I first came across Kabiraj’s work while he was a BFA student at Kathmandu University. Then in 2009 the Siddhartha Art Gallery organized his graduation show at the Annapurna Hotel. As a resident of Boudha and living close to the sacred Boudhanath Stupa, he was inspired by the strong cultural and spiritual environment. His work became “a search for inner enlightenment for the tranquility of the inner self”. His exhibition “Transcendental Vibrations”, focused on portraits of Buddhist monks. His command of oil paint, oil pastel and ink and his sensitivity to line were evident in compelling portrait studies of this period. After graduation, Kabiraj journeyed to Japan with the dream to study art in a country with a long and illustrious history in printmaking. Accepted at the prestigious Meisei University Center of Art and Design in Tokyo, but without resources to pay for his education Kabiraj had to take on multiple jobs to cover both educational expenses and the cost of living in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
Kabi Raj in Japan
Talking to the artist about his time in Japan, I learnt of the many challenges. He spoke no Japanese and it took more than two years to learn the language and begin to understand traditional Japanese culture with all its nuances. He had issues of self esteem and identity in a country where foreigners are regarded as gaikokujin or outsiders. The loneliness and frustration was debilitating and he began to doubt his artistic journey “Learning and practicing art gradually became secondary to the urgency of earning a living. I felt a deep necessity to regain my identity and compelled myself to find a balance between the two, finding time and space for art within my hectic earning schedule.”
First exhibit after Japan
In Kabiraj’s body of work in this exhibition From Tokyo to Kathmandu– Recollections in Print, the loneliness of the artist on his spiritual quest and the quest to master new techniques are not parallel journeys but the continuation of a more profound journey. The journey of the karmic self with obstacles central to the journey such as finding the right place of instruction and finding a teacher. While in Japan, Kabiraj studied a range of printmaking techniques before deciding on lithography as his medium. He was fortunate to find a mentor in the celebrated printmaker Shibuya Kazuyoshi. In an interview with Kabiraj he said “Drawing on stone excited me and increased my interest in lithography. The features of the technique matched my creative tendencies, allowing my emotions to transmit easily into chemicals, ink, the surface of the stone surface and later onto paper.”
On the process of lithography
As Kabiraj experimented with the process of lithography, a series of abstract works evolved. He found the task of grinding the stone meditative which gave him time to contemplate each tremulous movement of the placing of lines and color on stone; “..each stroke and the rawness of their movement were expressions of my raw temperament which was composed of both fear and aggression. I pursued the idea of transforming my emotions into prints and rediscovered my thoughts through the imprints and textures in litho”.
Special character of the artist’s works
The hallmark of these abstract works is found in the fluid lines interspersed with playful squiggles and a sense of abandonment in the dripping of colour. Through this series of abstract works he began to slowly reaffirm his identity as an artist. cite example
Experiments with portraiture and figurative work followed in litho, monotype and woodcut. Kabiraj was able to prove that he could render his portraits and figurative works in print with finesse and sensitivity. cite example:
A series of new prints which hark back to his earlier spiritual bent are also from this period, replete with temple bells and divine forms : cite example
Impact of the Tsunami
During his four years in Japan, Kabiraj participated in several print exhibitions and his diligence and dedication to printmaking earned him a job as a teaching assistant at Meisei University’s Printmaking Department. There he taught lithography, woodcut, drawing and painting for a year. In March 2011, a terrible tsunami hit Japan. The devastation caused and its aftermath play havoc with Kabiraj’s mind. Battling depression while coming to terms with the searing devastation, he turned to printmaking to heal himself; “engrossed in its process, I could escape from the shadows of insecurity and depression caused by the tsunami and its aftermath. It was a harsh life and I was struggling”.
During the last phase of his time in Japan, Kabiraj experimented with an action painting series in monotype. He developed both confidence and skill to paint directly onto litho plates in swift and bold strokes. In my conversation with the artist I learnt that it was the combination of ink viscosity, chemicals and the intricacy in timing that “triggered” his creative instincts. The necessity of taking risks in printmaking, while not knowing what the outcome could reveal, helped him overcome his insecurities. He told me that while taking these steps he was subconsciously hauling himself from his darker experiences; ” I liked the idea of preparing the plates without any plans, not knowing the end result. The scale, speed and colors of these printed strokes spoke the language of my inner motions.”
Kabiraj returned to Kathmandu earlier this year and found his four years in Japan, both as a student and teacher, had left an indelible impression on him.
The KCAC residence
Awarded a residency at the Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre, but with limited local printmaking resources available, Kabiraj decided to make woodcuts, a skill he had mastered at Meisei University. A week into the residency, our main studio had been transformed into a Japanese printmaking studio with huge wooden boards, bottles of ink, cutters and rolls of lokta paper. During his four-month residency, he looked back at the Tsunami through his recollections in print. The trauma of the tsunami was still there. “In my subconscious I constantly questioned my sense of stability.“ The motifs engraved on the wood narrate the havoc and wreckage created by the Tsunami, destroying cities in seconds and wrecking uncountable lives on land and sea. His work also touches on the tragedy of Fukushima. Witnessing these catastrophes, with the fragility and uncertainty of existence exposed, was shattering to him. Each image printed here resonates with the tragedy, its after-effect and the collective spirit of the Japanese to reconstruct life anew”.
On the third floor of the Gallery the artist has created a meditative chamber, hanging the four woodcut panels he used to make the tsunami series. The panels are covered in black ink and the chamber is dimly lit, allowing the viewer a closer look at Kabiraj’s intricate engravings. Inside the chamber the sound of the artist engraving on wood is heard – in homage to both the deceased and to the art of printmaking.
In his poem Ulysses the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote ” I am a part of all that I have met…”
This exhibition reaffirms Tennyson’s words and documents the courageous journey of an artist with an indomitable spirit.
Today the KATHMANDU POST published an article by Samikshya Bhattarai about Kabi Raj Lama’s fine solo-exhibition—titled Fragments— which opened on Sunday. Please find it reposted here:
Bound by faith
Hosted by the Siddhartha Art Gallery (SAG) in Babarmahal, the collection of lithographic prints was inaugurated by banker Anil Shah and the director of SAG, Sangeeta Thapa.
According to the organisers, this is the first time an artist has put up a solo lithographic exhibition in the country. With themes of fear, loss, courage and optimism impressed on the artist’s mind in the immediacy of the 2015 April earthquakes (and the 2011 Japan tsunami), the exhibition features 15 paintings.
Lithography is a form of art where an artist first paints on limestone and then later transfers a mirror image onto paper through a process called Gum Arabic Transfer and is a painting method popular in countries like Germany, China and Japan. As the painting requires special kind of rare limestone and other expensive equipments, the method is extremely rare in Nepal. Speaking to the Post, artist Lama said that he created the artworks during his recent art residencies in Germany and China.
Kabi Raj and lithography
“This was a hard task. To do lithography it’s not just the creativity that is needed but also hard manual work. I had to lift huge stones to paint the images and I was working alone while I was in Germany, so it took me at least eight or nine days to complete one painting. Even though it was a hard job, I tried my best to show the feelings that people faced during the period of the earthquakes,” said Lama. He further added the exhibition was a tribute to the courage and resilience people displayed in the face of such unprecedented tragedy.
Photos courtesy Artree
Kabi Raj and the earthquake
Dealing with motifs that occupied the artist’s mind during the chaos of the earthquakes, a lot of the artworks feature religious overtones. One painting, titled Beauty Unveiled, explores not just what the quakes brought down but also the beautiful sculptures, otherwise kept in the inner sanctums of the fabled Kasthamandap and away from the public eye, that were revealed when the building came down. In another painting, Align Shivalinga!, Lama tries to align in his mind the scattered and unattended shivalingas that he witnessed at Pashupati following the quakes. “The post-earthquake period was very chaotic and I used a medium that I know to help me find order amid the chaos, not just in this one painting, but all the works on display at the exhibition,” he said, “Fragments, captures the unrelenting and selfless act of belief through the images of Nepal’s tangible heritage damaged in the quakes.”
The exhibition is slated to continue until Sept 9.
Extras (background material on artist Kabi Raj Lama):
EXTRA 1: VIDEO
Please also enjoy this video explaining the artist work (in it he reminisces about his fours years in Japan and deals with his earlier “Tsunami Series”, created during the residency at KCAC) here:
On Monday, 15 August 2016, Taragaon Museum Kathmandu hosted a one-day exhibit of the Nepali artworks featured in the Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION. Imago Mundi is an Italian arts initiative seeking to map contemporary artists around the world.
Imago Mundi promotes knowledge and awareness of art and, through this art, of the world. The numerous collections will be taken on a tour without frontiers to present them physically to the widest possible number of people. They will also be promoted through a web platform, printed catalogues and exhibitions. This happens in collaboration with private institutions, international organizations, and public museums.
Hosted by the Fondazione Benetton, the project will continue to grow with the goal of uniting the diversities of the world. It will pass on to future generations the widest possible mapping of human cultures at the start of the third millennium.
Imago Mundi is the collection of works commissioned and collected by Luciano Benetton (see more about this fascinating personality later in this post) on his travels around the world. It involves – on a voluntary and non-profit basis – established and emerging artists from many different countries. Each artist has created a work whose only restriction is its 10×12 cm format.
The increasingly global Imago Mundi project is further evolving and already involves 80 countries at the end of 2015 for a total of over 10,000 artworks.
Ms Jennifer Karch Verzé, curator for the Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION was in Kathmandu for 23 days collecting the art pieces and presenting workshops and lectures. She happily interacted with the Kathmandu artist community and was overjoyed that the one-day exhibit at Taragaon could be made possible.
Curator Jennifer Karch Verzé with artist Ishan Pariyar at Taragaon (photo: Sabita Dangol)
“The Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION was supposed to be shipped directly to Italy but we thought it would be better if we could exhibit it in Nepal so that the artists could see each other’s work. We thought this would provide artists with an opportunity to meet each other and talk about their visions,” said the curator of the The Taragaon Museum, Roshan Mishra. He is happy to know that Nepali artists’ arts will be featured all around the world, a fact which will open new doors and provide the Nepali artscape with many new possibilities.
The Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION exhibition featured the works of more than 160 artists, along with the works from the students of Shrijana Arts College. Two of the best student artworks are also slated to be featured in the Image Mundi collection.
“The artworks reflect the problems, issues, traditions, religions, landscapes, and many other things representing Nepal. Even though this is the work done by various artists, you can still see some of the same elements. There is the reflection of ‘Nepaliness’ in most of the paintings. And that is what we needed, the unique representation of individual artist, as well as some common elements to represent Nepal,” said Jennifer Karch Verze. She also mentioned that the Nepali artists were very supportive and eager which made it easier for her to understand their vision and prepare the Nepali catalogue.
A total of 140 artworks from Nepal will be exhibited by Imago Mundi around the globe once the catalog for the Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION is prepared by late next year.
See here a sample of a printed catalogue which will be created also for the “Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION” :
Some more information on Luciano Benneton of Imago Mundi NEPAL COLLECTION (and all the other country collections):
Born in Treviso in 1935, Luciano Benetton created Benetton Group in 1965, alongside his sister Giuliana and brothers Gilberto and Carlo. Today the Group is present in 120 countries across the world with over 5,000 stores. Benetton is a board member of Edizione Srl, the family holding company. He was a Senator of the Italian Republic from 1992 to 1994 and has five children.
Luciano Benetton is Chairman of the Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche, created in 1987 upon the wishes of the Benetton family. It is a testimony to their link with the territory – the Veneto region and the area of Treviso, in particular – contributing to the civil and cultural growth of the community.
A great traveller and lover of art, Luciano Benetton has firmly united these two passions in the Imago Mundi project. This contemporary art collection is composed of thousands of 10 x 12 cm works by established and emerging artists from many different countries.
See this interesting video in which Luciano Benetton talkes comprehensively about his motives and further plans:
In the third week of July of this year (2016) Kathmandu saw some great PERFORMANCE ART ACTION to support Dr Govinda KC’s hunger strike against corruption. This was such an impressive happening that I just have to repost Sophia Pande’s good article which was published on ekantipur.com and in the KATHMANDU POST on 8 August 2016:
photo credit: Arttree Nepal
On July 23rd, five young men woke up early morning, shaved their heads, dressed only in black shorts, and wrote on their bodies with permanent marker, before exiting out of the Artree compound in Tripureshwor bare-feet and with their eyes closed. Led carefully by their friends, so they wouldn’t injure themselves, this group had started their walk to Baneshwor in a move to support Dr Govinda KC’s eighth hunger strike against the endemic corruption that shadows the corridors of power in Nepal, allowing those in elected positions to do as they will, reaping the benefits of being able to act with near impunity to line their pockets, and the pockets of those near and dear to them.
Dr KC, a medical doctor, has taken to this particular form of non-violent protest multiple times to demand, among other things, that the government should regulate the opening of medical colleges so that sub-par teaching institutions are not established willy-nilly to extract tens of lakhs of rupees from those who covet the title of medical doctors. Each time the government has acquiesced to Dr KC’s demands, they have reneged on those agreed terms—seven times to date.
Lavkant Chaudhary, Hit Man Gurung, Mekh Limbu, Bikash Shrestha, and Subas Tamang along with Sheelasha Rajbhandari, all of whom belong to the Artree artist’s collective ruminated for four days to plan and execute this protest performance art, which they titled, pretty much on the nose, Culture of Silence. All accomplished artists themselves, the six thought through their objective carefully. They knew that a public performance aimed at civil society cannot be so esoteric as to not be understood by the person on the street who has had no previous exposure to this kind of performance art.
The concept was therefore simple, to walk through the streets for all to see. The closed eyes, for the discerning, were an added, physically rigorous element meant to signify the wilful ignorance in tackling the truly corrupt. The uniformity of the cropped heads and black shorts were used again to represent the commoner, the words written on the bodies of the five men with shorn heads were inscribed by skilled calligraphers using permanent marker to make sure that even without speaking, viewers could understand what the performance was meant to support.
After the men reached their destination, outside the Parliament at Baneshwor, they lined up in front of the barbed wire alongside other protesters who had marched and gathered to support Dr KC (a happy coincidence that increased the number of people who witnessed the performance) and started their simple choreography: standing and facing the crowd so that people could read the inscriptions on their bodies; lying on the ground in abject dejection, pain, suffering, and apathy; catching each other as they fell backwards; and placing their foreheads in a row against a brick wall in order to indicate the pointlessness of our political cycle. Again, all this choreography was designed to be simple yet powerful, using silent action over other mediums to describe the feelings of the Nepali people.
At 2 pm the performers finished up and went home to assess how they felt, and to try and gauge their impact. Writing on one’s body as a sign of protest isn’t a particularly cutting edge, plenty of people, artists and otherwise have done it to augment their message, to underscore their spoken and unspoken words. The question is, in a country like Nepal, where the civil society’s will is essentially disregarded, can this kind of artistic protest make a difference?
It is hard both for the artists and for an observer to truly gauge the impact and outcomes of such an event. While Dr KC’s demands have been both critiqued and lauded, Artree’s political performance art has mainly been a kind of visual phenomenon, amplifying these artist’s concerns via the ubiquity of our social media and the power of the images created during this protest.
So, while the actual protest itself, aside from marking a time in history, may not have had significant impact in terms of moving either the hearts and minds of civil society or our venal politicians, the undertaking itself, amplified by social media, recorded indelibly in images, and exponentially reaching tens of thousands of people via social media, may have created the awareness and understanding that protest can take many forms aside from calling traffic strikes, burning tires, and bashing up people who disagree with you—that even though one may feel stifled, there are ways for our voices to be heard over the clamour of yammering politicians struggling over power.
Yes, the civil society may feel helpless, understandably so, even a man as committed as Dr KC has been repeatedly betrayed by the politicians, leaving a gaping hole where in a normal democracy, if the will of the people actually mattered, would have been a movement of people from all walks of life, protesting the absurdity of our political situation: one where a democratically elected government continues to milk the country and tread on the very citizens who so hopefully came out in droves to vote for them.
Art does indeed have a place in politics; Ai Wei Wei, the famous Chinese artist has single handedly created a culture of cheeky dissent against an extremely bemused authoritarian government. The real question is how we can wield this powerful non-violent medium in a sustained and continued manner so that it can contribute to tangible social change.
ARTUDIO invites to an exhibition featuring The Dolakha Album. This exhibition is the result of a short-term curated residency hosted in Gairimudi, Dolakha. The week-long engagement brought together 5 contemporary artists from Kathmandu to create artworks based on Gairimudi: artists Mr.Sujan Dangol, New Media Artists, Mr. Surendra Maharjan, Printmaking Artist, Ms. Sandhya Silwal, Visual Artist, Mr. Rajan Shrestha, Sound based Multi Media Artist and Mr. Abhimanyu Dixit, Film Artist who worked collectively with each other as well as the Gairimudi Community people.
During the residency the artists created works in diverse forms; video art, land art, photography, site specific installations, new media and multimedia. The artists were restricted on materials being introduced into the community and were advised to work with local materials. The artists were hosted by families in the community to be able to really live like a local and integrate into the society.
All artworks created during the residency was exhibited in the community space in Gairimudi. The Residency was curated by Contemporary Artist Kailash K Shrestha and co curated by Nischal Oli.
MORE ABOUT ARTUDIO:
ARTUDIO, Center for Visual Art is a platform for anybody interested in the various forms of art. It is a space provided for people to explore, be themselves and learn through the forms of visual art to foster innovative potentials within themselves. The goal is to unlock concealed talents and this is initiated and supported by a team of professional contemporary visual artists of Nepal.
Since the establishment of Artudio in 2010, we have initiated various outdoor projects around Kathmandu Valley and surrounding areas providing a platform in public spaces for art. One of the many projects we have initiated are a series of STREET ART Projects. This initiative was established to re-introduce the public spaces as an open gallery with life and connect the general public. Another one of our public initiative is the OPEN MEET-UPS, this was established to share and exchange ideas and understand public spaces including critical discussion series (GuffStuff) to groom a critical discourse in visual arts.
Artudio’s successful initiatives include PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS Level I, Level II and Level III. These workshops are taught from the basics of holding a camera and what potentials it has to bring to light and life. Artudio also holds ART SATURDAYS for all ages to provide a visual realization and drive talents to a successive highway, Artudio also organizes National Level Photo Contest/Exhibitions with grand awards for honoring talents and bringing together professional artists, photographers and amateur photographers to show and share their creative works, various seminars, different photo trips and other visual art activities.
Bal Kala Sangrahalaya is a long term community based art programs, an online museum of children’s artworks. This was initiated in 2011, when Artudio wanted to show the innocence and playfulness in the artwork of children aged 1 to 16. Through this initiative Artudio also involved children from various regions of Nepal and is now on the way to establish a Community Art Center in Gairimudi – 8, Dolakha.
See here some images taken from the ARTUDIO website, documenting the projects of Dolakha album, a short term curated community homestay art residency 2016:
Photo: Rawjan Kusule
Kids from Gairimudi Dolakha engaging with art in Community Art Center. Photo: Rawjan Kusule
Contemporary Printmaking Artist Surendra Maharjan working on his art project. Photo: Rawjan Kusule
Glimpse of Dolakha Album, a community homestay art residency 2016. Photo: Artudio
Artwork by contemporary new media artist Sujan Dangol on display. Photo: Artudio
Curatorial note. Photo: Artudio
Artists’ Statement. Photo: Artudio
Artwork by contemporary visual artist Sandhya Silwal on display. Photo: Artudio
Artwork by contemporary film artist Abhimanyu Dixit on display. Photo: Artudio
Community people viewing artwork during a community exhibition day. Photo: Artudio
Artwork by local weaving artist Chhabi Bahadur Shrestha on display. Photo: Artudio
Artwork “CHINTA” by 5 artists from Global Art Collective on the final day. Photo: Rawjan Kusule
For further reference see for the ARTUDIO website here or check out an older post of one of the ARTUDIO founders, Kailash Shrestha, here
A third edition of the Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF) is scheduled to be held from March 24 to April 7, 2017. Organised by Siddhartha Arts Foundation, the two-week festival will feature works by a host of Nepali and international artists.
NEWS UPDATE – NEWS UPDATE – NEWS UPDATE
KIAF IS NOW KATHMANDU TRIENNALE !!!
The strategic change reaffirms Siddhartha Arts Foundation’s commitment towards consistently engaging relevant stakeholders in realizing Kathmandu as a cultural hub in South Asia. By repositioning the event as a Triennale, the Foundation hopes to innovate on this existing format to produce a distinguished Nepali voice in the production of and engagement through the arts.Our refined logo—the Gajur—is a symbol of both the innovative strategies the organizing body has been implementing to fulfill its goals, as well as, an homage to the city itself and to the arts it has brought to life though time.
The 2017 theme is ‘The City’, and this edition of KIAF will be the first curated one. KIAF 2017 will be curated by renowned Belgian curator, Philippe Van Cauteren who heads SMAK (Museum for Contemporary Art) in Ghent, Belgium. The main exhibition, as conceived by the curator, will have a twofold aim: production and exhibition of artworks in Kathmandu and ‘encounters’ or substantial exchanges facilitated by visiting international artists.
KIAF is Nepal’s only international platform for global contemporary art practices. It is a not-for-profit engagement that brings together national and international artists, as well as experts, to reflect on pertinent social issues. Through the facilitation of the platform, organiser Siddhartha Arts Foundation employs the arts to present multiple perspectives on contemporary themes in order to educate audiences and engage society in critical dialogue.
The past two editions of KIAF were held in 2009 and 2012. The first edition featured a total of 111 artists from 25 countries whose works were exhibited under the theme of “Separating Myth from Reality: Status of Women”. The second edition was developed on the theme of “Earth | Body | Mind” to address issues of the environment and ecology. It featured 96 artists from 32 countries and a range of educational programming.
According to its organisers, KIAF 2017 is dedicated to the victims of the earthquake and to all Nepalis, for their unwavering resilience in time of crisis.
For more information about previous KIAF see older posts here: