It is impossible to escape a sense of awe when you look at the pieces currently on display at Siddhartha Art Gallery
It is impossible to escape a sense of awe when you look at Youdhisthir Maharjan’s pieces currently on display at the Siddhartha Art Gallery. The Nepali-born artist who lives in the US has taken pages of repurposed books and turned them into what he calls a “new language that transcends its humble origin and takes a new life of its own”.
Each piece is inspired by the title of the books the pages are taken from and carries social and political themes.
The entire process is an organic one. Asked how he chooses his books, Maharjan has a philosophical answer: “The books find me rather than the other way round.” The second-hand bookshops within his home state of New Hampshire provide the means for that.
The meticulously-altered pages achieve powerful political and social messages that evoke contemplation. “People do not know what to think when they see these works, they evoke questions within the viewer,” Maharjan says. It is here that the power of his work lies.
One can’t help feeling captivated by the delicate intricacy of Maharjan’s works. For him, that complexity is really the essence of his art and craft.
Maharjan’s works are the result of forced circumstances. Initially he used the traditional media of paint and canvas but he lost the required art space when he moved to the United States. This compelled him to turn to other media.
Also on exhibit are the works of the American-born, Nepal-based Maureen Drdak (pic, left with Maharjan) whose works offer a fascinating insight into the cross-cultural capabilities of art.
Inspired by the traditional Patan tradition of repoussé, she translates the timeless Nepali metalcraft into a contemporary art form. The result: exceptional mixed media pieces that Drdak herself refers to as “repoussé-paintings.”
Her work forms a connection between contemporary western and traditional Nepali art forms. She notes that her work is “an exploration of philosophical and cultural synthesis in which Eastern and Western iconographies are meaningfully integrated”.
Drdak learnt repousse from the renowned master Rabindra Shakya, a local of Patan, who initially regarded his work with apprehension. But Shakya was left delighted by the final products that came out of months of his teaching and was amazed by the unorthodox way in which his traditional craft was presented.
For Drdak it was the interest and appreciation she received that gave her the greatest sense of achievement. She says: “The approval of the masters makes it all worthwhile."
Exhibition open until 9 December
Siddhartha Art Gallery
Babar Mahal Revisited
An Affair of the Art, Stéphane Huët