Behold the artists’ subconscious at 8 FiguresGallery MCube’s recent exhibition hopes to return optimism to a world that is going back to normal.
Colours redefine the meanings of art. They subsume our perception and in a way, it is colours that imbue our emotions. And when used right, it will draw attention.
At Gallery Mcube, Mukesh Shrestha’s use of plain ocher yellow for his work ‘True Love’ feels tempting to surrender to in the exhibition ‘8 Figures’. Although true love itself at this age might feel ‘cheesy’ and exaggerated—it’s an ideal we all hope for when we are in love. And Shrestha subtly simplifies that feeling.
Peering into Shrestha’s idea of intimacy is gratifying. In one painting he has two bodies, sort of entwined to each other, showing viewers the passion and the intangible connection one feels when in love. And in another, he has one figure, lying perhaps on the floor, with his knees up and thinking of his beloved as a translucent figure hovers above him. In a way, the painting appears as though this person has resigned himself to love. His world fervours comfort and happiness, and the same to their viewers.
What’s interesting to unravel is Shrestha’s style of representing humans in his paintings. They are completely flesh, perhaps symbolically, implying no facade but just the intrinsic value of their sentiments for each other. One can, if they allow themselves, to interpret this particular work in different ways.
As life in many ways has returned to normal, art has been coming around to pull people into a whirlpool of thoughts and hopefulness. And the latest in this effort is Gallery Mcube’s exhibition ‘8 figures’ which hopes to return optimism to a world that is recovering from a pandemic. The exhibition reveres the physicality of attachments and introduces viewers to the artists’ subconscious and conscious.
Subconscious and conscious because many of the works presented in the gallery look inwards, to the artist’s realisation or becoming or knowing as one does sometimes when doing something. It is evident, in many works presented, that artists have taken their own direction in their making. The exhibition’s line up of works are not overwhelmingly powerful, but they are subtly beautiful. There’s every kind of colour to celebrate, from the melancholic to the vibrant and dark.
Curator Manish Lal Shrestha brings together the works of eight contemporary artists—Kishor Jyoti, Krishna Gopal Shrestha, Kuntishree Thapa, Manjari Dutta, Meena Kayastha, Mukesh Shrestha, Pratima Thakali and Sujan Dangol—whose many works still remain unseen. And thus, the curation attempts to tell more about the artists’ styles and their body of works while also guiding the audience into the interpretation of their works in the exhibition.
Manjari Dutta’s series ‘Silent Explosions’ that consist of four works, with its repeated patterns of rectangles, that looks like buildings, symbolically humans, is captivating. In the series, Dutta uses shades of gold sporadically to connect the paintings together and to show how lives are returning. The expression—silent explosion—used to describe the work also tries to indicate the release of the spirits from the bodies and shows how life continues despite the pandemic.
Meena Kayastha’s artwork made from discarded junk is also intriguing; Kayastha uses a discarded spade to make Goddess Brahmayani and she empowers her personal statement with her work that reads, ‘observing stories in things that are almost obsolete in our lives.’ Kunti Shree Thapa’s work made during the pandemic of how the artificial world has manifested and controlled our lives also feels meaningful especially because she creates a parallel between the real and the virtual and influences people to think about the natural beauty that surrounds us.
The exhibition, although beautiful and full of meaning, however falters in contributing to the theme fully of the ‘8 figures’, which is one of optimism, as the works delve into diverse narratives, expressions and emotions and incline to murky feelings, that of holding on to memories, feeling trapped, of beauty being unrecognised, or longing for love, or being dependent on technology or aspiring independence and freedom.
There are diverse works and ideas juxtaposed together in the exhibition and while they tell their story, one will have forgotten the titular expression of the exhibition.
Pratima Thakali’s series ‘In-Between’ at the entrance of the gallery’s first floor stands out with her medium plaster of paris. Her work is interesting but elusive. It will take a while for viewers to understand what the artist could be trying to say or what they could make out of the art. Thakali plays with plaster—space—to tell of the feelings in between, attached to objects. In this case her memories from her home in Jomsom, Mustang, and the objects her grandmother used.
Perhaps what would have helped viewers make meaning of the miniature installations could have been the artist’s expression of her memories or an indication that these objects are from a house’s structure or memories attached to her personal self, one with a tangible memory or idea. The portrayal could have been more intimate; as its vagueness steals its grace.
The paintings of Krishna Gopal Shrestha show ‘Ethnic door’ of the Newa community, one with the signs of asta mangala, eight auspicious signs of Buddhism and the other with a golden torana, showing a chepu (a mythical beast) guarding a small entrance to the esoteric deity.
Shrestha’s effort might have been to capture the heritage that surrounds the Newa community and their culture and the closed doors might have tried to imply restriction but something of its meaning is still amiss in the collection as the two works in the exhibition don’t drive the discussion the work talks about but rather struggles to befit the meaning of the auspiciousness of the eight that the larger exhibition hopes to bring together.
Then there are the works of Sujan Dangol, making the statement ‘Bhasa Mwasa Jati Mwai’ (if the language survives, so will the civilisation), speaking of how the economic interest of the country and modernisation has been threatening the community’s lifestyle, culture and tradition. In one of his pen and ink paintings is a Newa house, representing the foundation and the identity of the community crumbling, and a chariot that looks like Rato Machhindranath’s chariot, symbolically implying culture and tradition. Dangol’s work strongly questions the homogeneity development is aggressively pushing. But this work doesn’t add to the theme.
However, despite the shaky coherence of the exhibition, all the works are able to tell their stories in parts. The exhibition might not be extraordinary, but it does emphasise the significance of the physicality of art that the pandemic had upended.
This is Gallery Mcube’s attempt to get back to the world of art in full form, with new aspirations and spirit. And for them, the response has been gratifying according to Manish Shrestha. “People seem to be more interested in art after the pandemic and we have been happy to bring to them something they can engage their mind in,” he said at the Gallery.
And as the exhibition does add to the effort of artists and creatives to get back at the visual culture that the pandemic had alienated, the future for art lovers looks promising. Though ‘8 figures’ is not astounding, you should give this experience a chance.