The Artist Of The StreetKiran Maharjan finds his canvas in the most unlikely of places—empty wallsand narrow alleyways—on the streets of Kathmandu
Kiran Maharjan finds his canvas in the most unlikely of places—empty walls
and narrow alleyways—on the streets of Kathmandu. Maharjan has now extended his art space into other suburbs outside Kathmandu and is actively collaborating with other artists like him to create imaginative and inspiring works of street art. In this interview with the Post’s Gaurav Pote, he discusses his interest in art, body of work and his muse. Excerpts:
Can you tell us a little about your love for street art?
My name is Kiran Maharjan but on the streets, people know me by my art pseudonym H11235. I have a strange fondness for low, narrow alleyways in the old parts of town and more often than not, I hopelessly fall in love with bare, empty walls.
What keeps you busy these days?
Currently, I am working on the Prasad Exhibition which is scheduled to be held in January at Dharan. There’s a two-man exhibition in April that I’m preparing for too; it’s part of the Australian Himalayan Foundation Award. I also have a graphic novel in the pipeline which I’m yet to complete. It’s titled Dimension and will appear in the coming Yantra 4.0.
Did you always want to be an artist? What would you be doing, if you weren’t an artist?
I have always loved art, even as a kid, but I started pursuing it seriously only after my SLC, and I have loved the journey so far. But if I wasn’t making art, I would probably be involved in literature. I love reading and I write sometimes too; if I am good enough or not is up for debate, though.
How exactly did you get into art?
I watched a lot of television as a kid. I just loved spending hours watching animated shows and foreign movies, with subtitles of course. That helped nudge my interest in art. I was also fortunate enough to have a teacher who encouraged me and eliminated my doubts about taking up art. The decision to be a professional artist wasn’t really a tough one but it took some time for me to understand the aesthetics.
And, when did you start you working as a street artist?
After high school, I spent about a year working on my drawing skills, and then a point came when I wanted to show my work in public. For that, I thought the commercial galleries in Thamel were the perfect place to start off. So, I packed my favourite drawings and headed off to this new world of art, in an attempt to convince people to exhibit my works. But a lot of places turned me down. At the time, I was also researching about the skateboarding culture in Nepal, which led me to graffiti and street art. I was immediately fascinated by this subculture of art. It was a brilliant concept: you could make your work public without anyone’s permission or approval, and you required no galleries for that. That was the moment when I decided that I would start painting on the streets.
You’re actively involved with ArtLab in Project Prasad. Would you tell us about the gig and how you’re involved?
I am one of many artists involved in this project and we facilitate street art workshops and create public images of the Nepali ‘heroes’ we have discovered. Other than that, I also take care of conducting Prasad Exhibitions, in collaboration with local artists, in different cities across Nepal. Basically I take care of the creative choices that are made in the project.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
The traditional elements in our cities have always been a source of inspiration for me. I also love the idea of contradiction and contrast; the idea that two contrasting elements can stand together illustrating their own individual values and still deliver a completely new perspective boggles me. I usually follow the works of Hassan Massoudy, Owen Dippie and other contemporary street artists but currently I have developed an interest in the Deconstructionism movement and its implications in visual art. I also follow the works of directors like David Fitcher, Jean-Pierre Jeunet,Guillermo del Toro and Hayao Miyazaki.
Is working as an artist in Nepal tough?
It is difficult. To gain respect and be taken seriously as a professional artist in Nepali society is tough, add to that the limitation of materials making things worse. But within the sphere of artists there is a sense of co-operation and understanding. The bright side of being an artist in Nepal is that there’s everything to draw inspiration from. It’s always just around the corner.
How do you assess the interrelation between society and art?
I think the relation between society and art is sometimes overrated and sometimes completely neglected. I believe that art should be used responsibly in society. It should also, sometimes, question the practices of society itself.
What, in your opinion, make a piece of art great?
I believe I have no right answer to that question. It’s a very subjective matter and depends on the eyes of the beholder.
What’s next for Kiran Maharjan?
I am hoping to take my education further. I also want to keep working on the kind of projects I am currently working on and churn out more art on the streets.