod Giri, Aman Maharjan, Deepak Thami, Suresh Basnet and Leo Jhankar—invests in telling onlookers the artistic diversity and dynamics of young contemporary artists. There is no underlying theme that brings the artworks together.
But what makes this exhibition different is its simple expression. While many exhibitions around Kathmandu make onlookers ask ‘what is art exactly’, this exhibition maybe something that everyone will enjoy, because it is easy to contemplate—poetic but not too abstract. The artwork is detailed but will leave you feeling hollow and estranged.
Binod Giri’s large painting titled ‘Pattern’ explores different motifs visible in the Valley. The painting feels like an opening to another realm, one that will transport viewers to the city of temples. The yin-yang water shapes that surround the window in the painting look like they are part of the spell that opened the realm. The painting feels ancient with the use of gold; however, because of the use of dark hues and withering effect, they look detached from the real world—as though on the verge of disappearing. And the style remains persistent in all of Giri’s other works present in the gallery.
Another artist, Deepak Thami’s artwork feels familiar and novel at the same time—for his paintings are of old people. His elderly characters hold and embrace things forgotten in the hustle of life, such as a lotus and birds. But they also feel like they are wrapped in the worlds they live in—a world uncared for by others. The minute details make the artworks poignant—for instance, the detailed precision on the wrinkles tell of the characters’ age and the stories they have lived.
However, it’s Suresh Basnet’s artworks that stand out the most in the exhibition. His paintings are colourful, although they delve on social pressure, enclaved worlds and departure. Some of his works are even comical. In one painting, a woman is adorned in jewels made out of greens, her earrings shaped like eggplants. In another painting, he explores the backdrop of post-earthquake ruins in Kathmandu Durbar Square. The painting illustrates people pointing at flying deities, perhaps to account for how people described the devastating earthquake as the wrath of the gods. But even amidst this chaos, there is one character who is immersed in taking pictures of the flying deities—showcasing how in the modern world, we are addicted to capturing even our tragic moments.
But, Aman Maharjan’s artwork, ‘Utpatti’—in which he retells the story of Swoyambhu’s origin and Kathmandu’s beginning after Manjushree cut a gorge in Chobhar, draining out the water that filled the Valley—will make onlookers think otherwise. An observer might interpret the painting as Swoyambhu being engulfed by the rapid changes happening around its vicinity. The use of dark cyan in the painting imbues a tragic feel.
While Leo Jhankar’s environmental dystopia, which looks like a view from a lens, shows how forests are being cut down to serve humans—although this isn’t a new idea, and many have seen such artwork before, the pieces are still penetrating. The forests he inscribes look ravaged and abandoned.
But it’s likely that most, after viewing the exhibition, will question the title ‘Being Together’—how do these artworks come together and what is the aligning theme of the exhibition. Especially, because all of the artists touch on diverse issues and while they are just making expressions of culture, chaos, origin, and dystopia, the paintings unintentionally seem to lurk with melancholy—the hollow feeling when one is lonely.
Sarita Dangol, the founder of Classic Gallery, says, ‘Being Together’ was never the theme, rather it served as a title to bring together works of various young artists. “Artists in Nepal are always looking for opportunities to exhibit their work, and although the prospects for them look better today, there still aren’t enough opportunities, hence under the title ‘Being Together’ I wanted to bring together works of various contemporary artists,” said Dangol.
It is peculiar that artists and the curator have decided to abandon a defining coherence among the artworks on display. Although the artworks carry their own individualistic meaning and purpose, it is somewhat disappointing that the exhibition doesn’t offer any underlying collective theme. Heterogenous ideas can showcase diversity, but it can also leave the audience dazed and scattered—and hence, requires a curator’s careful choice over the displayed works, artists’ styles and themes that can bind the exhibition together.
But, despite the missing theme, ‘Being Together’ will still bring people closer to knowing and understanding art, as the artworks can stand alone. This is an exhibition people shouldn’t miss, specifically if they want to contemplate the meaning of art. After a long time, this is an exhibition that feels straightforward and comprehensible.
‘Being Together 2019’ will be on display until September 10 at Classic Gallery, Chakupat.