Almost Devine



The first time I met artist DB Chitrakar, it was at the Nepal Art Council, Babarmahal, during his solo art exhibition. He guided me through his art works and humbly explained them to me with child - like delight. His unique collection of landscape paintings and portraits were beautiful and truly astounding but what attracted me more was the elderly artist himself. As his eyes twinkled with joy and his voice soared up relating stories about his art- works, I keenly observed his petite figure, heavily wrinkled face and flowing snowy hair. What enticed me even more was the seventy-nine years old artist's utmost love and passion for art and his willingness to explore unexplored artistic vicinity. We shot the breeze, talked a lot about art and I went home happy.

Now, after more than a year, we meet again, but this time at his home in Patan. I notice that he has grown older and seems physically unwell. He gives me a welcome smile and I wonder if he remembers me - probably not - and as we move on to the living room, his daughter-in-law advises me to speak louder as he now has hearing problems. The living room is filled with his paintings - a delightful feast for anyone's eyes. I ask him about his recent art works and showing me a large landscape says, "This is my recent creation. It took me a very long time to finish. Since my wife's demise some months ago, I haven't been able to concentrate much on art. My health is also deteriorating." His son, artist Raju Chitrakar adds in, "Dad has an awful habit of smoking while painting. Once, hotelier Karna Shakya handed him a photo and requested him to make a painting based on it. The process took almost two months and he used to finish a packet of cigarettes a day to help him ease the tedious work."

So, is creating marvelous art that difficult? "It all depends upon the mood. Sometimes, I finish a painting in just a few hours and it turns out brilliant. Actually, creation is beyond our hands, it is almost divine. While creating art, I feel I am in a different world solely of imagination, creativity and colors," D.B candidly reveals.

The love for art
D.B. Chitrakar, a living legend in the realm of today's Nepali art was born in 1929 A.D to an artistically stimulating family and a community historically associated with the art of painting. Art was his ultimate destiny and the child D.B. started showing all signs of becoming a phenomenal artist. He began making various drawings and portraits of people using his pencil. Recognizing the extra-ordinary talent in his fourteen year old son, D.B's father, artist Jagat Bahadur sent him to prominent artist Tej Bahadur Chitrakar for a formal education in art. "Though my father himself made traditional paintings, he encouraged me to learn modern forms of art," D.B fondly reminisces. Under Tej Bahadur's guidance, D.B learnt the technical skills of art. "From him, I learnt the two most important traits of a successful artist devotion and hard work," He marks. Some years later, he was enrolled as an art student in Durbar School (Juddha Kala Pathshala). It was a six years course and among fourteen students, D.B was the only one who passed with flying colors.

Those were the years of the autocratic Rana regime and D.B remembers how fond the rulers were to have their extravagant portraits painted. He says, "They used to hire the best artists for this job." In 1961 A.D., Juddha Samshere Rana initiated the culture of art exhibitions in Nepal by conducting an art exhibition of various artists in Lainchowr. "I along with renowned artists like Kalidas, Jib Ratna, and Chandra Bahadur displayed our art works. One of my paintings got sold and I received Rs. 14 as a reward. I purchased art colors with that money," he recalls.

During his artistic career, D.B worked as an art teacher in local schools and an illustrator in Janak Education Materials Centre (the Government department for curriculum books). His career as an independent artist followed simultaneously. During this period, he received a Government fellowship to visit many European countries like London, Paris, Switzerland and Rome to learn about European Art. Says he, "There, I spent most of my time observing foreign artists during their creation process. I also visited many art exhibitions. I was amazed by their fine works. We used to draw different arts as a means to communicate with each other."

Creating Nepali Reflection
Fascinated by the highly developed artistic environment of Europe, D.B realized that Nepali art had myriad milestones to achieve in order to make its mark in the global scenario. He came back enlightened and decided to immerse into a task of creating and introducing new forms of art in Nepal. The result was an incredible array of artworks in native forms blended with European touch and taste. "While there, I realized Nepal's enriched tradition of art. Our country has heart rendering themes and cultural stories that are yet to be displayed on canvasses. We have our own unique artistic identity that needs to be demonstrated to the world," he states thoughtfully, "The culture, tradition and lifestyle of Nepal are the major themes of my work. I can never stay aloof from them."

Widely known as a contemporary realistic artist, D.B mostly uses natural colors to provide a realistic touch. Nepal's cultural and natural identity and its remote lives, the complex alleys of the Valley, the longing faces of the common people - D.B's paintings are a wonderful reflection of the country's rich diversities. This is one quality, among many others, that his works, today, reside in the prestigious collection of many famed collectors in Australia, Great Britain, France, USA, Japan, India and Nepal. His painting entitled, "Three Queen Cities" - a combination of three culturally powerful cities- Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan is a masterpiece and a proud possession of many art lovers throughout the world. Shares he, "Some foreign artists come here and request me to make paintings for them, while many wish to learn art from me. Most of them come to me to purchase my art works." He still recalls a renowned French critic's advice to him, "I am very impressed by your works. Never leave your style of work and you will reach greater heights of success."

D.B Chitrakar is also credited for introducing pastel colors in Nepal. "While in Germany, I first caught sight of pastel colors and purchased them. Coming back to Nepal, I realized that it requires pastel paper which was unavailable here. Some years later, a British artist provided me with the pastel papers, and I conducted my Pastel color exhibition in J Art Gallery for the first time in Nepal," he says with a soft smile. He has so far conducted numerous solo and group art exhibitions and has been felicitated with many awards like Senior Artist Award (Nepal Kalakar Samaj-2004 A.D), Senior Artist Award (Nepal Water Color Society-2006 A.D) and First Prize, National Art Competition (NAFA- 1966 A.D).

The Home where art resides
After more than six decades of artistic contribution, D.B Chitrakar is in no mood to retire. As active as ever with his paints and brushes, he still has many unfulfilled art projects that he wishes to translate into reality. "I really want to make an elaborate art on the traditional five elements of the world (water, wind, sky, fire and earth)," he exclaims fondly. And with son Raju Chitrakar and grandson Atish Chitrakar following his artistic legacy and creating their mark as artists, his home, today is an art reservoir, all set to produce brilliant art works. Advising aspiring artists, he says, "Art is worship.  Get into this field only if you are passionate and devoted towards it. And practice makes a man perfect."

And worshipping art is what DB has been doing since his childhood. As his voice slows down and his eyes yearn to relax in peace, he ends our conversation with a determination, "I don't know how many more years I will live. But, I will never stop creating art because this is the responsibility God has given me. And duty is God."

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