There’s art everywhere, even in the hallways and the bathrooms … and with very few exceptions it is all modern art from Nepal. Enjoy:
… aaaah, light and brightness and lovely art on the walls (the large painting on the yellow wall is not Nepali, it’s the “Barcelona Lilies” by Berlin artist Ariane Boss). Above the USM HALLER sideboard large mountainscape painting by Binod Pradhan, framed line drawing of a Buddha head on blue marbled paper by Ratna Kaji Shakya, and small sketch by senior artist Shashi Shah.
Red tryptich on top of the bookshelves by Manish Lal Shrestha and two colorful small works next to door by Binod Pradhan.
The kitchen wall next to the Tulip chairs and Tulip-inspired Ikea table is seen in two incarnations: with the framed work by California artist Stephen Scheffler (and a temporary lighting solution) and with the unframed mountain scene with gold/bronze effects by Binod Pradhan.
… the large table doubles as dining table, seating 8 easily, and as work table for the home-office.
… art in the entry hall by Bairaj Bachracharya, some unnamed works in the guest toilet and a less recent foto of the arrangement above the sideboard with a favourite mani stone painting by Bidhata KC. Note the raku mug bought at the ceramic artist’s studio in Cornwall next to the three-Buddhas lamp.
… n the hallway between the bedroom and the “library” two small works by California artist Stephen Scheffler. Vintage Moroccan carpet with treasured candleholder object. Above the sofa large blue work by Saroj Mahato.
… and below a last wide-angle view of the open livingroom-diningroom-kitchen space, in the home-office incarnation. Finishing up with some pictures of the patio and front of the attached bungalow and a drawing from the sales prospectus!
A group of artists in Nepal are on a mission to transform Kathmandu into a living art gallery. Their PRASAD campaign aims to spread images of Nepalese heroes to inspire young people to make it big in their own country rather than leaving for other pastures.
… please also read the fine article on the same project found on the CKU website below.
(-> CKU is a self-governing institution under the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In close cooperation with Danish embassies and representations, CKU manages culture and development programmes in The Middle East, Asia, West Africa, and East Africa. Link to CKU website under the article!)
Street artists cover Nepal’s walls with local heroes
Artlab, a collective of young street artists, covers the walls of Kathmandu with paintings of role models and local heroes like the poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota. Their street art project, named PRASAD, aims at encouraging young people to create opportunities in Nepal and will be brought to more than six different Nepalese regions.
After shaking his black spray can up and down a couple of times, 25 year old Kiran Maharjan gives a final touch to the upper lip of the painted portrait of one of Nepal’s most influential writers and scholars. Together with his colleagues from Artlab, a collective of young street artists based in Kathmandu, Kiran Maharjan has spent two days painting an enormous black and white portrait of Sattya Mohan Joshi on a wall in the township of Kupondol in Kathmandu.
”Sattya is 95 year old but still gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning because he has so much work to do. He has written several books and has done a great job to arts. To many Nepalese he is considered a living encyclopaedia. He is a very talented person,”explains Romel Bhattarai, managing director of Artlab.
While Kiran Maharjan marks the wrinkles in the face of the cultural giant with different shades of grey, Artlab’s only female member, Shraddha Shrestha, who prefers to call herself Deadline, drags a paint brush from top to bottom of the name of the street art project they’ve been working on for a year. ’PRASAD’ it says on the same wall around one metre to the left of Sattya’s face.
“PRASAD means offering. That is the truest sense of what we seek to accomplish. We offer a solution to Nepal’s struggles and we will do it in a way beneficial to the environment and the people,” explains Shradda Shrestra.
Prasad also refers to the middle name of the first role model whose face Artlab has portrayed. According to Artlab the famous deceased Nepali poet Laxmi Prasad Devkota was ahead of his time when he wrote his poetry.
“Through his poetry he expressed messages that the Nepalese are now ready to understand. He said that it’s not a person’s name or caste that defines a person. It is what resides in their hearts that make us who we are,” said Romel Bhattarai.
Besides Sattya Mohan Joshi and Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Artlab has painted the faces of several female Nepalese role models. Among them are Jhamak Ghimire who taught herself to write by clutching a twig with her toes, taekwondo practitioner Sangina Baidya, the first Nepali to qualify for the Olympics, and Pusha Basnet who was proclaimed CNN Hero of the Year in 2012 for her work to educate children, whose mothers serve prison terms.
(foto by Raj Maharjan)
Role models on murals outside Kathmandu
So far the faces of ten local Nepalese heroes have been portrayed in murals in different parts of Kathmandu. And it is only the beginning. Next month Prasad will turn into a nationwide project.
The young street artists will start traveling to at least six different Nepalese regions to identify more role models in cooperation with the local communities, portray them in murals and introduce more young people to the techniques of street art, like stenciling and basic letter design.
”Every day thousands of young Nepalese boys and girls leave the country. Through the local heroes we want to show them that there are many people who make changes and achieve their goals. Most of the young people say there are no opportunities in Nepal. But we say, if there are no opportunities, create them. That is what we are doing. There are lots of difficulties in our nation. Young people should stay and fight and create opportunities,“ says Romel Bhattarai and illustrates how ArtLab has grown:
”A few years ago there was no street art in Nepal, but then we created it.”
PRASAD is supported by The Danish Centre for Culture and Development (CKU) in cooperation with the Danish Embassy in Kathmandu.
”Through their exquisite skills in street art, ArtLab encourages young people to find and create opportunities in Nepal through identifying and painting local heroes and role models on walls. The project Prasad offers a unique opportunity for young people of all backgrounds to unify,” says Ms. Elsebeth Krogh, CEO of CKU. She visited Nepal in November 2014 and met with ArtLab and five other culture and arts organisations, supported by CKU.
”Outside Kathmandu few people know the contemporary art scene. The only art scene they know is the commercial art scene or very traditional art like thangka based on Buddhism,” says Shradda Shrestha.
To her the teacher and artist Binod Shahi, also known as the ‘Sir of the Himalayas’, and who too is among the 10 role models Artlab has painted, has meant something very special to her.
”As an artist he is very inspiring to me. He had the courage to go all the way to the most remote areas where the people don´t have proper food, no electricity and no proper means of water supply and teach the children. There are many people in rural areas who have done positive social work but have not been noticed and recognized.”
Noticing and recognizing people from rural Nepalese areas and cities far away from Kathmandu who have done something extraordinarily are what Artlab soon will start doing.
Collaboration with local organizations in six cities
Birgunj, Pokhara, Dharan, Illam and Bakthapur are among the six cities where Artlab will do street art workshops, identify new local heroes and create new opportunities for Nepal’s youth. In each of the six cities they will collaborate with local arts organizations.
“In collaboration with the local communities, we want to show the youth all over Nepal that urban landscapes can be canvases without limitations, and we want to find heroes in our society that can motivate the youth to make a difference,” says Romel Bhattarai.
The PRASAD project is planned to be running for two years and eight months.
With the third edition of KIAF just a year a way – it is planned for March 2016 – I would like to repost two fine articles by Kurchi Dasgupta. Dasgupa is an artist herself but has developed into a good art writer in recent years, too.
KIAF, the KATHMANDU INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL has taken twice previously. In 2009 and again in 2012 with over 100 artists from 35 countries in 16 venues all over the city. In the video above, Sangeeta Thapa, renowned gallerist/curator tells some about the comining about of the festival.
Kurchi Dasgupta’s article from January 2013 spells out how this festival changed the artworld in Nepal forever. and how it embraces art’s new forms in a spectacular way.
Chris Drury, “The Way of White Clouds” (all images courtesy KIAF)
Though the world didn’t end on 21 December 2012, the Kathmandu International Art Festival did, having possibly changed forever the way Nepal perceives contemporary art. The space given over to three-dimensional, site-specific, and video installations as well as performances in the festival was unprecedented for the new republic!
“Forest Walk” by Canadian duo Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, challenged the monopoly of the visual in a very exciting way. A thought-provoking soundscape that transformed the familiar but droopy backyard of the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts into a mock forest, its aural polyphony (bird calls, the crash of a felled trunk, the rumble of a car) mixed with the “real” sounds of urban Kathmandu to create a poignant narrative of humankind’s at best ambivalent relationship with nature. It remains one of my favorite pieces in the show, since I was somewhat jaded by the overabundance of artworks requiring intense visual attention. British artist Chris Drury’s insightful video loop, being showcased inside, links nature and culture rather uncannily too: streams of white, cloudy water slip and swirl into a still, black lake, immediately bringing to mind the swirls and whorls of flames in traditional paubha and thangka paintings of the Himalayan region. The image resurfaced when I ran into Maureen Drdak’s “Flying Nagas” in Siddhartha Gallery later, and Lok Chitrakar’s arcane lotuses in Metro Park.
That brings me to Metro Park and its adjacent venue, Nepal Investment Bank, both of which were chock-a-block with exciting pieces. Pakistani Yasir Hussain’s “Neuro” a video study of the Karachi waterfront on an obsolete cell phone camera, is a poignant encapsulation the broken, sad reality it captures. “Neuro” becomes doubly interesting with its follow-up, a social-media based project called “Bio” in which Nepali farmers interacted over the internet with Karachi fishing folk.
Lantian Xie, “Al Saraf Cafeteria”, 2011
Identity and interaction were also the fulcrum of Lantian Xie’s work “Al Sarab Cafeteria 2011″ in which sound vibrations emitted by the viewer set off a series of images and texts gleaned from cafeteria and restaurant menus in the United Arab Emirates – a sharp comment on global consumerism. The specter of consumerism was central to Nameera Ahmed’s “Bloody Birds” as well: in the piece, chicken are slaughtered to the accompaniment of television commercial and cooking-show voiceovers. The commodification of the body was the theme of another video installation, by Palestinian Ibrahim Jawabreh, although Jawabreh focused on the human form. So did Nepal’s Gopal Das Shrestha Kalapremi, whose series of ceramic raku figures tellingly called “People Being Cooked and Sold” were molded and fired on site, taking the same query further, to the point where the process and product both delve into the nature of commodification.
Gopal Das Shrestha Kalapremi’s “People Being Cooked and Sold” (2012) being made on site
This undercurrent of socio-political inquiry came center stage in Egyptian Khaled Hafez’s installation “The A77A Project” in which Hafez brings together superheroes, presidential elections, footage taken by unassuming citizens on cell phones, and an animated Anubis figure all in one uproarious video loop on presidential erections’ oops, I mean elections! “The A77A Project” turned out to be one of the favorites of the festival. Fraz Abdul Mateen also cast a critical gaze at the ego with “Ego-logical Footprints” for which deep footprints carved into actual books and magazines and video footage of the same formed a composite artwork attacking our environmentally unfriendly urban way of life. In counterpoint, American Cecilia Paredes’s installation used the book to build bridges between multiple cultures and times. The artist made fragile pentagons in collaboration with Nepalese women and students out of rare 18th-century Calderon editions and Nepali Lokta paper.
Sadish Dhakal, “Jamara Might Not Exist” (2012)
Time, actually running out of it, is the theme of Sadish Dhakalâ’s “Jamara Might Not Exist” which reminds us of the imminent threat of floods from glacial lakes via sets of pots bearing sprouting barley, or jamara. Each set is proportionately larger in size in keeping with the increase in water volume of Lake Tsho Rolpa. Jyoti Duwadi, meanwhile, tackled a similar idea (in collaboration with Paul D. Miller) by projecting footage of melting Arctic snow on blocks of ice that themselves slowly melted away right in front of viewers’ eyes. The Croatian Lala Rascicâ’s “Damned Damn” fast-forwards in time to 2027 and, looking back from there, delivers a fictional narrative based on the very real dam break in Modrac Lake in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In contrast, flowing water’s meditative aspect was brought out by Australian Neolene Lucas in her “Water Atlas” of eight rivers across the world, projected simultaneously on eight separate screens.
Mili Pradhan’s over-an-hour-long “Float” held me enthralled as I sat and watched the river pass by in a tiny darkened room of the Patan Museum, bearing our urban waste to the eerie soundtrack of Juliet Case Kaplan. Indian artist Sheba Chhachhi’s composite installation “Neelkanth: Poison/Nectar” questions our urban way of living/wasting and whether the Earth will be able to bear this poison forever, like the god Shiva, or give in soon. The same issue was a preoccupation for Canada’s Michael Campbell and Janice Rahn, whose pseudo-mythical marine creatures made out of rattan and salvaged waste were displayed alongside a hyperreal video loop intertwining urban industrialization and organic natural growth.
Mili Pradhan, “Float” (2012)
Through these pieces and others, the festival has been quite an eye-opener for a viewership that predominantly considers 2-D paintings and sculptures more acceptable modes of creative expression. Thrusting us into the realm of current art practices worldwide, KIAF’s “Earth Body Mind” has surely done its bit towards making Nepal more receptive to less conventional and multiple-media art forms, not to mention being an educational catalyst for environmental awareness.
Earlier this month (February 2015) Stéphane Huet published a fine artice in the NEPALI TIMES, titled “An affair of the art” about Sangeeta Thapa, gallerist, curator, cofounder/-director of KCAC, driving force behind the Kathmandu International Art Festival which is planned to take place again in a third edition in March 2016 – note from the editor: this didn’t happen, due to the earthquake, of course – (after 2009, 2012). Sangeeta is an absolute powerwoman, an elegant and hospitable lady, a multi-faceted personality, incredibly sharp, filled with a never-ending innate curiousity.
I am honored to be aquainted with her and take great pleasure in re-posting the Stéphane’s article here.
photo of Sangeeta Thapa by Devaki Bista
30 years in the business
For nearly three decades, the Siddhartha Art Gallery (SAG) has become Kathmandu’s own art installation: hosting the most prestigious art festivals and exhibitions. Synonymous with Siddhartha is its founder, Sangeeta Thapa who gave herself the goal of showing the very best of Nepali art based on merit. Most connoisseurs of art in Nepal and abroad would agree that Thapa has achieved her goal. The past five years have been particularly vibrant for Thapa as she involved herself in diverse projects.
Though it hasn’t always been easy in the past 30 years, Thapa has never stopped doing what she likes most. “Inactivity is death,” insists the self-professed workaholic.
Early interest in art
Her love affair with art began as a child when her father, who was a UN diplomat, took her to shows and exhibitions around the world. “He instilled his love for the arts very early on,” Thapa said in the balmy courtyard of a restored Rana palace outside her gallery.
Immersed in this environment, Thapa was determined to become an artist since she was five. Later, she went to the West Sussex School of Arts and Design the in UK, but stopped after one year feeling guilty about not following the career path of her father.
“The art was just about me,” Thapa says, “but I thought I could serve people as my father did.” She started studying mass communications and anthropology at the George Mason Universtity in Virginia in the USA. But art pulled her back, again.
ground floor of Siddharta Art Gallery at Baber Mahal Revisited
Starting a gallery in Kathmandu
In 1983, Thapa visited many galleries in Kathmandu and felt there was something missing. “The whole production of exhibitions was crying out to be managed better,” she said.
While creating her network in Kathmandu, she had the idea of showcasing artists in her own way and opened Siddartha Art Gallery with artist Shashikala Tiwari in 1987. They started exhibiting noted Nepali artists of that time and went back in history of Nepali art to exhibit the works of Nepali masters.
After some years of showcasing the same artists, Thapa felt the need to propose more innovative works. “I was seeking new narratives,” she explained, “and I was happy to see young artists in the art community.” The gallery helped launch a new generation of Nepali artists such as Sujan Chitrakar and Ashmina Ranjit.
Creating community engagement
Her biggest challenge was to create an appreciation from the Kathmandu audience for whom the new genre of artwork was not as comprehensible. And while the gallery churned out exhibitions, five years ago Sangeeta set up the Siddhartha Art Foundation to use the medium of art to educate and engage the community.
It was during the height of conflict that Siddhartha organised The Open Doors Project which brought artists and citizens from marginalised communities and disparate social backgrounds together in the quest for dialogue and peace.
Another project, Shanti: An Art for Hope, involved an exhibition and concert dedicated to the 327 children killed during the conflict. A monument in Sinamangal documenting the names of these 327 children is a testimony of this project.
view from inside the resident artists’ studio towards Patan Museum
Creating KCAC …
In 2009, Sangeeta Thapa co-founded the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Center (KCAC), based within the Patan Museum complex. For five years, KCAC has been providing residency spaces for national and visiting artists.
The Centre awards scholarships to young Nepali artists who are also given the opportunity to international artists in residency. KCAC has exhibited the works of Nepali artists at the prestigious Royal Overseas League in the UK.
Kalajatra is the latest project Sangeeta conceived in June 2013 as an artistic response to the emerging challenges to freedom of expression. Politics, satire and an artistic exploration of the cultural significance of Gaijatra were the prevailing themes of this event which engaged a wide range of participants from Nepal’s arts community.
Thapa is preparing for the Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF) in March 2016. The first two themes were Status of Women in Nepal and Climate Change, and the next KIAF will focus on the city and urban issues.
Thapa’s only regret is that there isn’t an actual museum of contemporary art in town. But, she adds: “I’m working on it.”
Here’s some more background on the LIMBO NEPAL art project gleaned from an interview I was able to do with Thomas Tingstrup of TINGS Tea Lounge & Hotel in the Lazimpat neighbourhood of Kathmandu. I have know Thomas, a vibrantly dynamic Dane, for a number of years, love the hotel he created together with his wife Annette and their great Nepali staff and have always found him a great sparring partner when it comes to all things art & life in contemporary Nepal.
His involvement in the art scene has been measured and not without sharp criticism of the quality of the art being produced in the country – but he has focused on a small number of artists – mostly street art representatives – which he does hold in high esteem and gives his generous support to.
Thomas and Sophus at LIMBO NEPAL artspace
Most recently Thomas has helped LIMBO NEPAL to strike down in Kathmandu, through his Copenhagen connection and friendship or kinship with Danish artist Sophus Ritto. From our conversation the background and vision of the project will become clear. I hope you enjoy the questions & answers:
How do you know Sophus?
The best way to answer that is to use the Nepalese family concept as an example: there you can have several brothers, several mothers, several fathers etc., so there can be the best friend’s mother, cousin’s mother etc. In that sense Sophus is our son.
Sophus father is an old and very good friend mine and Annette’s, and Sophus has been close to us since he was born – or as close as it gets when you live a life on the road. He has a creative source and energy that exceeds that of most others – so it was not a big surprise to me and Annette to see him grow into an artist years ago. But it was a big surprise – and a positive one – to see his art space Limbo when we we’re in Copenhagen in October last year. The energy, creativity and art that grew from his premises in downtown Copenhagen blew me away.
Sophus Ritto about LIMBO COPENHAGEN:
"Limbo is an art venue in the heart of Copenhagen.
But although Limbo sometimes functions as such it’s NOT a gallery.
It’s more like a space where people create, express and
exchange ideas, visions, projects and energy.
A lot of people ‘just’ hang out.
It’s from this I get my inspiration and create my art."
I remember saying to Annette when we left Limbo: … this is what Kathmandu needs. I wasn’t thinking about the art – I was thinking about the space itself. An empty room with NO specialists, no agenda, no curator to tell you what to do, nothing. Complete freedom to express ideas and visions.
None of the talented artists we know here in Kathmandu have that. They are always told what to do by their family and well-meaning – but unexperienced – NGO’s. They don’t have a decent space to work from – a space where other creatives can join. So when Sophus talked to me about his vision to take his Limbo space out into the world and wondered if Kathmandu could be the first destination, I got very happy. He could easily have chosen Tokyo, New York, Lisbon or another more “happening” international city.
When things like that happen I can’t help thinking that we have more spiritual relations – that we have met each other in past lives… I got that feeling the other day when I went to Limbo Nepal and saw the art that grew from the junk, saw people from Bacardi and Carlsberg raving about the project, saw curious guests from The Attic visiting us and DJ Giresh finishing his upcoming album. Right now I don’t care if people will come or not – the project works: the artists create art. And that’s what it’s all about.
art created at LIMBO NEPAL
How did the connection to the ArtLab* folks come about, via you?
Hmm… It’s a long story.
Since we started talking about our Tings project 15 years ago art was an integral part of our ideas. We are very focused on helping young talent – BUT only in the fields we know about, care for, and where we feel we can make a difference: like food, design, tart-Up, business strategy etc. and art.
Since we planned to create a lounge where the free international travelers could meet, relax, and share ideas we thought that why not use the walls to show art from young contemporary local artists.
Our problem was that we didn’t find art we liked. We saw a lot of art – but it was either boring and without the energy we see from young artists around the rest of the world. No sex, no anger, no frustration, no humor, no riot or other emotions that boil in young and upcoming artists’ blood. A big disappointment.
We did three Art&Tings exhibitions with international artists before we had our first local art show. A group show with 6 young artists that Karl Knapp introduced us to. Among them we’re Aditya, Shraddha, and… but it was as themselves. Not as ArtLab.
They didn’t sell a single piece of art. So it was a little surprise to me when Aditya came by and told me about their Prasad project – and asked me if we wanted to get involved and help them. We loved the project – and it became a huge commercial and artistic success. So that’s when our collaboration started.
* ArtLab is a Kathmandu art collective which was founded in 2012, originally doing graphic
designs on T-shirts, stickers and posters but also decorating city streets.
Community involvement and teaching people about the power of expression through street art
became an important part of the collective’s work.
“When I saw political walls, I got an idea to paint on top of the slogans,”
said Aditya Aryal, one of the founders of Artlab and one of Nepal’s most
influential street artists, who paints under the street name of SadhuX.
“I thought, I can do the same thing, but with an artistic agenda,
not a political one, because that is actually vandalizing Katmandu.”
How was the venue found? Financed? For how long is it, exactly one month, the month of February?
This question is the core problem of the local art scene. Money, timing, locations etc. It is as if nobody can create if they don’t have a time frame, a gallery and a back of money before they start.
Limbo is the opposite!
It’s about exchanging energy and creativity, building friendships and relations between artists in different cultures – and by creating art. So Limbo Nepal is a process. We have a fantastic space in Tangalwood for the February where the artists work. People can come by and say hallo… During that time they arrange Pop-Up events with art performances and happenings… and presentation of their art. We will have an event on the 21st and one again on the 27th. What happens then I don’t know. I hope we can leave the art for the following month so people get a chance to see it – but right now I don’t know. It’s up to Sophus and Aditya and of course the Tangalwood guys.
And then you ask who is financing it?
I had hoped to get one of the local art institutions to join after all – it’s in their interest to nurture the talent they can exploit in the future. But that wasn’t possible. We could get space – but had to pay a fortune.
So I started to look around and gave a list of possible venues and gave it to the guys. One of them was Tangalwoods. Not only a great space – but also a super team behind.
The material is mostly junk we collect in the streets. The costs colors, glue, cleansing materials etc and travelling costs hosting etc is paid by LimboCopenhagen and Tings Tea Lounge. Both Carlsberg and Bacardi want’s to sponsor our openings and various media are helping us promoting the thing. It is almost as we worked in the 80ies. We didn’t care about money – things just happened…
LIMBO NEPAL artspace
Is there a regular influx of people?
Yes – in a project like this you need someone in charge. Sophus and Aditya are the center of it all.
My role is primarily to stay away – and be there for back up. Very frustrating!!!
Is Sophus mainly a performance artist?
No – performances is only one of his expressions. He does installations and paintings as well.
Do Aditya and Shradda (the third guy I don’t know much about) do their own graffiti works there or something different?
We focus on junk – so the materials kind of define the art. If it’s street art or something else I don’t know – I look at it in a different way. I hope they use the opportunity to think BIG. The space they work in is HUGE.
art on cardboard by Aditya Aryal
What’s the DJ have to do with it all?
Art is music, music is art… the DJ scene here in Kathmandu is similar to the art scene. There are few venues where the DJ’s can play the music they like and they have no places to rehearse etc. So music was a natural thing to include.
Is there a specific statement that the artists want to make with their project?
You must ask them – it’s their project. Maybe they will hate it. I don’t know.
I personally hope two things: That 1) LimboNepal will show artists in Kathmandu that it is possible to create without money from diplomats and NGO’s and 2) that the galleries and art professionals recognize their responsibilities in the local art scene and use their good intentions and funds to help the talent with what they need. Nepal has two handfuls of talented artists in my opinion. Give them the space in Tangal, pay for their materials for a year and stay away with stupid workshops and exhibitions that are against all artists’ integrity… then the local art scene will explode with art. The talent is there… if you don’t watch out the artists will leave. That will be a disaster…
Danish performance artist Sophus Ritto has struck down in Kathmandu to get involved in a pop-up art space with 4 local artists and a DJ. Modeled on
Ritto’s experimental art space in Copenhagen (Limbo Nikolaj Plads 27) a venue in Tangalwood is undergoing creative explosions by Sophus, Shraddha Shrestha, Aditya Aryal, Sudeep Prasad Ball, Sandhya Silwal & DJ Tshering Sherpa. Come anytime to the Tangalwood art space and get involved. It’s located right next to The Attic.
Event on 27 February 2015
The LIMBO NEPAL artists will present an Art Peak Performances Party and Art on the 27th February.
All the information on this post has been gleaned from communications with Thomas Tingstrup of TINGS hotel in Lazimpat who also supplied the film about what’s going on in the art space and shares info in his blogposts on ArtatTings. WATCH OUT FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH THOMAS TO COME!
Film on the project
Two weeks ago LimboNepal was a only a Facebook correspondence between Sophus Ritto in Copenhagen & Adytia Aryal in Kathmandu. Look what has happened since then:
In April of last year ECS magazine published an article by Tan Pei Lin about several venues in Kathmandu which are actively promoting modern art. It is amazing to see this trend of art merging into mainstream and a very cool thing to see. I personally was fortunate enough to enjoy the art space at TINGS hotel and at PLACES restaurant, two of my favourite chill places in the city.
Displaying a growing appreciation for local artwork, several of Kathmandu’s popular eateries are doubling as art spaces. These restaurants do not just satisfy hunger, they are also places where art can be consumed.
Tucked away in the inner alleys of Naxal, this well-furnished café stands out from its neighbors. With a European style finish and a cozy space, the eatery is also home to an art gallery. The owner, Rachael Manley, came up with the combination because she felt it was easier to attract customers to food than to art itself. By fusing both in a single space, it would allow people not necessarily seeking art to be exposed to it. The gallery showcases both new and senior artists. Imago Dei hopes that through this fusion of art and food, people will take a bigger interest in art and perhaps one or two will take it even further and invest in the field or promote a promising artist.
Places Restaurant & Bar
Stepping into the narrow hallway leading up to the restaurant, you can’t help but be amazed at the art-covered walls. Places Restaurant & Bar utilizes the concept of combining art with food, hoping to attract more than just tourists in Thamel. Via showcasing modern art by local artists (or collaborations with local artists), the owners hope that their customers will develop an appreciation for art. Besides the pieces on auction in the restaurant, Places also has a rooftop exhibition space where street artists can create illustrations on planks of plywood which will then remain as permanent installations.
Ting’s Tea Lounge & Hotel
Beyond being just a tea lounge, Ting’s is more of a hotel that lends its compound walls to local artists so that they can exhibit their creations. The idea materialized when owners Thomas and Annette Tingstrup decided to help local artists commercialize their artwork. The couple’s stand is that they only exhibit art that they believe in – art that expresses the artist’s inner feelings and attitude. They do not charge the artist for using their facilities and proceeds from sales go solely to the creator. Besides art exhibitions, Tings also organizes film festivals, music evenings and poetry readings.
RatoMato Organic Restaurant & Bar
Priding itself in trying to be as local as possible, this restaurant grows most of its produce in its own organic farms in Lazimpat and Kirtipur. RatoMato also lends out its extra space to upcoming artists to display their work. The owners, Ambesh Rajbhandari and Prashid Gurung, wanted to create a hub where like-minded people could gather and appreciate local culture. Displaying mostly modern or cultural art, the current exhibition hosts the work of three artists – Sailesh Maharjan, Subesh KC and Shraddha Mukhiya.The pieces can remain there for as long as the artist wants or until someone else comes along and enquires about the space. The restaurant cum gallery’s goal is to provide a platform for upcoming artists to break into the scene and get noticed.
Visited the Rothko exhibition today. It was quite impressive but massively overshadowed by the huge number of visitors. The show is so incredibly popular that on a Sunday afternoon there were long lines of people trying to get in. Luckily I had arranged tickets via internet so we could skip the queue – but inside it still was overwhelming peoplewise. Too crowded, too hot, too stuffy. I am still glad I saw the works in the original and was especially impressed by their enormous dimensions.
(All fotos are mine - text and film from the city of The Hague)
The “Gemeente Museum” in The Hague
Rothko’s work & life
The oeuvre created by Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is both epic in scale and extraordinarily human and intimate in feeling. It has great appeal and attracts many passionate admirers. Painted layer upon layer, his colour fields are of unprecedented intensity and sensuality and communicate universal human emotions such as fear, ecstasy, grief and euphoria. Rothko was an intensely committed painter who invested his whole being in his art and, like many other great artists, led a difficult life. Deeply disillusioned by the two world wars and plagued by depression, he was a tormented soul, yet capable of producing great art with an enduring capacity to comfort and enthral. Exhibitions of his work still attract huge crowds and his paintings now fetch record sums at auction.
Rothko was of Russian Jewish origin but grew up in America. Nothing in his background or family seems to have predestined him to become an artist. Indeed, he discovered his bent for painting only relatively late and more or less accidentally. He took some courses but always regarded himself as essentially self-taught. Rothko is famous for the ‘classic style’ he used from the 1950s onward. By painting large colour fields on outsize canvases, he aimed to use colour to evoke emotion: from jubilant yellow and pink to sombre blue and black. The vast square or rectangular monochromes seem to overflow their canvases and were intended by Rothko to overwhelm and engulf the viewer.
An early work, very different still!
The exhibition in The Hague
The exhibition will include plenty of these ‘classic style’ paintings but also examples of the less well-known early work, in which Rothko moved towards abstraction via a kind of Fauve-like Realism and a highly personal form of Surrealism. The exhibition will draw on recent research on Rothko’s transitional period. As home to the world’s greatest collection of work by Mondrian – an artist renowned for his own path towards abstraction – the Gemeentemuseum is a particularly appropriate place to examine Rothko’s somewhat similar artistic journey. This exhibition will consider both the analogy and the differences in the evolution of the two artists’ work.
By the early 1950s, Mondrian was famous in New York, whereas Rothko was still a nobody. That is probably why one art critic called his work ‘blurry Mondrians’. While publicly resisting this view, Rothko otherwise showed great respect for the older artist, once even saying that Mondrian was the most sensual artist he knew.
I had a fabulous weekend in this amazing place, the only city in the Netherlands to be totally bombed at the end of WWWII, thus practically nothing quaint left – instead a very modern and multi-cultural place to visit.
We just had to see two major sites: besides the modern watrfront area “Wilhelminapier” this was first the “Markthall”, an indoor market-place just recently opened (near the famous cube houses) with an absolutely amazing arched ceiling and apartments on the outside, creating a kind of shell around the market activities inside. On both sides the market hall is enclosed by huge window fronts which had to be specially engineered to withstand winds and temperature changes in summer and winter (and allowed for some nice mirror photos!).
On the way through town we also saw an ingenious underpass, making possible the continuation of a major shopping street UNDER a busy thoroughfare – nice shops and a very pleasant experience instead of having to wait to cross the busy street above:
The second major point of interest was the Wilhelmina pier. A totally new quarter on a pier that still welcome about 30 enourmous sea cruise ships per year, but also hosts the highest apartment tower of the Netherlands (43 stories!) as well as just one historic building, namely the “Hotel America”, last abode of thousands of emigrants taking off with the Holland-America Line for a better future in the U.S.!
(image by kcap.eu)
View of “Hotel America” with the modern construction all around it:
On the very left below the highest apartment building of the Netherlands , the New Orleans building. It is a 43-storey, 158.3 m (519 ft) tall residential tower, designed by Álvaro Siza Vieira. It is currently the tallest residential building in the Netherlands:
(all photos: Beata Wiggen - except when specified)
And if you want to watch a really cool advertising film:
Funny how this really seems to be “my time”: internet and digital information finally reached a point where I can collect-curate-distribute news about the modern art of Nepal and my artist friends ON MY OWN.
Two years ago, the year I presented at “pillow talks” of MCube Art Center and when I was discussing the need for a blog like this over a pleasant lunch with my friend Manish Lal Shrestha, I wasn’t quite ready yet. I didn’t have enough technical competence in house, I didn’t have the right contacts yet. Now I have finally reached that point and can begin to build this blog!
Giving a talk at Manish Lal’s art center in early 2013
Not an art historian but a connector/communicator
I am not an art historian (studied psychology and worked in print and tv media all my life and ran a small Nepal Art Gallery for 7 years), instead I am a connector/communicator and passionate about the modern art of Nepal.
I just love having access to information in a way that was not possible even a few years ago. And I enjoy filtering this information and offering to my – admittedly still very small – “target group” to make their lives easier when it comes to staying in the loop about what’s happening in the contemporary art world of Nepal …
… and when it comes to finding just the right artwork and just the right artist – to get the art lovers connected with the art creators. And all this in a simple, visually pleasing and functional way.
The magnitude of the project
It’s of course turning out to be a much bigger project than I thought: a huge task I have in front of me to collect all the information and images on all the artists who should be featured on this site. And to show the incredibly broad variety of artworks. And to collect the necessary background information and archive it.
But then it helps to be friends with many, many artists on Facebook. And the number of artists with own websites is fortunately increasing, as well as the coverage on art in the local news media. New art critics and art writers are emerging and they are producing continously better content.
This Nepal NOW project is turning out to be a task much like a thesis: incredible amounts of research, sorting/filing, archiving, and contacting people for yet more information. But it’s good work, a work with which I hope to serve the art community – artists and art lovers all over the world!
Your help is needed
And YOUR HELP, dear reader, is much needed, too:
a) artists please get in touch to be presented here
b) art lovers everywhere sign up for regular updates … and LET YOUR FRIENDS KNOW ABOUT THE PROJECT!
On February 6, 2015 Nhooja Tuladhar writes in the KATHMANDU POST about the ongoing exhibition at SIDDHARTHA GALLERY, situated in the beautiful Baber Mahal Complex, about the “Riverine influences” to be seen in the works of these important senior artists who all received their education in India, at Benaras Hindu University – as at their time there was no art academy in Nepal yet. According to the author ever since modern-day Nepal started to open up to the world, its closest access to information, or inspiration in the matter of art, has been India
Nepali artists educated in India
The Rana rulers started sending artists—who were mostly from traditional paubha artisan families—to India so that they could learn the then modern art of painting. Initially, the rulers just wanted representational oil paintings—like the ones they had seen during their visits to England and India—of themselves; but this nevertheless paved the way for the evolution of Nepali art as a whole and added dynamics such that the art of this country, sheltered all around by two giants for countries, was to become much more than just one inclined towards religion.
The trend for Nepali artists to travel to India to learn and gain experience has not stopped since. The global art scene is constantly shifting, and India has become the easiest avenue for Nepali artists to experience that change. And one such place that has been a sanctuary and a source of inspiration to artists is the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), located in Varanasi, India. Nepali art students have enrolled in the university since the mid-20th century, and their contributions are evident in the Nepali art timeline—most recently through an exhibition titled Nepali Artists From Banaras Hindu University, which is currently underway at the Siddhartha Art Gallery, Babermahal.
Show featuring 18 senior modern artists
The show features artists Anuradha Thapa, Vijay Thapa, Birendra Pratap Singh, Hriday Ballav Panday, Jasmine Rajbhandhari, Jeewan Suwal, Late Karna Narasingh Rana, Kiran Manandhar, Narayan Bohaju, Mukesh Shrestha, Paramesh Adhikari, Praveen Kumar Shrestha, Sagar Manandhar, Seema Sharma Shah, Sujan Chitrakar, Late Surendra Raj Bhattarai, Uma Shankar Shah and Yuvak Tuladhar—all graduates of BHU. Gallery owner Sangeeta Thapa’s curatorial statement states that Jit Bahadur Rayamaji, Ganga Shrestha and Agam Shrestha are the three BHU fine-art graduates whose works are missing in the exhibition. The show opened on February 1, but a performance—co-curated by Pranab Man Singh and Sangeeta Thapa—titled The Marks of Our Time by Sujan Chitrakar (which is also a part of the show) was held on January 27.
According to Sangeeta Thapa, the exhibition has been organised to “acknowledge their [the artists] place-making in the contemporary art history of Nepal.”
“These are artists, from different parts of Nepal, who travelled all the way to Banaras, learned, came back and contributed in their own ways to the art scene here,” she says. “The show is a homage to the artists who’ve made something out of their struggles.”
Banaras has produced the highest number of Nepali fine-art graduates out of all the Indian universities. And most of the products of the university have excelled in the field. Kiran Manandhar, an important figurative abstractionist, was until recently the Treasurer of the Nepal Academy of Fine Arts. Seema Sharma Shah, who holds her doctorate in printmaking from BHU, is the Chief of the Department of Fine Arts at Tribhuvan University. Vijaya Thapa, who completed his BFA from BHU in 1965, is a former Treasurer of the Nepal Association of Fine Arts. Sujan Chitrakar is the academic coordinator at KUart. Surendra Raj Bhattarai, Praveen Kumar Shrestha, Hridaya Ballav Pandey, Uma Sankhar Shah, Mukesh Shrestha, Jasmine Rajbhandari, Sagar Manandhar and Narayan Bohaju have inspired younger generations of artists by teaching in different institutions of the country.
Sangeeta Thapa about the importance of historical reference for younger artists
Sangeeta Thapa says there is a reason behind the inception of this show.
“The young are missing out on a lot of art history,” she says, pointing towards a set of envelopes and stamps lined on a table in the gallery. The stamps are the creations of Mohan Narsingh Rana, a BHU graduate and the son of Karna Narsingh Rana, who was in the business of creating the country’s postal stamps, and according to Sangeeta Thapa, 90 percent of the stamps currently in use are his designs.
She further goes on to talk about Junkiri, a group I had formerly never heard of. “Junkiri, consisiting of Birendra Pratap Singh, Karna Narsingh Rana, Praveen Kumar Shrestha, Yuvak Tuladhar, Paramesh Adhikari and Kiran Manandhar, is the oldest art group in Nepal. They did a lot of shows in Nepal and India during their time, but the group was unfortunately short-lived, just like Sutra,” says Sangeeta Thapa.
The exhibition features an eclectic collection of 38 artworks. Some are recently done, whereas some date back to the 80s—Yuvak Tuladhar’s drawing from when he was still in BHU, for example. It is an assorted collection in terms of style and quality as well. It is only natural for these differences to surface because we are dealing with artists who cover a time-span of 50 years. And while a viewer could find it difficult to transition from one work of art to another— signature to a group exhibition—such a show gains importance because of the history it embodies and the stories on offer. And this one has plenty. Since art history in Nepal is almost non-documented, an exhibition such as this could interest people, especially the young, to engage in dialogues concerning Nepali art, the artists and what they have been through—and where they have been to.
“What is the role of art? What is it for?” reflected Arjun Khaling while responding to moderator Hitman Gurung on Sunday at Kathmandu’s Siddhartha Art Gallery. Sunday’s program was one of four weekly discussion sessions being held at the gallery this July.
Gurung kicked off the event with a brief slideshow presentation featuring examples of art that represents artists and various socio-political movements in the world — Dadaism, American Civil Rights, and China’s Al Wei Wei, to name a few.
Khaling succinctly provided a historical context to the panel discussion: “Since Nepal was mostly sheltered from the rest of the world until 1950, artists weren’t exposed to new ideas. But after the fall of the Ranas, they became freer and more independent. Even then, there is nothing noteworthy in terms of arts movement in the fifties. When King Mahendra declared Panchayat in 1960, artist Lain Singh Bangdel returned to Kathmandu after studying in several Western cities, mostly Paris. His style was innovative but he isn’t known for his arts activism.”
There were sporadic attempts of creative expression now and then in the decades that followed, explained Khaling, but it was only during the political movement of 1989 that one starts to notice an intersection between arts and politics. Pamphlets, posters and fliers were seen on the streets but those are mere examples of straight out political propaganda. “When, in 1995, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) started to revolutionize, taking the issues of marginalized groups such as Dalits and Janajatis, Nepali artists finally saw their role in society and politics clearly.” By 2005/2006, artists like Ashmina Ranjit were making art that placed peoples’ issues at its center. Ranjit is known for exploring feminism in her work; others were dabbling with topics such as identity, culture, class and government.
Once Nepal became a republic in 2008, artists also came together and declared an ‘arts revolution’ in Nepal. As the Department Chief of Fine Art at the Federal Socialist Party in Nepal, Khaling is actively following the constitution making process. He also helped found Kirant Lalitkala Samaj (Kiranti Aesthetics) because he wants to reexamine his culture and its historical roots. “Some artists say that art should be for art’s sake,” said Khaling, “but I am pushing a political agenda through my art.”
Gurung, who recently co-founded Artree Nepal along with his contemporary Sheelasha Rajbhandari, turned to another panelist, Sanjeev Maharjan, a visual artist, and asked a similar question: What are your thoughts on artistic practices? Does art have a role in influencing society?
Maharjan: I want to first answer that question as a student because it largely comes down to our education system. Art is still taught mainly in terms of aesthetics. I believe that education should emphasize art’s role in critical thinking, imagination and developing ideas. Skills and techniques are important but all these should be taught simultaneously.
When asked to comment on his involvement with arts movement, Maharjan said, “Art should compel people to question. It definitely plays a major role in society and politics. I participated in the Social Arts Practice workshop in Bangladesh recently which focused on ‘Arts as Action’ and ‘Arts as a Creative Medium’. Our target group was a slum near Chittagong. Artist Sunita Dangol and I focused on Women’s Health. We demonstrated creative ways to turn cloth into sanitary pads because we wanted to raise awareness amongst women regarding menstruation.”
To the third panelist, Mekha Limbu, Gurung asked: We have noticed socio-political themes in your work, some very personal. What were your influences? These days it’s almost become fashionable among young students to get involved in similar work.
Limbu: It perhaps goes back to college days. Viewing political art influenced me subconsciously, I think. I have been involved in several projects since then. I also worked with Ashmina Ma’am. As an artist, ideas gradually developed inside me. I was also learning about World History and the role art has placed in civil movements. Is someone really an artist if s/he is not socially responsible? There are several global movements these days; it’s easy to get informed and influenced. How do artists respond to that? For example, regarding migrant workers, I produced a piece of art about my father who has been working in Qatar for many years. I think it’s extremely enriching to infuse your art with socio-political issues. The process itself is rewarding; it involves research and learning new things.
Gurung returned to an earlier theme with Khaling: You mentioned the year 1950 and the gradual awakening of Nepali artists. This reminds me of similar periods in European history. In some cases, there were Communist agendas in art. We also have artists who are aligned to certain political parties but then there are some who work independently. What do you have to say about this dichotomy?
Khaling: There are several examples of the interplay between art and politics: issue-based, independent or directly opposing certain political ideas. In some cases, politics is primary, art secondary and in others, there is a nice balance between art and politics in order to raise overall awareness. I believe that the quality of art should be kept in mind along with the issue, concept, the artist’s background, etc.
Gurung: Could you elaborate some more on the connections between personal, social and political when it comes to art?
Limbu: The context is very important for artists. We noticed remarkable examples of alternative art during the post-conflict period. I think the situation influences and compels artists.
Khaling: I think artists started asking important questions regarding socio-cultural norms during Nepal’s recent political transition. Why are certain practices there? Why are certain things done? For example, our party’s agenda is decentralization. I believe that we should have regional universities, academies and facilities that match those in Kathmandu. My art reflects that belief. We are also working to improve and develop National Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) because that will be beneficial to the entire nation.”
Gurung: What are some problems and challenges facing socio-political arts practice in Nepal?
Maharjan: I wonder whether that theme is coming up only as a subject. Has there been any real work or tangible solutions? Is it merely done for grant money? Who are we working for? Where are we showing our work? For example, if we do an arts project in the slums, are the issues actually getting solved? I have learned that we can’t work individually. We need to collaborate with local people and involve them.
Gurung: How challenging is that? For instance, journalists have access to certain venues and events. The state provides them passes. Artists don’t have that kind of systemic support.
Limbu: I have been asking those questions myself. If we have an idea, who do we go to? Who is the right person? Maybe NAFA? It takes time to research these things; budgetary considerations need to be made. But ultimately, artists also have to do the work.”
The program was conducted entirely in Nepali. This article is based on the author’s notes and translations.
SAPFP is a festival that celebrates the joy and the power of poetry. It provides a platform for the expression of thoughts and ideas and believes in unity in diversity. Poets and lovers of poetry meet and unite to celebrate two beautiful and important needs , peace and creativity. South Asian Poetry Festival For Peace 2015 will be held for two days, February 21 and 22, in Basantapur Durbar Square and Patan Durbar Square premises.
South Asian Poetry Festival For Peace is scheduled to be held every year . Apart from the sheer joy of poetry, the festival aims to provide a platform where voices and visions are also shared. This is also a space where cultural exchange takes place.
21 February 2015, Saturday, 1:30 pm : Bansantapur Durbar Square
22 February 2015, Sunday 1:30 pm : Patan Durbar Square
The president of the festival, Chirag Bangdel says:
After the huge success of the first edition of the festival in 2013, here we are with the second!
The primary objective of the festival is to celebrate the joy and power of poetry and this time our focus has been poets writing in their ethnic and indigenous languages and styles. Each country in South Asia has a rich blend of tradition and culture. This includes dialects and different forms of literary endeavours.
The numerous forms of poetry form an integral part of culture. A lot of the local dialects of regions are disappearing and along with them, the different forms and styles of poetry. With this edition of the festival, we want to celebrate the different indigenous languages and the indigenous and folk forms of poetry.
So please come and celebrate with us the joy of poetry. Let us share the richness of our culture. Let us prove that we are united in our beautiful diversity.
After the huge success of the first edition of the festival in 2013, here we are with the second! The primary objective of the festival is to celebrate the joy and power of poetry and this time our focus has been poets writing in their ethnic and indigenous languages and styles.
Each country in South Asia has a rich blend of tradition and culture. This includes dialects and different forms of literary endeavours. The numerous forms of poetry form an integral part of culture. A lot of the local dialects of regions are disappearing and along with them, the different forms and styles of poetry. With this edition of the festival, we want to celebrate the different indigenous languages and the indigenous and folk forms of poetry. So please come and celebrate with us the joy of poetry. Let us share the richness of our culture. Let us prove that we are united in our beautiful diversity.
Yesterday I had the chance to join an architectural tour in Krefeld featuring two villas “Haus Lange” and “Haus Ester”! How fantastic was that. With a lot of background information we walked around the villas, built 1927 to 1929 for a rich textile merchant and his legal advisor. Both villas sit on 7,500 square meters of ground, featuring more than 1,000 square meters of living space. Take for example “Haus Lange”: a bedroom each for the parents with individuals bathroom, a bedroom each for the 3 children, all with their own bathrooms and access to the top-floor terrace. On the ground floor a huge hall (where up to 100 chairs for listeners of concerts or readings could be accomodated), a gentlemen’s lounge, a ladies lounge, a living, a spacious dining room, kitchen and prep-kitchen, and servants quarters.
I had long been aware of famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe having designed these villas in Krefeld, a city nearby my German home. Yes, that’s the Mies van der Rohe of “Barcelona chair” and “Barcelona pavillion” acclaim. I was incredibly impressed by his ingenuity (most impressed by the 4 huge picture windows facing the garden which could be totally lowered – they disappear with an ingenious motorized contraption into the cellar wall!) and his impeccable detail-orientation.