Assonant multiplicity

  • Three distinctly different shows at the Siddartha Art Gallery showcase how Kathmandu’s local art scene continues to evolve and redefine itself
- Kurchi Dasgupta
The thing about Kathmandu is, the city reinvents itself for you at unexpected turns

Oct 8, 2017-Recently, Siddhartha art gallery played host to an unusual combination of ceramic works, paintings, and an anime and manga show. The thing about Kathmandu is, the city reinvents itself for you at unexpected turns and when I walked into the gallery last week, unsuspecting and confident that I had worked out a definitive idea of the local arts scene, I was taken aback for I was to be proved wrong, again! 

The entire upper floor was taken up by a series of drawings, videos, and publications that were quite startling, not because I was experiencing Japanese anime first hand for the first time, but because it seems we have a thriving anime/manga culture rooted in Nepal, flourishing in this city under our very noses and to which I had no clue. Even more surprising was the fact that there was a comic and cosplay convention in Nepal as late as August this year (the fifth such event, apparently), one that attracted 2500 attendees, 80+ Cosplay competitors and over 25 business stalls. 

Comic I knew, and looking around it was not difficult to see the connection, but what on earth was ‘cosplay’? It all became clear when I looked into the flat panel display monitors and caught glimpses from cosplay conventions in Tokyo and Kathmandu: it had young people dressing up and enacting characters from films, books, or video games, and the appearance was inescapably Japanese! Though the beautifully executed character drawings on the wall were mostly by Setsuko Suzuki, there were some by Sukriti Manandhar (Ksaurus) and Anish Rai (Ame) that looked completely at ease with hers. Suzuki was apparently here to do a workshop on anime and manga with local artists and art students associated with Otaku Next—a community created by people who support comic/manga art in Nepal. 

“It provides a platform for young Nepalese comic/manga artists, where they can showcase their artistic talents. Anime and Manga culture has flourished throughout the globe with its own identity and it is no surprise that Otaku Next wants to create a culture similar to it while incorporating our own Nepali identity to it,” commented Shalini Rana, a co-founder of the organisation. “We have 20 young artists and writers working with us to create the comic/manga that used to be published in our bi-monthly magazine called Otaku Next and Rumble. We also published Nepal’s First Manga Volume Daemon Ignition by Anish Raj Joshi. However, we have moved on now to making most of our manga online and publishing manga volumes of the very best stories,” she added in a statement. I, for myself, am looking forward to discovering more of their work in future.

Downstairs, the gallery featured paintings by Massae Suzuki, who also happened to be Setsuko’s mother. Their works could not have been more far apart, except both were explorations of the cotemporary, urban experience of Japan. About ten medium-sized oil and mixed media on canvas works by Massae were on display, works that on first glance reminded one of the drip period pieces of Jackson Pollock but soon revealed themselves to be painstakingly crafted, expressionistic images of landscapes, forests, and cities. An airhostess by profession on Lufthansa, Massae visited New York and encountered Piet Mondrian’s classic painting called Broadway Boogie Woogie (painted by the Dutch painter in 1942-43 in response to Manhattan culture). This changed her life and upon her return to Japan, she gave up her job in 1975 and began painting her own city, Tokyo as a counterpoint to Mondrian’s work. Her father was an artist, and she had majored in comparative literature and all these came together to inspire her to create aerial renditions of Tokyo, and other cities, and landscapes and forests seen from the sky. The works, delicate and usually monochromatic with shades of gray ascending into black through vast fields of spindly lines and empty squares, with occasional bursts of pink and yellow, were unerring observations of urban, developed landscapes. The depiction of Aokigahara, the forest on the slopes of Mount Fuji into which people walked in to die by choice, were magical in contrast and visually quite impenetrable. Looking at her pieces, one felt in the presence of a different era of artmaking, when painting acted more through associations and less through synecdoche. An era in which the evocative ruled over the absent or the minutely documented. 

Below and next to these wall pieces were strewn the exquisite ceramic pieces of Gopal Das Shrestha Kalapremi and Gigisha Pachkoria. Kalapremi, as is expected of him, has created a shapes and forms in a wide range of glazing and firing styles, some going back some millennia perhaps.

Having researched the many ancient kilning processes of Thimi involving soot and chyang, and his signature, the popular Japanese raku, his bowls, vases, torso shaped containers, and plates, among others were a pleasure to both see and touch. While the Georgian Pachkoria’s rough hewn, textured vases and bowls in myriad colours offered exquisite balance to Kalapremi’s smooth, gleaming surfaces. The bodies of work created by the two of them in a workshop here were a study in textural contrast and methodological affinities.

The two floors provided quite an assortment of experiences I must say, and somehow brought home the idea of an assonant multiplicity more tangibly than many bigger shows that I have come across in recent times

Published: 08-10-2017 08:14

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