Saturday Features

I like to experiment with a bit of shock value

- ABANI MALLA

Dec 15, 2018-

Mrigaja Bajracharya’s art is loud. Pierced eye balls drenched in blood stare at you while a girl with her bleeding third eye looks on imploringly. With pen and ink, Bajracharya details her imagination for the world to see. A practiced mural and digital artist, her work was on display recently at Micro Galleries, a global arts festival that recently came to Patan. Bajracharya’s mural at the festival was of a portrait of a girl covered with stickers of Bajracharya’s previous illustrations. The stickers symbolised the ‘fears’ of the girl and viewers were encouraged to take them for free as an act to unchain ‘the covered girl.’  She has illustrated multiple children’s books and collaborated with many artists and clients. Intrigued by Bajracharya’s versatility, the Post’s Abani Malla spoke to her about her inspirations, collaborations and future plans. Excerpts: 

How did you first start illustrating professionally?

While I was in the third year of my Bachelor’s in Fine Arts programme at Kathmandu University, one of my teachers approached us with a chance to illustrate for a publication house. Then, I started illustrating professionally as an easy way to make some extra cash. 

You graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Kathmandu University. How was that experience and how did it help you professionally?

My experience at Kathmandu University was pretty good. The teachers were always ready to help us with anything. We were given chances to experiment with a lot of art styles and mediums before choosing what we wanted to focus on. This helped me figure out what I would opt for professionally.

Learning about various art mediums and how they work enhances our view of art. And also lets us express ideas and thoughts. As an artist, sticking to just one form of art doesn’t really seem to work professionally, people expect you to use pen and ink one day and other times, you must be ready to paint a huge wall or draw a digital version of the same artwork, or make a sculpture. So, it helps when you have at least a bit of knowledge about different stuff, which makes you open to different viewpoints and different ways of doing things.

Your style seems similar to the work of Japanese artist Junji Ito and Swiss artist HR Giger. Are they among your influences? Who else are you influenced by?

Junji Ito and HR Giger are among the artists I look upon as my influences. Their works talk to me and I feel we share similar viewpoints. Hence, they have a lot influence on mine. Some of the other artists I really like, not just in terms of style but also the story they contain, are Shohei Otomo (his works have a lot of social commentary of Japanese society), Goto Atsuko (for her beautiful yet melancholy girls), Eli Klemmeck (for his simple and clean dark drawings), Dibeshor Gurung (for his intricate drawing and super awesome interpretation), Nikolas Tower (for enchanting illustrations) and a few others. I really enjoy their style, medium and the world they create.

Your artwork is quite dark—composed of eye balls, blood and skulls. What is your affinity towards such subject matter?

I usually prefer drawing “quite dark” art because I guess it’s me screaming out my thoughts of the things happening around me. I get anxious talking to people face-to-face. So, I end up drawing or writing down most of what’s on my mind.

It’s also my way of showing appreciation for the other side of life, which people try to ignore. Life is not always sunshine and daisies—art doesn’t always have to please everyone or just be a pretty thing to hang on the wall.

Besides, I like to experiment with a bit of shock value—it’s fun to see how people would react to things, especially my work. My artwork helps me explore the impermanence of life and the inevitable death of everything. Everything living or not has their ends, some reborn as memories, others are kept alive a bit longer in different forms. But even then, the end can’t be escaped. I try to tell my story that even though we know this truth, like everyone else, we try to escape it.

You’ve also illustrated children’s books. How did you adapt your darker style to a children’s book?

I guess it’s one of the things that counts more like a hustle than something to express my thoughts. I do enjoy storytelling through my art and love reading and drawing comics. Children’s books are not exactly comics or even the stories I have in mind, but I like drawing tales as it’s very different from the art I usually do for myself. Children’s books are usually happier and they stop me from going too deep into my darker thoughts.

Recently, I had a nice experience working on a children’s book. It was from Srijanalaya and Safu Publication featuring the work of well-known poet Durga Lal Shrestha and six different illustrators. This was a fun and nostalgic project as we worked on old rhymes that we had heard as kids. It was also a way to introduce the next generation of kids to the past and to the Newari language.

You do mostly pen and ink illustrations, along with some digital art and murals. What medium are you most comfortable with and why?

I feel most comfortable working in ink as I feel it is one of the most versatile yet easily available and cheap (for starters) mediums of art. Ink and pen are also easy to carry around and work where ever we prefer. A pen can be used with brushes or with just strokes, or in dots or just in lines. Also, I don’t feel my art is quite complete without outlines, as I feel it defines the work, and inking helps me do it.

I like the unpredictable nature ink has as each stroke is very much permanent, which reflects our life. If you make a mistake, you will have to either live with it and work with what you have, improve on it or get discouraged and give up.

As for digital art, it’s a convenient medium for me which I enjoy doing because a lot of options open up and it is the future. And murals are a great excuse to get myself out of paper or computer. It’s a way for me to actually get back to the real world, communicate with people and learn a whole bunch of new stuff.

Have you worked in collaboration with any other artists? If yes, how has that been and if no, is there anyone you would like to work with?

I have collaborated with other artists, mostly while doing murals as they are usually big projects. Collaborating helps me as an artist learn new styles through others and get to know their work process and find ways to learn.

You were recently a part of the Micro Galleries exhibition. How was that experience?

Micro Galleries was an awesome experience. I got back into doing murals after quite some time, and got to mix my love for stickers and huge artwork. I got to meet artists from different parts of the world and learn from them. I also got to explore my fears and share my work with a huge audience.

Finally, what’s next for Mrigaja?

You might find me trying to do tattoos (hopefully). Tattoos interest me, and seeing my work on a person’s skin would be really special. I am also planning to go back to doing more comic books rather the children’s books, as it is one of the storytelling mediums I enjoy and have missed doing. I am also experimenting with producing stickers or merchandise of my artwork as I feel it’s a better way for my art to reach a younger or local audience.

Published: 15-12-2018 09:35

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