Nepal: Legends

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Nepal

Namaste from Nepal.
Luciano Benetton’s global art collection Imago Mundi, uniting the diversities of our world in the name of Art, has brought me on another remarkable adventure. I’m honoured to be an ambassador of Imago Mundi’s principles and beliefs aimed to bring together nations and people from across the globe under the same roof to embrace the power of the universal language of art. This has brought me crisscrossing the world curating collections of nations and peoples in the various continents that make up the Imago Mundi profile: Namibia, Indigenous Artists of North America, Western Canada and the Inuit in Arctic Canada. This time I was off to Nepal, the magical, mystical, mythical country with its kaleidoscopic amalgamation of colours, landscapes, cultures and religions.

Mangol Putra - Global Wish (2016)

This volume aims to encapsulate the visual heritage of Nepal with this collection of 141 mini-masterpieces of Nepalese artists who follow their own individual paths of creativity interlacing between tradition and global exposure.

Erina Tamrakar - Women Power (2016)

The Imago Mundi Contemporary Artists of Nepal express topics that explore a range of old myths and spirituality, Nepali traditions, Buddhism and Hindu religions and rituals to the disastrous earthquake of 2015; from personal stories, women and clothing traditions, and condition of women in Nepali society to social justice issues, feelings of injustice, international labour migration, child labour and child marriages. Contemporary engagement with the pressing issues of climate change and the environment has succeeded in drawing out a new dimension from conventional nature or landscape painting.

Jhabindra Gurung - Portrait of my Grandfather (2016)

The Nepal Collection is a rich congregation of interior analysis of life, breath, tradition, spirituality, purification, violence, blood, destiny, symbols, sounds, experiences, ancient cultures, transformations, death, menstruation, land, human suffering, feminine concerns, and nature. The artists utilized palettes of gold, green, yellow, red and blue to capture the hues of traditional Nepali paintings, along with printmaking, sculpture, rubber, straw, collage, mixed media, paperwork and photography.

Lavkant Chaudhary - Ostracism of Identity (2016)

Nepal is an enchanting country. Exploring Nepal I was overwhelmed by the grandiose and exquisite classical architecture as well as the spectacular scenery. The fantastic architecture of Kathmandu Valley embodies the core of Nepali people’s wisdom and creativity.
The Himalayan country of Nepal has always been throughout history a mixture of cultures, dialects, and religions. Thrust into the international spotlight after political upheaval, Nepal’s contemporary
art scene is prosperous with talented artists who confidently challenge political and socio-economic issues. Though Nepal’s current economic development is facing challenges, its rich natural resources and unspoiled ecology are Nepal’s strength and true treasure.

Kiran Kumar Ranjit - Save the Nature (2016)

The traditional portrayal of Nepal is made of images of pristine mountains, historic durbar squares, thangkas (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton) and religious bronze and silver sculptures. Landscapes feature much in Nepali painting, as the beauty of the Himalaya Mountains, the ancient villages, houses, traditional culture are a mainstay in the painting repertoire of Nepali art. Hinduism and Buddhism culture in Nepal is clearly prevalent in the works of the artists who celebrate special days, festivals and rituals.

Sunil Sigdel - Myself with Metal Ants (2016)

Nepalese art is best known for its charming, spiritual aesthetic that reflects the country’s rich cultural tradition and integrates Buddhist ideology with Hindu representation. Nepal is also known for the traditional architecture of the Newari house and the Buddhist Monastery and temple squares of the cities in the Kathmandu Valley, along with unrivaled tradition in metalwork and woodcarving. A new generation of contemporary artists is now pushing boundaries of the diverse media to both oppose and enhance these stereotypes, by veering towards sociopolitical issues and improving style and technique.

Sudeep Balla - Colourful Smile (2016)

The idea of exploring unchartered territory is becoming a new trend today. In this regard, many art organizations and artists are in the process of redefining the idea of interactive hybrid interdisciplinary art in Nepal. Setting a new example, given the ancient background of the country, new artistic events and exploratory artworks push the range of creative expression, which is undoubtedly unique in the art culture of the globe. In order to go beyond borders, it is necessary to see beyond culture by understanding the essence of one’s own surroundings.

Bhairaj Maharjan - New Beginning (2016)

Contemporary art in Nepal has matured to take on its own unique and distinguishing characteristics. However, it is important to note that the concept of contemporary art appreciation in Nepal started in the 1960’s. In the last five decades, the contemporary art scene has truly flourished. Art Galleries have replaced the old patrons, new art centers, and community art groups have developed, and the market for the arts has evolved to reach a broader clientele.

Kabi Raj Lama - Danger (2016)

The Siddhartha Art Gallery, who collaborated with the Imago Mundi Collection along with the Siddhartha Arts Foundation, located in the upmarket shopping complex Baber Mahal Revisited, is an institution that seeks to be a catalyst for artistic change, committed to the enhancement and promotion of the Contemporary Arts in Nepal. It was here that I collected all the Imago Mundi works on one hectic day, taking photos of the artists with their canvases.

Pramila Bajracharya - Earthquake in our Country (2016)

The Taragaon Museum, a modern brick structure of geometric forms, that was once a meeting point for foreign researchers and artists until it reopened in 2014 as a space for documentation of Nepali’s cultural heritage, hosts dynamic events, performances and contemporary art exhibitions. A one-day extravaganza was held at the Museum exhibiting the 141 Imago Mundi canvases and students works, in an installation of dynamic interlude, giving the Nepali artists a taste of what the collection is like and what it represented.

Sheelasha Rajbhandari - Agony of the new bed... (2016)

The development of promotion and publicity for art accompanies the high standard of education. Most of the Imago Mundi artists have higher education, with a BA and Master’s Degrees in Fine Arts, attending universities in Nepal and abroad. Fine Art Education in Nepal is committed to contributing knowledge and understanding of contemporary art practices in Nepal and, simultaneously respecting and revitalizing Nepal’s rich artistic and cultural heritage.

Saurganga Darshandhari - Invisible (2016)

The contemporary art scene in Nepal has many art organizations, artist-runs spaces, artists’ communities and groups that promote and make their voices heard in the community, nationally and internationally. Championing their own institutional efforts and contributing to the expansion of the art scene are Kasthamandap Art Studio, Guthi, Bindu space for artists, Mcube (M3), ArTree Nepal, Artudio, ArtLab and Pokhara Creative Artist Group along with the historical Nepal Art Council and Nepal Academy of Fine Arts. All of these groups collaborated with enthusiasm to the Imago Mundi Nepal Collection.
These groups bring various art genres together, enhance visual culture in Nepal from the aesthetic and cultural point of view and create a close connection with the international art community. They produce art events, workshops, collaborative community efforts working with independent artists, cultural workers and arts activists primarily from Southeast Asia, but also from European organizations who occasionally sustain and support these initiatives.

Sunil Lama - Monk (Lama) (2016)

The talented artists of Imago Mundi including some senior artists, many mid-career and established artists, numerous emerging artists and a selection of graduating students, gave continuity not only to their artistic, aesthetical and experimental attempt but have also created an environment to work comfortably in groups and alone on motifs that range from the personal, highly introspective and philosophical, to social issues and cultural roots. The Imago Mundi artists are young and vital; they are dynamic and creative; they are experimental; they work on diverse forms of art both inherited by the past and learned in the many, highly qualified schools across Southeast Asia.

Binita Ghimire - Ganesh (2016)

The Nepal artists, living in the largely urban settings around Kathmandu Valley, move across the globe with increased frequency, studying, exchanging creative ideas through art camps and artist and student residencies in particular from countries such as Nepal, China, India, Japan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Australia, USA, and Europe. During these residencies, the artists develop projects, conceptualize their artwork, visit cultural spots, heritage sites and art galleries and prepare their exhibitions. This open platform to exercise their creative thinking in residencies that last from a few weeks to months gives an opportunity to expand their individuality and help them become innovative in the future. It is better to see the world as actually moving than to observe it from a fixed vantage point.
Aiming to make Kathmandu the cultural hub in South Asia, festival and events are organized to draw international artists and public who have the opportunity to benefit from a dynamic programming: events, workshops, symposia, lectures-presentations, workshops with school children and university students, master classes, outreach events, exhibitions and artists’ works. These are the well-known Photo Kathmandu, the Kathmandu Triennale (2017), Kathmandu International Art Festival and Kathmandu International Performance Art Festival.

Hitman Gurung - I have to feed myself, my family and my country (2016)

Of the 141 Imago Mundi artists in the collection, 45 women artists are present, many of which seek to reflect the daunting emotional challenges that women face to preserve their place and position in society. Influential women artists on the contemporary upcoming art scene delve into personal experiences related to their daily life and lifestyle, discussing gender and social issues. Their personal iconography is expressed using local images, icons and household utensils, video and photographic material, female imagery and form, psychological experimentation, personal transformation using decorative patterns, colourful painting techniques, and alternative materials.
All the women artists contributing to the Imago Mundi collection, are totally active, inclusive and ever more creative, in that they explore their worlds through media that include every type of technique and theme. They are thriving within the mainstream and continue to explore their gendered place in society and express this through their art practice. The co-presence of the intimate feminine self and the larger web of relations in society as well as in nature, is exciting for its implications.

Asha Dangol - Tree of Life (2016)

Artists are using various platforms to have their collective voice heard and empower themselves with technical knowledge, bridging national and international art and artists. The Internet helps to move the artists into the contemporary society with social media as the new source of promotion and the connection does wonders! The Imago Mundi Nepal Collection is a social media collection, where the artists are active on Facebook, Instagram, websites and blogs. This collection would have never come
to light without Facebook, even with the “load-shedding”, an ongoing rotating blackout, which keeps the country out of electricity sometimes for more than eight hours during which you can rely only on autonomous generators.

Sanjeet Maharjan - Tekamandu (2016)

One thing I learned is that in Nepal geography is about people.
On the afternoon of April 25, 2015, two devastating earthquakes struck Nepal, killing 9,000 people and destroying historical monuments, temples, monasteries, stupas, cultural institutions and private homes. Centuries-old buildings and temples were destroyed or damaged at the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley that I visited, including the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Patan Durbar Square, the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the Boudhanath stupa and the Swayambhunath stupa.

Manuj Babu Mishra - Myself (2016)

Artists, writers, musicians were also among those affected and in the face of this immense national devastation and tragedy, artists went into the interior of Nepal to bring relief to communities affected by the earthquake. Artist-run centers and art organizations worked with local people and children in various parts of Nepal to help people recover from the traumatic event. Artists came together to work with communities to assess the damage of the earthquake, as a response of the civil society of which the Nepali artists are a vital part. A group of artist from ArTree Nepal spent the day of the earthquake moving around Kathmandu with cameras and recorders in hand, helping those in need and documenting the devastation. Their work culminated in Nepal’s post-earthquake community art project.

Subas Tamang - Structure (2016)

Reconstruction is progressing slowly but surely. There are construction sites all over the country and wherever you go, scaffolding is omnipresent; people are working hard to reconstruct their ancient heritage. Albeit, this time with earthquake-proof rods and anti-seismic building materials, it could be difficult to keep intact the exterior of the ancient Nepali structures. In fact, many artists decided to portray the consequences of the earthquake in their Imago Mundi artworks. When this collection was developed, in the summer of 2016, one year after the earthquake, it proved that tourism was still alive and well and that the Nepalese were able to survive, move on and continue their tradition of hosting people from all over the world with the usual smile.
What a country, Nepal.
This volume of 141 works of artists from Nepal, overflowing with visions and imagination, will unquestionably leave the reader with a sense of amazement and profound respect for a nation of mantras and monasteries, snow peaks and sherpas, yaks and yetis, backstreet shrines and sublime temples, shaved heads and maroon robes that represent Nepal’s heartland.

Jennifer Karch Verzè

Sushma Shakya - Celebration of the Third Eye (2016)

Credits: Story

Art direction, photography and production
Project Management
La Biennale di Malindi Ltd.
Jennifer Karch Verzè
Assistant Curator
Christian Verzè
Project Coordination
Oriano Mabellini
Giorgia De Luca
Barbara Liverotti
Editorial Coordination
Enrico Bossan
Luciano Benetton
Jennifer Karch Verzè
Roshan Mishra
Kabi Raj Lama
Dina Bangdel
Translation and editing
Carlo Antonio Biscotto
Emma Cole
Giorgia De Luca
Valentina Granzotto
Pietro Valdatta
Sharmila Shrestha, - Aakha “The Eye”
Art direction
Namyoung An
Christian Verzè (Artists)
Marco Zanin (Artworks)
Marco Pavan

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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