Sujan Chitrakar: Artist.. Thinker.. Or A Zealot!

Madan Chitrakar

 "Let's talk about ART – baby! "- the theme chosen by Sujan Chitrakar-the artist for his present solo- sounded so queer initially it intrigued me for many days and forced me to ponder on it for a long time. Do we really need to talk about art? I well remember on many occasions arguments appear that why do one need to talk about art or even question the very rationale behind talking about art - leave aside making lengthy debates and issues in writing. For a work of art- in a simplistic terms, either a painting or a sculpture in actual, is always a mere physical object- created by an artist as a product of his or her natural instinct – meant to be admired or despised by a viewer. In the long run, only this lifeless object described as a work of art, remains timeless and in absence of its creator-would be left to make dialogues with the viewer irrespective of the time it is viewed and judged. Thus after all, it is only a work of art that provokes the visual judgment of the viewer not the words of an interpreter. So then, is not the role of an interpreter or the critic is redundant and comical? Or it may even lead into questions like – whether by making debates or issues on art (are we) not interfering the freedom or an aesthetic judgment of a viewer and of course, the artist?


Long live ARTocracy by Sujan Chitrakar

 "Long live ARTocracy", 48 x 72 inch by Sujan Chitrakar

(after Min Bajracharya's "the moment speaks for itself " 1990)

The answer is yes and no. It is yes because every human being universally possesses certain creative instincts and keeps on seeking to express his or her feelings and imaginations through many of the mode of expressions we describe as art. And in a sense everyone is an artist – a painter, sculptor, singer or a dancer! : And in fact, only this unique human quality differentiates man from other living beings. And at the same time it is also no because history has long taught us that an object is transformed into art and gains wider acceptance only after it is able to reflect the time, space it is created, and the basic creative intellect of the creator. So depending upon the time and space of an artist, mode of expressions may vary but a true essence of genuine creativity holds fast and retains supremacy forever. That is precisely the reason, in spite of the unimaginable multitudes of works mankind has produced in the human history, only a few have emerged as true works of Art –as epitomes of human imagination and skills. And to this date we continue to glorify and celebrate these works. We do it so again and again because there have been continuous bombardment of words and images of these works in our psyche since last hundred years or more. The talks on these arts continue unabated and would never seem to stop.

And at the same time let’s take a look at the state of recent Art history of Nepal for example. During the last fifty years, in the name of modernity and contemporary expressions, Nepal has witnessed diverse forms of works existing all at the same time. But the irony is that whereas many have ended up as poor emulations from elsewhere, only a very few have retained and understood the essence of a genuine exploration and succeeded in their expressions which unfortunately makes only a small minority. But those who without proper understanding of the motives and meanings but remains always overzealous because of the inherent greed and ambitions - in other words- the imposters, when they realize their short comings, usually seek to compensate these weaknesses by resorting to cheap stunts and gimmicks in mediocre art forms. And they manage to get public focus as well. But to an honest explorer and a careful observer however, nothing can be more mockery of the true essence of art and painful than to see such charlatans taking centre stage - taking full advantage of absence of a meaningful culture to talk about art in a wider public level. Such things happen and are possible only because there exists a strange widespread silence and ignorance about art in the present day Nepali society - breeding many kinds of fallacies about the art and the artists. This is only one of the many painful examples which make us realize the strong importance of continuously talking about art and a dire necessity to widen the knowledge in the public. And it explains why we badly need a new and conscious generation of artists who are not only fully equipped with the right language and tools to make a genuine expression reflecting the time and space he or she lives in but are also aware of the state of the socio- cultural realities and are able to translate and address the needs of today and tomorrow. And amongst the big crowd of Nepal artists today- Sujan Chitrakar stands out almost alone and as one rare species for many reasons but who easily fits in the descriptions stated above.

And Sujan as a creative person presents a unique persona with multiple facets all wrapped in one – an artist, an educator, a thinker and above all a staunch art-activist with a messianic zeal to propagate values of Art in the widest possible space of Nepali society. But on many a times, he has also remained a least understood by his peers as well as his seniors because of occasional unconventional thoughts and expressions. On many occasions, some people naively have always chosen to place him in a convenient bracket as a strong proponent of alternate art practices only– with a strong bias against any work with a flat surface. His detractors even found ways to describe him as great propagator of post-modernist values only with an attitude of proverbial ‘Sky is the limit’ tools. But he is well aware of such descriptions and thinks that bricks or bouquets should be taken as natural when one goes with zeal to attain certain goals. Yes, it remains all true but much more. It is also true that in the recent past since his debut, he remained more associated with unconventional expressions with strong characteristics of post modernist thoughts. But to describe him within this narrow confine it would be not only an outright injustice to his artistic pursuits but it would be also be a naïve observation on our part. For, regardless of how people describe him, Sujan remains first and foremost a true artist to the core - an intuition he carried since his very childhood. Here it may also be relevant to see how his past - childhood thoughts and exposures have helped shaped his young psyche to understand his present perceptions on art today.

Unlike a general impression created by some and unlike many of his contemporaries, Sujan remains free from any kind of parochial notion of art. He remains one of the very few artists of Nepal today who has a liberal attitude, tolerance and a genuine respect for all the visual art forms – be it a traditional art practices or the art form used for visual communication purposes. And irrespective of the modes or forms one creates – he is of the opinion it all deserves equal respect and needs to be talked about: and public should get involved in it and informed about it. Sujan is of strong beliefs that without the public participation or involvement a work of art is never completed: and thus an art must be brought in the widest possible public space – one of the most important characteristics of ‘Post- modernistic’ thoughts. So no wonder that these days his thoughts evolve around seeking largest space available to create his paintings. Occasionally, these days he even dreams of huge hoardings board as too small for his paintings. He likes to assert people must get into it – not really to own it. And this profound love for open and public space is, deeply rooted and was strongly impressed since his childhood days – when his paternal grandfather-a tradition based artist from the family of traditional artists ‘Chitrakars’ sought to pioneer an adventurous path of bringing out the art of ‘Painting’ into open at a time when the artists dare not come out of the confines of four walls. And his resolve to pursue art was augmented by the exquisite traditional Nepali forms and motifs found in mask painting and other forms of religious art as practiced by his maternal grandfather at Bhaktapur- a tradition rich medieval town then. He likes to muse that he, even during those early days he felt his life and future is well secured in art. Such was the extent of his hope and confidence in art.

The present series represent the vivid testimony of accumulations of all these thoughts – art should be cherished, experienced and should be created in the collective or collaborative by all. So his choice of primary elements in this series not only reflects his innate fascination for his familiar squares or streetscape but the artist also is in constant interaction with his subject matter of the painting- the people. Moreover, as an open display of collaborative effort, he has chosen to base his forms from some of the iconic photographs taken by the noted photographers of Nepal today – an open challenge to those who decry paintings based on photos.


ART is in the air by Sujan Chitrakar

"ART is in the air", 56 x 56 inch by Sujan Chitrakar

(after Shashi Shah's "frightened monk" and Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night")

 But the most important facet of Sujan as a creative persona is his unswerving zeal to propagate the message of Art- which in the thoughts of Sujan and rightfully so, art permeates every aspect of human life and so, needs to be instilled in the mind of every human being. So if one is to go little deeper to analyze all his every art endeavors- beginning from the choice of theme to the chosen methods and elements, it all converge in one particular point of propagation of Art by diverse means and ways. Even during the past too – be it a flat surface of a painting or a large unconventional installation and irrespective of space it is mounted either a narrow elite art gallery or an open large space, it was always found moving towards the same direction. And he likes to see himself more as a committed activist on a holy mission of art than a mere visual artist. And it is no wonder that he prefers to describe his art related activities as ‘Art-ivities’ and he himself as an Art-ivist. It is this kind of unswerving dedication and honest efforts, it is hoped would go a long way and lead in placing the issues of Art and the artists in its due and proper place in future.

November 27, 2010                                     

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