Art for all

  • Sujan Chitrakar shied away from art at first, but now he is one of the most vocal advocates for the field.
- Shreya Sharma, Kathmandu
“I think people fail to understand that success and popularity are two different things and two different goals to pursue.”

Dec 25, 2015-When it comes to development of art, Sujan Chitrakar believes talking is vital—the good and the bad. And the illustrator, painter and educator is one of the most active figures working to bring art to the masses.  


You were born in a family of artists. In what way did your upbringing shape your aspirations?

Actually, I was very adamant about not pursuing art. It was a last resort—if I failed in everything else, I would think of becoming an artist. My parents wanted me to study science and become a doctor or an engineer. I gave it a try, but a year in I realised that it was not my cup of tea. I had grown up surrounded with colours and images, paints and brushes. I guess art had become embedded within my personality and I could no longer ignore the importance it had in my life. I dropped out and joined Lalitkala to study Fine Arts and from there went to Banaras and Delhi to pursue art formally. 

It’s very funny to look back on my decision, but I am glad I chose art because, I believe, in the larger context, art is what defines us. Had I chosen a different career path, that would have caused a large disconnect with my past and heritage. However, my work helps me feel that association with the contributions my ancestors have made, and to dedicate my life to this sector and take their contribution further makes me proud.

How have you grown as an artist over the years?

Initially, my work had but one motive and that was to find my identity through art. I was egotistical and my paintings only told my story. But later I realised that, as an artist, it is crucial to be receptive of your surroundings because art is a reflection of your society and its truths. I started telling other people’s stories and expressing their emotions through my paintings emphasising on people's relationships with their environment— with other people, culture or nature. Today, art helps me get answers that I cannot otherwise find and in expressing individual and social truths, it comes as a catharsis as well. And because it comes to me as a holistic idea I like to work on the concepts rather than worrying about sticking to a particular style. 

What prompted you to teach art? How has art education changed over the years? 

Art is a subject that people have to learn from their own surroundings—forms, colours and images—because art is a medium to portray the social realities. And to do that, we have to form a close connect with our locality. One can certainly learn the techniques anywhere in the world, but the distance causes a strong dissociation in the learning process. Also, there are only so many people who can afford international art education. In an attempt to give aspiring artists in Nepal an academic foundation to build their ideas upon, KU School of Arts and Design was founded. In the beginning, we had to persuade people that art could be a viable career choice. But now parents come to us with the wish that their kids pursue art, and not science. In terms of changing perceptions, we have certainly come a long way.

How is the contemporary art scene in Nepal?

Nepali art scene has grown to become very diverse and dynamic. Art has found a way of not being limited to galleries and it is not only for elites anymore. Art is the appreciation of the things around us, and everyone, be it from whichever social stratum, is capable of that appreciation. That makes it important to bring art out of the high-end galleries to public spaces. And the new generation of artists are successfully doing that while exploring and expanding the horizons of art and encouraging honest discussions among the general public. 

Why are conversations about art necessary? 

Regardless of the role art plays in the development of human conscience, culture and society, it still remains neglected. That is mainly because we are not having enough conversations about art. In 2010, I organised a workshop, ‘Let's talk about art baby’, to incite interest in the sector. I got the idea from Salt n Pepa's song, Let's talk about sex baby. That song came at a time when there was a stigma surrounding sex and STDs with an aim of helping people open up about sex. That means that talking, be it on any subject, is essential for awareness and progress and that is why discussions about art—appreciation or criticism— is fundamental to its development.

How do you define success in art?

I think people fail to understand that success and popularity are two different things and two different goals to pursue. It is up to you to decide whether you want to define your success with the kind of work you do or with the financial gains you are looking to make, and you need to set your discipline accordingly. But in any case, it is important to be determined and constantly work to better yourself. Consistency is key. As an artist you need to be receptive of ideas, but when it comes to making a decision, you should always listen to your heart.


1974  Born...

in an artisan family surrounded with paintings and sculptures. Art played an important role in shaping his personality.


His way into art

He dropped out after a year in science with a wish to be an artist leading him to Lalitkala Campus to pursue fine arts.

2001   Art and academia

Completed his Master’s in Fine Arts from Delhi after which he came back to Nepal to try his luck as a painter. While in India, he used to paint drawing inspiration from the memories of his family.

2002 Back with a purpose

Soon after he was back, he tried his hands at illustrating. He started an illustration studio, Pen and Ink, with a friend. He also worked as a teacher at Lalitkala for a year.

2003  For the aspiring artists

In supervision of Aiden Warlow, KU School of Arts and Design was founded. He has been an educator in the institution ever since.

2015  Art to the public

He has been working to take art to the public through his involvement in workshops like Let’s Talk about Art Baby and Photo Kathmandu. 

Published: 25-12-2015 15:45

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