i am not a fan of paintings done from photographs. yes, in Nepal we don’t have options but to use drawings and paintings of nude figures to learn anatomy from. but besides for the practice of learning, i usually wrinkle my nose when seeing paintings copied from photographs.
there was a painter who was at namche bazaar and he was painting from postcards! hellow, mr painter, you are in front of the mountains themselves, why paint from a post card. and i clearly remember reading that the postcard was a picture taken by non other than landscape photographer Jagdish Tiwari!…read about this in the paper, actually it was in republica itself.
so when i first read that sujan chitrakar had used photographs for his paintings at his upcoming exhibition (now ongoing), i wrinkled my nose…until i got to see the paintings themselves.
his paintings have been adapted from photographs and not copied literally, of which is has duly given credit to the photographers and also asked their permission. as for the paintings themselves they lack the details of a photograph. simplified into patches of colors the subject matter makes sense only from far and if you were to look at say, two square inches of the painting, it wouldn’t make sense.
the paintings..making them, i can see, must have been one laboriously job, but not a daunting one. given that, sujan dai had stated that he used photoshop…the tougher task was to paint over repeatedly, as he had also pointed out.
at first glance, i found the paintings amazing! but not as amazing like going to the shepard fairey show. Fairey also uses photographs as references for his screen prints, one of which is the series on obama..hope, progress…etc.
after a bit, it wasn’t the labor of creating the paintings that amazed me, but the content and it’s sheer simplicity. skills and aesthetics set aside, i am attached to artworks that i evoke something in me… what remains in my memory are things that i can connect to — at any level, and more than anything else in sujan dai’s paintings was this city- kathmandu. this city that i write about in this blog. this city which i love and hate.
while the people in his paintings talked to each other, we are the audience of the people in them and not the paintings, alone. i wasn’t looking at paintings, but the people inside them. and perhaps, somewhere in that crowd that person saying that there is an art exhibition at basantapur could have also been me.
i enjoy talking about art, but it’s mostly limited to artists…i would like to talk about art with my friends, but most of them don’t understand where i am coming from or lose interest in the conversation because it is not their area of interest. i can’t blame them for that, can i? because i too get bored talking about sports and politics.
how can i explain that single brush stroke and how important it is to me? it is a feeling, not a fact.
so, i wished the people in the paintings came out and talked to me, for real.
i know that if i had written a review for the newspaper, i would never had the chance to write all these. i am limited to formal language and i couldn’t have used ‘i’. it would have been a non-emotional report.
unlike ashmina di, i don’t find the title of the exhibition offensive to women. yes, i wouldn’t like it if someone on the road made a pass at me, saying ‘baby’…but the title of the show does not have that intention. in fact, i find it catchy and well, having heard the song ‘let’s talk about sex baby’ by salt n pepa, i found it interesting.
a girl had a radio show in college titled after the very song and her show was right after mine at 10 pm in the night. i appreciated her show because it advocated safe sex and awareness on stds and stuff like. mine was just a regular radio show where i played songs that i liked…and some requests, if i ever got them. hahaha. but that’s all besides the point.
everything and anything can be interpreted in numerous ways and like i always write, art and it’s content is always subjective to the viewer. and the maker of the artwork should always be able to take in any kind of comment.
when i was a student in college, i made this drawing with fingerprints and ink. some friends saw a dog in it when i showed it to them. i was mad for a bit. and i went on a vent in my diary. but i think i have matured from that student. i can take it when people don’t understand what i make. but then, it’s also true that if people don’t understand my work, then have i failed in a way?
how can i get my friends to understand my prints that i call home. they just look like grey and black lines…visually interesting, but how is it home?
sujan dai’s exhibition calls upon this very struggle between artists and viewers. for most part, we don’t understand each other, do we? and the so-called ‘abstract’ painters have further taken this disconnection…where anything that is a random collection of brush strokes become abstract.
“the function of abstraction is to get rid of a lot of reality, you start with as much as richness as you want and subtract and then you arrive at the residue of essences that you are interested in.”- robert motherwell.
i for one think that it is important for every artist to be honest with his or her work…my professors have always emphasized on that and i will always work harder on a piece, until and unless i come to a point when i know that this is exactly how i feel…i need to feel that rush of blood to the head, to feel that chill in my spine.
six years is a long time to work on a series, the time sujan dai took to prepare for this show. the number of years is an encouragement for me and it gives me faith and confidence – perhaps, i will find that ‘rush of blood to the head’ in a few years time. it’s okay that it isn’t happening now. santiago montoya worked on his target series for so long and jodi biber worked on between dogs and wolves for 10 years…
what i would like to disagree with sujan dai is on ‘ART’. to me it’s ‘art’ with small letters. he must have his reasons but i don’t really have one, per se…just a musing.
if art is a part of life and if we as artists should find a way to connect with the public, then shouldn’t it be art? art isn’t superior to drinking that cup of tea at basantapur for me. they both define me and are a part of what i love doing.
and yes, it is also nancy spero who inspires me on this one. she said:
“i don’t want my work to be a reaction to what art might be or to what art with a capital ‘A’ would be, i just want it to be art.”