Beyond what meets the eyeKathmandu’s stock as an artistic city that hosts art exhibitions throughout the year is burgeoning. But it is not often that one gets to visit the studio of an artist and see what goes behind bringing the final product available for public viewing.
Kathmandu’s stock as an artistic city that hosts art exhibitions throughout the year is burgeoning. But it is not often that one gets to visit the studio of an artist and see what goes behind bringing the final product available for public viewing.
Never having been to an open studio before, when NexUs Culture Nepal opened its doors on Wednesday for the audience to come and look at the artistic processes of three artists in residence, the first question that struck me was how intrusive would it feel? How comfortable is it for an artist to lay out their process of creation for the viewers to see?
In one room, there were two tables with multiple dismantled motherboards. To a pair of layman eyes it would appear that they were just computer hardware. To artist Bibek Thapa, however, it was a work in progress.
“When I make art, I play with my memories,” Bibek shared. “Nothing inspires me to create like nostalgia does, and at the centre of this nostalgia always lies my city—my home.”
It was then that he revealed how he had been playing with the motherboards for some time now to create a reflection of Kathmandu, the city where he grew up.
But this was not the main highlight of Bibek’s work for the day. In a dark room next door, on a table lay a lit cylindrical lamp, painted in black, whose negative spaces reflected on the floor an image of a moving city. Besides tapping into nostalgia, Bibek’s work also reflected the visual pollution we experience as dwellers of the city.
“When playing with the motherboards, I realised that it was already a work half done. At a closer look I could see that with its intricate structure, every motherboard seemed like a city of its own.” He added, “So, I decided to play with a different medium altogether.”
Bibek, who has been an artist resident at Lasanaa—a community organisation for artists—for a couple of months now, shared that art is a never ending process. “It might be something else altogether the next time you come see my art.”
Another room was teeming with quick sketches, high exposure photos, and transparent threads that all talked of the importance of connection between human beings.
“When I came to Nepal, I realised how we Irish are more closed down and probably a little cold compared to Nepalis,” says Kate McElroy, an international artist in residency. “I am a very private person myself, and yet I feel like human connections are very important.”
All of Kate’s works felt very intimate, it felt almost like an invasion of privacy. Her drafts ranged from the photograph of a cobweb and high exposure photographs of hands—which seemed like they were offering something but also holding back a whole lot more—to illustrations, paintings, and transparent threads woven together to show how we are all connected in one way or the other.
“If I were to exhibit my work, only couple of them would have made it to a gallery, the rest would have stayed private,” she says.
According to Ashmina Ranjit, the founder of Lasanaa, that is the whole point of an open studio. “The exhibition provides a platform for the artists to show their final product, but little does it do to put light into the intensive processes that the artists go through.
People come, see the art work, give their opinions, and leave.” She adds, “Open studio pushes the artist to get out of their comfort zone and share with the audience their private process. It brings the artist closer to the audience.”
Which is what a live performance by Kate and Hishilla Maharjan, the third artist in residence, hinted at. Maharjan who specialises in the imagery of the feminine sexuality, alongside Kate covered her body in mud.
As they opened up their bodies from a crouched position, the cracking mud represented the breaking of their psycho-social inhibitions: an apt allegory for what the open studio set out to do in the first place.