Nepali Traditional And Contemporary Art Exhibition

Madan Chitrakar



The Group art Exhibition entitled Arts of Nepal, is organized by in association with Mt. Everest Restaurant, 630 Church St. Evanston IL 60201 USA  from 22nd March through march 29th. It is such a great venture to show case Nepali Traditional and Contemporary Arts to the art lovers and art enthusiasts of United States of America.

This exhibition features the art works by renowned Nepali contemporary and traditional artists to young upcoming generations. This exhibition is curated by Mr. Kiran Byanjankar, Nepali resident of Skokie, Illinois, USA who has a deep concern on his native traditional culture and Arts.  Mr. Ram Krishna Singh Mr. Ramesh Byanjankar, Mr. Lok Chitrakar and Mr. Manish Lal Shrestha were the part of the team that helped to make this exhibition possible. To host the event renowned Artists from Nepal Mrs. Erina Tamrakar and Mr. Manish Lal Shrestha were invited.

Participant Artists

Contemporary Traditional
  • Shashi Bikram Shah
  • Batsa Gopal Vaidya
  • Madan Chitrakar
  • Manish Lal Shreshtha
  • Asha Dangol
  • Erina Tamrakar
  • Bhairaja Maharjan
  • Pramila Bajracharya
  • Binod Pradhan
  • Sushma Shakya
  • Arjan Khaling
  • Hitman Gurung
  • Sheelasha Rajbhandari
  • Shankar Son Shrestha
  • Krishna Devi Maharjan (Puja)
  • Mekh Bahadur Limbu
  • Lok Chitrakar
  • Rajendra Maharjan
  • Ravi Maharjan
  • Komal Narayan Shrestha
  • Kishore Kumar Shrestha
  • Amogha Bir Bajracharya
  • Ritesh Bajracharya
  • Shankar Kumar Joshi
  • Ujay Bajracharya
  • Yogendra Shakya
  • Samundra Man Singh
  • Jay Ram Maharjan
  • Surya Bahadur Chitrakar



Exhibition and it's backgound

The earlier phase

The art of Painting has always remained one of the most visible visual narratives of Nepali civilization. Concentrated and nurtured mostly in the capital Valley of Kathmandu, the tradition of Painting has had a long, dated and an uninterrupted history since eleventh century circa. And like in many other civilizations, here too the earlier history and the tradition of Painting had had the closest association with the dominant religious thoughts of the then society it sought to serve. Therefore, as a result, for more than a millennium the primary motive for painting has always been to serve religion as an instrument of spiritual practices – acts of worship, meditation, varied rituals and so on.

Throughout this long history, manifested in diverse forms like religious manuscript covers to illuminations, painted scrolls on cloth- hung horizontally  as well as vertically, murals in interiors or in the exterior facades of palaces or religious shrines, the basic contents of the paintings always remained based on either symbols or the divinities - in anthropomorphic forms present in the two dominant thoughts of Buddhism or Hinduism. That included a wide spectrum of deities from both the religious pantheons- Vedic to esoteric Shakta - Tantric deities in Hinduism to five celestial Buddhas to more complex Mandalas with numerous esoteric minor divinities found in different stages of Buddhism like Mahayan, Bajrayan, Tantrayan and so on. Or in other words, the popularity of a particular image or a set of images in the paintings remained the visible reflections of the shifting importance of a certain sect or the  thoughts. Collectively thus, if the array of historical paintings are put in a chronological order it constituted not only a systematic art history with reference to the stylistic changes but also made a visual history of religion in the Valley of Kathmandu during the period.

But what has become most important and interesting aspect of Nepali Painting – historically and stylistically, in spite of the limits and confines present in the religious paintings then, is the liberty the painters had taken to change or emphasize in different intervals of time to the given elements to the styles it inspired from and then creating of own styles: and leading it to the evolution of an independent identity in the later period – revealing a rare occasional mix from Tibet in the north or Mogul or Rajasthani in the south. And with the addition of the local creative ingenuity, it combined to create a style which has come down to us as an original and a distinct school of Painting of its own. And it has remained today the very essence or the identity of Nepali Painting- popularly described as the ‘Paubhas’.

The Paubha as a creative idiom

 But in the recent times, as the term ‘Paubha’ has begun to transform from a rigid religious painting - painted in cloth and hung vertically, now is used to describe a school of thought or a style of painting – primarily based on earlier thoughts but irrespective of the surface it is painted on. Also the other striking change and the recent feature is that now the artists liberally exercise a liberty to choose the earlier style and the contents to suit one’s taste and needs for his or her own creative expressions. In other words, to them who has adopted this school of painting as the idiom today, the motive has changed for sure from the earlier religious experience to a more personal aesthetic visual delight- and yet would be well described as ‘Paubhas’.

And in the present day Nepali Art, the ‘Paubha’ school and the artists who’ve chosen to paint in the style have commands a wider esteem globally like never before. One of the leading artists who have made a respectable name in the school is Lok Chitrakar whose works are included in the present show. The primary reason for the school of ‘Paubha’ being important today is it not only reflects the historic tradition reinvented, made vibrant to suit the changing times as an identity of an earlier art-form, and also for the fact that it exudes an extremely exquisite level of meticulous workmanship. In addition, the exotic forms inherent in it simply remain marvelous – beyond any words. The importance of this school of ‘Paubha’ today therefore it is hoped, does not need any further elaboration. But a wider realization gaining momentum here in Nepal is that the genre does deserve more international esteem, attention and recognition than it has been accorded today.

‘The Contemporary Nepali Painting’

The arrival of Western style of painting in Nepal is relatively a recent phenomenon. Although the efforts to emulate the realistic paintings of portraiture or landscapes began to appear as early as early nineteenth century, it has been able to take firm roots only in the early Twentieth century when Nepali artists were exposed to the British modeled Art-Education in the colonial India. The arrival of works of these early painters Tej B. Chitrakar and C.M.Maskey were phenomenal departure and an epochal event in a society deeply rooted in religious art. And it was in this firm foundation laid by them modern expressions began to appear in late Sixties of last century- again with the arrival of early avant-garde Nepali painters including Shashi Shah, Batsa Gopal Vaidya and Madan Chitrakar whose works are featured here. The gradual flow of modern paintings continued unabated till this moment. The spectrum of diversity it offers today remains undeniably spectacular.

But what has remained very amazing and strange in the present day contemporary expressions is a common thread that binds a broad spectrum of artists from the seniors to the fresh arrivals. It is their unspoken but profound love or nostalgia for earlier cultural motifs from the medieval civilization of the historic city of Kathmandu. An interesting example is made by while Batsa- a senior artist chooses to explore in creating Lord Ganesha- a Hindu deity, a younger artist Asha Dangol is deeply impressed with the forms from early Paubhas. And at the same time, a younger yet an established name Manish Lal Shrestha presents absolutely international issues like ‘sound’ and other secular images. At the same time, evidences of the artists’ concerns for current issues like feminism or women’s issues are too vivid in the works of younger women artists. Promising women artists Erina Tamrakar and Puja offer good examples. Stylistically, a choice for figurative forms and fond for flat surface is too vivid amongst the wider segment of the artists and it is amazing.

Significance of the Present Show

As has been noted in earlier lines, the present Nepali Painting presents two distinct genres of paintings - one – the ‘Paubha’ style but not bound by earlier restrictions and confines- instead characterized by an exotic combination of earlier thoughts with ample freedom to create. The other one – is the Western style modern paintings- representing more liberal expressions - primarily based on the Western thoughts and execution. It is this unique array of diverse set of thoughts and expressions in painting coexisting both at the same time the organizers of the present show is seeking to showcase before an international audience. The spectrum of the contents of the exhibits, I understand, is so wide it is seeking to remain a virtual microcosm of the present day state of Nepali Art. In both the categories, the show is an absolutely representative in character -represented by the most eminent artists to the most promising and emerging artists from a younger generation. Thus I am fully confident that in view with the diversity in the thoughts and exotic forms present, the show should represent the entire gamut of Art of Nepal today in a nutshell - indeed a monumental event in the annals of Nepali Painting.

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Great Job. Thank you for presenting our art and culture in such a sexy way. Wish you all the best.
By: Bishwa Karmacharya, Bagdol, Lalitpur (2012-03-28)
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