Less is always moreThe exhibition titled ‘Contemporary Print Art Exhibition’ gives a platform to complex printmaking art techniques, but because of the plethora of works on show, unravelling every work is hectic.
What does a layman think when they hear the word ‘art’? An expression on canvas, where pigments and colours are used to tell a personal or collective story. This conventional definition of art has always been set in the minds of people, limiting their knowledge regarding the techniques and complexities behind a creation. With an intention of opening up the eyes of art enthusiasts, Siddhartha Gallery has come up with an exhibition, ‘Contemporary Print Art Exhibition’ giving a peek on the possibilities of popularising printmaking as an art technique .
From woodcut, one of the oldest forms of printmaking, to arduous techniques such as etching, the exhibition features 98 artworks of 46 artists, who have primarily encompassed various forms of printmaking in their artworks.
While these artworks are based on multiple themes, allowing the viewers a peek into various spectrums of lives, they are tied together with a common thread—culture and way of life.
Anil Machamasi’s two artworks showcase the culture of Newa communities, where he has depicted the religious and social practices followed by the inhabitants of the Capital. In one of his artworks, titled ‘Janku (Chandra Rathron)’, Machamasi has put forward the traditional practice of janku, followed by the Newa community, in order to celebrate the lives of people when they reach a certain age.
If a Newar person lives up to 106 years, they can celebrate five jankus. In this artwork, Machamasi projects the second janku, which is celebrated at the age of 83 years, 4 months and 4 days. While Machamasi could have stick to just depicting the event by showcasing the usual chariot procession that takes place in janku, where the elderly people roam around their community, he rather adds a motif of two ducks who are pulling the chariot in his artwork. The ducks symbolise how parents prepare their offsprings to face the challenges of the world.
Likewise, using two different printmaking techniques—woodcut and aquatint—Teesha Shrestha artworks, which is titled as ‘Disregarded heritages of My Hometown’, depicts the ground reality of how urbanisation has transformed the values attached to ancient heritages. In one of her artworks, a large picture of Bhairava, an important Hindu deity, is juxtaposed above a human settlement. While usually the idols and pictures featuring Bhairava have the deity looking fierceful and terrifying, in this particular artwork, Shrestha makes the deity appear pacific, engrossed in a deep thought, an iconography completely different from what we usually see.
Her choice of opting for aquatint as the printmaking medium adds a layer to the artwork, since she successfully gives a tonal effect which makes the mood of the artwork as per required for its subject matter.
By changing the look of Bhairava, with the perfect placement above the overgrowing bustling city, Shrestha powerfully encapsulates the loss of significance of ancient heritages in the current times. Here the Bhairava—which used to hold important religious value in the ancient Kathmandu valley with numerous temples like Kaal Bhairava, Akaash Bhairava, Swet Bhairava, and Pachali Bhairava dedicated to almighty—acts as a metaphor for the loss of the value of the whole ancient heritages.
Another artwork that also deals with the theme of the reminiscence of the past is Bidhyaman Tamang’s ‘Memories of the soil’. While his artworks of the same series were also featured at ‘Himalayan Art Festival’ and ‘Canvas at Theatre’, the particular two artworks exhibited at Siddhartha Art Gallery, created using the medium of mix-media, deep-dives into the nostalgic theme of home.
Juxtaposed at the official documents which looks like a map of a house in a rural setting, Tamang places goats and a cow on it, in his two different artworks. While it may not be that complicated to interpret, Tamang successfully accomplishes in giving viewers a peek into life in rural areas, where children are grown playing with their cattle, a personal memory for him.
Just next to these artworks, Tamang’s another creation, titled ‘Home’ is placed, where he depicts a bee placed above flowers, where the creature is guping the nectar of it using an etching process. For the bees, flowers are their home— a place where they feed. The portrayal is simple, direct like the rest of Tamang’s works, but what makes him an impactful artist is his rendition of being able to create the moving themes like that of nostalgia in a simple yet earnest manner, connecting with his audience.
Another poignant artwork at the exhibition is of the contemporary artist, Rukumani Shrestha. In a black background, a girl (dressed like the living goddess, Kumari) is placed. Butterflies in the shade of pink are hovering above the head of the girl. From a distance, the artwork may look like just a plain picture of a girl adorned like Kumari, but when one starts noticing the details, the artwork speaks of larger issue—harassment. Just next to the girl is a shadow, which has its hands up in the air, in a sign of defeat.
Titled ‘Shame’, Rukumani through this illusion questions the unjust nature of society which is concerned only with the superficial, but fails to acknowledge the inner pain and sufferings, particularly of its female population. The motive behind adorning the girl like Kumari also speaks of our society’s hypocritical culture, where on one hand we treat our females like goddesses and on the other millions of women are being harassed and have to suffer from physical violence.
While Rukumani’s artworks hit the right issues at heart, proving that when a woman tells women stories it’s more sensitive and impactful, Bhishan Rajbhandari’s artworks lose authenticity due to the male gaze which is visible in his creations.
In all of his three artworks, figures of women are presented across variant themes. In ‘Bangles’, a woman adorned in traditional jewellery is depicted while in other two artworks, titled ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gossip’, figures of women involved in various actions are shown. There is a striking similarity in all of these artworks, particularly in how he has drawn the bodies of the women. All of them have melon-shaped breasts, which is considered as the ideal form of the female’s body part. The male gaze of an ideal female body, which features big breasts, not only reinforces the stereotypical beauty standards but fails to acknowledge the diversity of the physical body of the females as well, which is visible in Rajbhandari’s artworks. Also, by only featuring only figures of women in his artwork, which is titled ‘Gossip’, he reinforces the gender stereotype that it’s only women who gossip.
There’s no hiding the fact that this exhibition could be an eye-opener for Nepalis regarding the diversity and the complexities of our artforms, where Nepali artists are pushing the boundaries and are opting for unique techniques for creating their artworks. However, since the two-storey art gallery is packed with 98 artworks, which are all different from each other in terms of medium, theme, colour and nature, it can be overwhelming to unravel each and every artwork, and thus it’s almost impossible to delve deeply into the works and admire them for their authenticity.
Sometimes, less is more and the gallery should take heed of this.
The exhibition will be held until April 13 at Siddhartha Art Gallery, Baber Mahal Revisited.