Nepali Times Asian Paints
Rugs for walls


When John Allen went flying over Nepal, the texture and colours of the landscape stayed in his mind, filtering into a design that he translated on to a carpet.

This artwork of meandering rivers and rolling uneven hills woven in inspiring colours is on display at Spirit of the Place exhibition with other design experiences. John has been to Nepal nine times but this is his first exhibition here. His carpets based on Australian aboriginal beliefs are intricate and beautiful but even more fascinating is Raju Tuladhar's translation of these carpet designs into tapestries.

Raju gives John's carpet designs a new life, sometimes destroying colours or creating shades as appropriate. Taking the aboriginal base, Raju twists them at a tangent sometimes adding a hint of Nepaliness. The Dhaka background in the tapestry version of 'Lady in Black Dress with Zip' is an example of Raju's fusion creativity.

"I was a bit shocked and thrilled, his interpretations of my designs are amazing," says Allen. A first for both artists, this collaboration has encouraged them to explore more possibilities. "Even when I use somebody else's design, I revisit the idea so it looks good as a tapestry," says Raju.

Having started out with weaving Picasso's paintings into tapestry, Raju's 'Curtain' now hangs in the VIP lounge at the Tribhuban International Airport. He teaches tapestry at Kalaguthi on Mondays and Thursdays, believing that tapestries will be the next Nepali handicraft to take on the market. And his belief is not unfounded, take one look at his work and you'll know why.

The rich, finely detailed works have shades that make the tapestries, from afar, look like paintings. These shades change slowly and meditatively unlike brush strokes. "Mixing colours is a challenge because it takes a lot of careful calculation, knowing when to add the right thread and when to change," says Raju, "but it's a joy when it turns out right."

Functioning within the limitations of tapestry work, Raju experiments to find expression through detailed intricate weaving. Changing the consistency of tapestry designs found in the market, he creates techniques to skirt shortcomings adding to the feel of the design itself. The result is not just a rug, it is a work of art.

John markets his Nepal-made carpets in London but is frustrated with the static carpet designs from Nepal. "Nothing can compare to the Nepali carpet weaving skills but lack of creative designs is shutting the market. For the last 10 years, every time you scout the carpet shops in Nepal, it's always the same designs, the same colours, the same thing. Carpet industries here should hire creative designers who think outside the box."

John plans to showcase his carpet designs based on his Nepal experience in 2007 in London. Raju exports his tapestries through friends in Canada and elsewhere.

Keeping the spirit alive

Susan's Collection is a gallery in the ballroom of the historic Rana palace that is Kathmandu Guest House, Thamel. It has a rare collection of antiques, arts and crafts of Nepal, masterpieces such as the Blue Tara carved in turquoise and the crystal Swayambhu with fine engravings of silver and stones. The gallery itself is a work of art with ancient candlelight chandeliers the Ranas brought over from Belgium.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)