30 August-5 September #671

Painting pictures

After more than three decades working as a photojournalist, Gopal Chitrakar is now taking time to indulge in his first love
Tsering Dolker Gurung

PICS: BIKRAM RAI
THE ARTIST: Gopal Chitrakar at the opening of his solo painting exhibition at Nepal Art Council in Babar Mahal on Monday (above)

For Gopal Chitrakar, it is a life-long dream come true. At his first solo painting exhibition at Nepal Art Council in Babar Mahal earlier this week, Chitrakar looked more radiant than his usual self.

“Let’s not make this whole affair very formal,” joked the 61-year-old old who could easily pass off as 40, before asking long time guru, artist Shashi Bikram Shah to inaugurate the show.

Titled Dedication, the exhibit is a collection of over 100 oil-based paintings is a result of Chitrakar’s renewed commitment to painting. After retiring as a photojournalist for Reuters in 2009, Chitrakar says he knew it was time to get back to his first love and that’s exactly what he did.

Born into a family of artisans, Chitrakar trained under maestros like Amar Chitrakar and Gyan Bahadur Chitrakar, both of whom are his first cousins and got a diploma in art from Lalit Kala Campus in Kathmandu. But before he could delve into a career as an artist, Chitrakar got hooked onto photography during a stint assisting his brother at the latter’s photo studio. Soon after, a job at Gorkhapatra followed and an illustrious career as a photojournalist.

A self-portrait shows Chitrakar playing his favourite sport - golf.
“Even when I was active as a journalist, I would spend entire vacations painting,” admits Chitrakar. “Painting is in my blood, I am a Chitrakar after all.”

From portraits and landscapes to nudity and abstract, the artist has pretty much dabbled in all genres. But it’s easy to see where his true affinity lies. Chitrakar’s paintings of the three darbar squares in Kathmandu Valley are in a league of their own. “I have always enjoyed taking pictures of people and places and it is the same with painting. I honestly don’t get abstract art and it was just experimentation for me,” he confesses.

Chitrakar uses his photographic skills to give viewers a new and unique perspective into his paintings. One of his works called ‘Krishna Mandir Panorama’ was created by stitching together a panorama photo of Patan Darbar Square for reference and it is this work that Chitrakar holds closest to heart and dedicates to his yet to be born grandson. But the entire exhibition is a dedication to his mother and late wife who he says have been instrumental in shaping him. Says the veteran: “My mother was a strong-headed woman who raised six sons on her own, from her I learnt to have an independent mind. My wife taught me to be relentless in my pursuit for a better tomorrow.”

Among the collection is a self-portrait of the man himself playing his favourite sport- golf. “That’s my other love,” he says. When asked to choose between painting and photography, Chitrakar immediately replies, “Painting. I am tired of constantly running after technology and updating myself. Painting, on the other hand, relaxes me and this is how I want to spend my retired life.”

Writes Chitrakar in a note about the exhibition, “I have witnessed both extremes all around me in my many years as a photojournalist, but I have tried harnessing the peace side of it in the several thousand hours I have spent creating my paintings.”

Dedication, Nepal Art Council, Babar Mahal, Runs until 30 August, 10am to 5pm

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