Musings on artworks

Published On: February 3, 2019 12:30 AM NPT By: Devendra Gautam

We have no dearth of tragic events, but they have not yet formed the basis for famous works of art

Blame it all on a short memory: Yours truly has lost count of the number of masterpieces he ruined while editing news reports during his stint as a desk hand working under editors, news editors and publishers par excellence. It was indeed his good fortune that reporters, editors and publishers spared him and continued to let him make a living by spoiling what otherwise would have been great copies earning our avid pen-pushers their own stars in the firmament of Nepali English journalism. 

Imagine how many more masterpieces yours truly would have ruined if editors of repute had let him polish reports written in Nepali. I was spared that opportunity and observe with immense satisfaction how Nepali journalism is thriving.

Yours truly distinctly remembers one pertinent remark coming from a fellow journalist and teacher of Mass Communication and Journalism (MCJ), that too when he was not typically sour: Editors (read sub-editors, those mid-career journalists that reporters often despise) select wheat from the chaff and print the chaff. Looking back, deep terror strikes deeper when yours truly pays tributes to the copies he spoiled, given that every word is sacred and ‘tweaking’ the Shabdabrahma is akin to murder. What say you, readers?

Funnily, even after all this carnage, yours truly, once in a while, gets encouragement to write something about things happening in this city and the country, mostly in a language that he cannot call his own, technically. This is probably because the best minds of our times, the cream of the cream have far more important, pressing things to do in this fledgling republic.

Observing artworks  

One such opportunity to write something presented itself in the form of SC Suman’s art exhibition titled Mithila Cosmos: Songs of Innocence and Experience that started at the Siddhartha Art Gallery on January 23 with the German ambassador to Nepal giving it a formal go-ahead. 

Let me clarify here: Despite ‘tweaking’ (my deepest thanks to the editor concerned for making me realize that I was merely playing with words all along in the name of editing) for most of his working life, yours truly feels music and artwork are higher form of expression than literature, leave alone literature in a hurry, so he tries to desist from writing about works of art. For the uninitiated like yours truly, grasping the meaning of all those works of art on display at the exhibition was quite challenging. 

So, after a round of observing, the artist came to my rescue, perhaps aware of my handicap. SC Suman explained how Gandhiji’s three monkeys embedded on the Temple of Pashupatinath (later addition), created on the basis of his childhood visit of the Kathmandu Valley with his mother, had helped instill values in him. The artist fondly recalled how he had done khobar painting during the wedding of his daughter from the house of a Newar family while living on rent there and what beautiful example of cultural harmony it presented. 

Recollections of elephants passing by a Tarai forest during the artist’s college years and the present state of affairs there with plans to build an international airport, wild animals protesting against human invasion of the woods, the Swayambhunath Stupa meditating in the woods then and caught in the chaos of this day and age, disappearance of Ghats with the invasion of the concrete jungle, Dashavatars (ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) embedded on the image of the Buddha, Saraswati (Goddess of Learning), among others, made for a rich exhibition of artworks, offering art lovers a great feast for the senses.

One wonders how the artist has been able to turn out one masterpiece after another at a time when ordinaries like yours truly are struggling every day to remain sane, in these troubling times. 

It is a priceless exhibition but with price tags. Nonetheless, these tags should not deter the public from visiting the exhibition and savoring all those wonderful creations. 

Surely, these works of art deserve to be infamous museums, your living room, boardrooms of companies worth their name. They can—and should—secure a place in your heart, for art dies otherwise. 

Arts yet to be created 

In these pages, I have written earlier how great artists have turned civil wars, prolonged political unrest and natural disasters into great works of art. One shining example is Picasso’s Guernica, which is based on the Spanish civil war. We have no dearth of tragic events (let such tragedies never occur again), but they have not yet formed the basis for famous works of art. This is perhaps because nothing shocks us, thanks to a prolonged phase of political instability, internecine conflict and bloodletting. Hope there will come a time when we will be able to live peacefully in this abode of peace and our artists will be able to create great artworks based on those events, for then only will we be able to realize what normalcy is. 

There was no way yours truly could recognize a small galaxy of art lovers, who were there when yours truly was there, except for the artist Suman, director/curator of the gallery Sangeeta Thapa and noted writer and columnist Dhirendra Premarshi (remember his humorous, satirical pieces?). Yours truly apologizes to the art connoisseurs from the bottom of his heart for this omission.

In the end, thanks for the coffee and munchies, thanks for a feast for the senses.  Thanks to Siddhartha Art Gallery, especially director/curator Sangeeta Thapa and all art lovers, who are pouring in at the art exhibition. We need more of such exhibitions to heal and lead a normal life, especially in these stressful times.  

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