By the time I arrived at Bindu Gurung’s installation, two hours after I had started my tour of KUart’s BFA Exhibition Project 2012, I was starting to get hungry. As Bindu explained her work, she pulled out a drawer in a cabinet (installed within her work), to reveal a pile of Mango Tart candies. I immediately grabbed one. But my reaction was less to do with hunger and more to do with nostalgia that had kicked in.
Bindu calls her work ‘P.S. Think over a cup of tea’ and she has created two spaces that symbolize and explore the ideas of public/free versus private spaces – physically and mentally.
“We create emotionally secured private spaces yet go around searching for alternative free spaces,” the 24-year-old states. “But even within free spaces we’re looking for likeminded people, and although we may physically be in a public space, in our minds, we could be in our own private spheres.”
She attempts to explain her point with a Chiya Pasal (teashop) where visitors can walk into and become a part of the work by sitting on the benches, touching the objects, and of course, eating the candies. Adjacent to the Chiya Pasal is a bedroom space which has been barred off. We can only look into it but not enter.
More than the private bedroom (which is not a replica of the artist’s room), what drew me in were the elements in the Chiya Pasal.
“This space is a projection of me,” admits Bindu. She decorates the shop with motifs and objects that are reminiscent of her childhood days spent with her family who now all live abroad.
Under the shadows of a knitted canopy that hangs overhead, we look at curtains with tempo prints, buttons that spill out of her father’s old trunk, furniture pulled out of her mother’s storage, defunct cassettes and hand-painted ceramic saucers. At first, the Chiya Pasal seems too decorative and cheery, but within the visible and tactile layers of the installation, lie the artist’s personal layers of memories, vulnerabilities and emotions.
Bindu’s free space is much more intimate, and therefore, private than the cordoned off bedroom, and within it I was trying to recall my own memories in a Mango Tart. She blurs the distinction between public and private by creating a ‘free space’ that represents her own mind’s ‘comfort sanctuary’ and she makes you think without serving actual tea.
Also confronting his personal emotions and more so, angst is Anil Shahi. His anger comes from his personal experiences of caste discrimination; but in his works, he refers to anger in general.
“I feel that a smile is the only way to overcome anger and madness,” Anil, 27, says and continues, “It doesn’t matter whether the person wants to smile or not. All that matters is that the smile is visible.” And a constantly smiling face is none other than of a clown or joker.
Anil’s series ‘Don’t make me laugh’ has eerie nine oil paintings which are based on iconic photographs and Hindu mythological narratives. For instance, in one, the character is wearing boxing gloves and standing like Muhammad Ali. In another, he is ripping his chest open like Hanuman to reveal within a three-eyed joker with a halo. What are creepy about them are their plastered smiles, their egg-shaped eyes that stare right back into you, and red bodies without necks.
“My anger is passive, which is why I’ve used smooth lines and the color red, which I feel is an expressive color,” Anil puts in. Besides the nine main paintings, a line of 31 joker heads are hung in the background. It is difficult to avoid drawing comparisons between Anil’s joker and that of Batman’s because these smaller works have red gory and bloody smiles. Perhaps, they were not necessary to the exhibit.
Also focusing on painting is Nabin Nalbo, 25. His series consists of large portraits, mostly of extreme close-up faces. Although his statement outlines that he is directly referring to artists Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud, Nabin’s works appear flat and aren’t psychologically gripping.
“The human face is a part of our identity,” he says. His portraits, all of which go by the title ‘Human Identity’ are nice, but that’s all.
There are a total of seven BFA graduates from Kathmandu University Center for Art & Design this year. The other four are Sapana Shah, Sujan Dangol, Sunil Pradhan, and Laxman Bazra Lama.
Sapana Shah, 28, is a former nurse. “I worked for three years at Om Hospital,” she narrates and adds, “I always had to fight with pain and emotions then.”
In her BFA explorations, she takes photographs of patients, doctors and visitors in the Emergency Room of Bir Hospital, documenting their emotions. She has installed her photographs on large X-Ray boxes.
“An x-ray box is used for looking at details, and here, I want people to look into the details of these pictures,” she says.
In her statement, she questions viewers if they can look at these pictures or not. The answer is subjective to every individual. However, with our media printing and showing gory uncensored pictures all the time, I’m not sure if these pictures come as shocking. In a way, they in turn could question our desensitization to graphic photographs.
Laxman delves into a number of social issues in his four different installations. The most interesting work is an installation of 26 magazines, mostly Nepali. A letter has been cut out in the center of each one. When lined up on the wall they read ‘IT NEVER STOPS AND IT NEVER ENDS.’
“It’s a comment on the political situation, local and global,” explains Laxman, 28. “The letters and words fall out on the floor and become a pile of mess where you can’t read them anymore.”
Sujan, on the other hand, uses hundreds of cardboard boxes to create his installation ‘Utopia 2.0 NP’. His stacks of boxes begin at the steps that lead to the first floor of Nepal Art Council and create a passage of an untidy cityscape that towers to the ceiling. Sounds of the city play in the background. I had never noticed the strong smell of cardboard boxes until I walked through Sujan’s installation.
“People think that my work is a satire at Kathmandu because it looks haphazard but I’ve titled it Utopia,” shares the 30-year-old artist from Maha Boudha, New Road. “But for me, the chaos is utopian and it’s where I’m at home,” he states.
Exploring a different side of the city is Sunil. A few months back I had noticed a bus stand in Sundhara plastered with orange sheets of paper. They were huge price tags. I wondered about them and thought they were quite interesting and clever. At the exhibition’s opening on Monday, July 30, I found out that it was a part of Sunil’s final BFA project, which he calls ‘I love Pricetags.’
“There are varieties of repetitive notices and information signs on the streets to attract people,” Sunil, 27, says. Sixteen photographs of such price tag signs hang as a group in his exhibit. These photographs are more interesting and effective than the series of 51 collages made by real price tags. The same goes for the traffic symbol of a price tag, which is visually more appealing than the larger centerpiece constructed out of plastic packets of milk and cooking oil.
Along with the seven fourth-year students, Anja Warzecha also has five paintings on show. Anja, 23, is a credit student from Germany and is currently in the fourth year of her five-year program. In ‘FRSTCT,’ she attempts to gather her memories and to recreate them in paintings. She considers her paintings to be diaries.
“These works are fragments of something from my memory and don’t represent anything in specific, such as a landscape,” she points out and continues, “From far, you may see something like a tree but when you go up close, they really are shapes. There are moments of irritation that I like to create.”
Indeed, when I first looked at one of her works, I thought I saw a ribcage of an animal, but she intentionally hadn’t made one.
“I like to walk on the border of abstraction and definite forms,” states Anja. Although she uses acrylic paint, her works appear like layers of collaged paper but it is all been all done by paint. For me, that is one moment of both awe and minor irritation because her paintings look exactly likes collages and I want to feel the paper, but there is no paper!
KUart’s BFA Exhibition Project 2012 is on show at Nepal Art Council in Baber Mahal, Kathmandu till August 8, 2012.