An Artist’s Journey

  • Kabi Raj Lama’s exhibition heralds a new beginning for Nepali artists working in the medium of printmaking
- Sophia Pande
An Artist’s Journey

Dec 6, 2014-

In 2010, a young Nepali artist named Kabi Raj Lama decided to move to Japan to further his artistic career and study printmaking in the land that made the art of woodblock prints, and in fact, printmaking in general, famous.

Lama is a young, soft-spoken man, with clear intelligence, but as a student in Tokyo at the Mesei University Center of Art and Design, he suffered, having to work as a manual labourer in order to support his studies in printmaking. While he laboured (both in the studio and outside) he thought of the unfairness that caused an artist to have to work in kitchens and on construction sites when all his fingers wanted to do was make art.

It is these experiences that are depicted in Lama’s current exhibition aptly titled “From Tokyo to Kathmandu — Recollections in Print” at the Siddhartha Art Gallery.

The show is divided into three distinctive sections, with the ground floor making up his lithographs, which are perhaps the most figuratively inspired of the show, and perhaps also the ones with the most recognisable evidence of the artist’s intense existential frustration during his time in Japan. These lithographs are titled “Shifting Indentity”, “Anguish”, and “Seen, Heard, Spoken”; they are exceptionally striking in their ability to convey despair.

On the second floor, Lama exhibits some truly stunning virtuosity in works such as “Action Print XII”, a monotype made up of four disparate but continuous panels that depict a bold, visceral, seemingly still wet, thick, red brush of paint. In fact, these pieces are anything but careless splashes of paint. They are the result of an artist who has perfected a new but painstaking technique—that of painting directly on to the plates that lithography necessitates, made either of metal or of stone. This particular technique is one that Lama learnt in Japan, a testament of his dedication to his craft, a dedication that earned him a job as a teaching assistant, an extraordinary feat for an “outsider” in Japan.

It was during March 2011, when Lama was still in Japan that the now indelible tsunami hit Japan. The destruction, loss of life, and subsequent nuclear leak in the city of Fukushima (not too far from Tokyo) absorbed the mind of this sensitive artist who was deeply affected by the natural disaster.

When Lama decided to return to Nepal earlier this year, he walked straight into his residency at the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Center (KCAC) and during his four-month-long stint there, produced the wood-block series titled “Tsunami, I, II, III, & IV” —four large-scale prints cut on wood that are breathtaking in their austere but disciplined depictions of a tragedy that none of us can forget.

The third floor houses these prints as well as a dark chamber where you can see and touch the original wood blocks themselves, and hear the sounds of the intricate carving that this technique requires. Next to this installation is a video running on a loop of Lama speaking about his experiences.

This is an incredibly well-conceived exhibition, backed by the undeniable skills of an artist who has so very much to say. This is also an exhibition that heralds a new beginning for Nepali artists working in the medium of printmaking, an exciting prospect for all of us.

Nepali artists have made so many bold leaps forward in various mediums, solely due to their dedication and singularity of vision. They deserve to be supported, not just in terms of sales, but also in terms of viewership. The exhibition continues through December 15. I hope that some of my readers will feel compelled to go and support this rising talent in Nepali art. You will not be disappointed.

Published: 07-12-2014 09:23

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