Siddhartha Art Gallery’s current exhibition hosts two completely different kinds of expressions: one is introspective and seeks to express feelings, while another is a visual exploration of social change.
On the ground floor are the paintings and installations by Manish Lal Shrestha, titled ‘Shirani – The Headrest’. Frightened, scared eyes look out from white backgrounds — some heads wrapped in snakes, some protected by helmets. Obviously this head on a pillow is trying to sleep, but we see that it is unable to do so, tossed and turned by a sea of stormy thoughts.
Once you realise that Shrestha is trying to deal with the loss of his mother nearly a year ago, the paintings make sense. “They represent my spiritual inquiry. Shirani is a symbol of contentment. And through it I question pain in the relentless journey of life, and the fragmentary sense of comfort that the sense of touch provides,” Shrestha explains.
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The artist uses only black and white because colours are banned during the mourning period. However, there is a colourful button in the little silk pillows floating in the air, signifying memories of his mother. Shrestha questions traditions, wondering why our rituals are so restrictive.
Upstairs at the gallery, Bidhata KC looks at it all from the outside. Her work is all about society’s visual elements: landscape, architecture, and decorations of Mustang. Known as a centre of Nepal’s trans-Himalayan heritage, KC documents how it is all changing with modernity. Above a wall full of ancient scriptures, modern signboards jostle for space: a German Bakery here and a Yak Donald’s there. Mud walls that carry hundreds of years of history and culture are repaired in cement.
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KC’s paintings are rendered in wistful shades of yellow, reminiscent of faded old pages, or of wind-blown sand. They are reminders of a forgotten time, rapidly replaced by the glare of a globalised world.
“I am trying to show my concern for our disappearing culture and heritage,” says KC. “When I went to Mustang a few years ago, I saw that instead of a traditional parasol, a plastic pink umbrella was held over the king’s head. Our heritage is our identity, and we should preserve it even while we adapt to modernity,” KC says.
While Shrestha and KC’s internal and external worlds complement each other, a visitor can be overwhelmed with the intensity of emotion. This is one exhibition you might want to spend some time in, rather than popping in at lunch break.
Shifting Values – Expectations vs Reality & Sirani -The Headrest
Siddhartha Art Gallery
Till 24 Oct
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