Scrolls of History

4Artwork by Seema Sharma Shah

Many may be familiar with thangka (which literally means scroll), a traditional Nepalese artform which originated in China and has, in the past, depicted religious imagery including the Buddha, lamas and monks. So, before a visit to India Habitat Centre to attend what was mentioned as a 'retrospective of contemporary Nepalese art', we had the quaint depictions of various forms of religious art from the country in mind. Instead, the exhibition comprised familiar icons of Buddha and monks, depicted differently. A few steps further and bold lashes of colours seemed to paint the streets of Kathmandu. Further still, various images of horses appeared, charging towards the viewers in all its glory. From the contemporary Nepalese art scene are five Kathmandu-based artists, who have come together to present their works at the exhibition titled "Chanting Icons".

Representing four generations, the artists have brought 51 works to India. "The works are influenced by traditional Nepalese art, which can be seen through a certain iconography in their works, such as the stupas or the Buddha," says Neeraj Ajmani of Gurgaon-based Gallery One, who has collaborated with Rana Raja Gautam, a Kathmandu-based artist, to bring the exhibition to the city.

Leading the movement is Shashi Bikram Shah, a senior artist from Kathmandu, whose recurring image of the horse, representing Kalki the 10th reincarnation of Hindu god Vishnu explores the Hindu myth in surrealist forms. Then there is a husband-wife artist duo of Uma and Seema Sharma Shah. While Uma's works let the viewers explore cityscapes of Kathmandu, Seema is a printmaker who fuses everyday religious icons such as Pashupatinath and Buddha with colourful etchings.

From the second generation comes Kiran Manandhar, whose prodigal colourful strokes in a disarray recreate lives of day-to-day struggles of ordinary people. The youngest of the lot is Bhairaj Maharjan, whose simple evocations of paintings of Buddha and monks have strongly been influenced by the political crisis in the country.

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