Breaking the taboo of nudity through artOne of the pioneers of nude art in Nepal, he has spent the past 14 years popularising nude art as a genre in Nepal.
Kapil Mani Dixit grew up watching his father paint. The senior Dixit loved painting, and this passion for making art rubbed on the young Dixit.
Art, says Dixit, allowed him to release his inner thoughts and feelings.
He later went on to get a degree in fine arts and sculpture from the University of Texas and is today better known as one of the pioneers of Nepal’s nude art scene.
Dixit credits his father for introducing him to nude art.
“Growing up, I had seen my father make nude portraits, but I don’t think I found them any different from other artworks he used to make,” says Dixit.
Only when he started taking a course in mastering nude art at his university in Texas, US, did his fascination with nude art begin taking root.
“Having someone stand naked in front of you and the idea that you paint their image with utter sincerity grabbed my attention,” says Dixit. “The intense sentiment I felt while attending the nude classes further pulled me towards the genre.”
In 2008, when Dixit returned to Nepal, he had one thing on his mind—promoting nude art as a genre in Nepal. But it didn’t take long for Dixit to understand that doing so would be anything but easy.
“The year I came to Nepal, I decided to display some of my nude artworks in the hall of our house,” says Dixit. “It was the time of Dashain, and I thought displaying my artworks was a nice way to introduce the art form to my relatives.”
But Dixit soon faced resistance from his mother and brother, who were both embarrassed by his artworks and asked him to put them away when they had guests at home.
“I was able to convince them to let me display my artwork,” says Dixit. “Some relatives appreciated the works, but some turned their heads away in disgust.”
Dixit was okay with the dismissive reactions he received.
In a society where nudity is a topic that still raises eyebrows, Dixit believes nude art helps normalise conversations around nudity.
“Our bodies are so beautiful the way they are, be they chubby or slim, dark or fair. It is indeed a tough topic to talk about in our culture. But if we don’t talk about it, who will? So, I decided to do it,” says Dixit. “The art I make is my attempt to break the taboo surrounding nudity. Compared to 14 years ago, people today are more accepting of nude art as a genre.”
However, making a successful career out of nude art is still a challenge in the country. Even though the market for nude art has grown, it is, says Dixit, just about enough to let artists survive.
“Of course, you can’t live a rich and well-off life by drawing nude artwork. You can expect just about enough income to take care of your daily needs,” says Dixit.
But contrary to what many might assume, Dixit says that finding nude models isn’t that big of a challenge here in Nepal. There are times when people come to him and ask that he make a drawing of them. “So far, I have never reached out to people and asked them to model for me,” says Dixit.
The models visit Dixit’s studio in Kupondole and pose for the painting. He always makes sure the privacy of the models remains confidential.
“Some models prefer to remain anonymous, while some are very open about themselves. In fact, some of them visit multiple times and even share their stories of trauma and emotional baggage with me. They say that they feel the whole process very emotionally freeing,” says Dixit.
The first step in drawing nude artwork with a live model is finalising the model’s pose. Once the pose is finalised, it takes Dixit five to 10 minutes to finish the drawing.
“Since a model cannot stay in the same position for long, I have to finish the drawing as quickly as possible,” says Dixit. “I don’t work on the drawing once the session is over.”
This, he says, is his bid to keep his artwork raw.
“The number of people showing up in my exhibitions is increasing, which means people are getting aware that nude art and nudity, in general, isn’t something we should be ashamed of,” says Dixit. “I’m always ready to guide and help aspiring artists whenever they reach out to me.”
Dixit has an ongoing exhibition until November 12 at Wind Horse Gallery, Gyanmandala, Jhamsikhel. The exhibition features female nude paintings.