7-13 July 2017 #866

Art in a virtual world

Self-taught digital artist Ashim Shakya received a lot of attention on social media after the earthquake and blockade for his surrealistic digital images
Sahina Shrestha

All pics: Ashim Shakya

Growing up at a time when all the answers weren’t available at the click of a button, Ashim Shakya was fascinated with physics. He used to spend days in his room dismantling radios and old televisions and putting them together again just to understand how they worked. There was no Google, so he sought answers in books about how the laws of physics governed everything from electrons to galaxies.

Before long, Shakya found science too confining. “I needed a more creative process to communicate my emotions.” After finishing school, Shakya enrolled in Sirjana Art College where he learned traditional arts, honing his skills in acrylic and oil paintings, clay modeling and perfecting his brush strokes.

He enjoyed playing with colours and textures, but the ever curious and questioning person that he was, Shakya was seeking more. He started dabbling in digital art after class on his own secretly because he was unsure about how receptive the college and his family would be. And it was when he was working as a computer teacher that he started experimenting with digital paintings.

“Digital art gave me the freedom to express my creativity and emotion in a short span of time and that is what drew me to it,” he says. It was uncharted territory, and he was rejected in various graphic designing jobs because he didn’t have a strong portfolio. “Most of them judged me on the basis of my tools rather than the content of my art.”

But instead of being disheartened, he worked on smaller projects to strengthen his portfolio and then got a job as a graphic designer, Photoshop expert and until recently an art director at the advertising agency, Thompson Nepal.

As a self-taught digital artist, Shakya has a completely original approach to his work. He brings his skills for traditional brush strokes and textures to the digital screen, making them look more like paintings on a canvas. Born and brought up in Kathmandu, Shakya uses the city as his muse, drawing inspiration from its rich history, culture, architecture and its dystopian urbanisation.

Shakya received a lot of attention on social media after the earthquake and blockade for his surrealistic digital images. Animated temples floating above a Valley shrouded in smoke and dust, fearsome manifestations of anthropomorphic gods and goddesses, Newari house facades turned into string instruments. Pressurise, the first painting in the blockade series shows the entire city burning just to cook one meal. He tries to match the colour tones with the mood of the time using dark hues, and lots of reds.

“I pour my feelings into my art, and I also try to put the hopes and fears of the people in Kathmandu into them, which probably why they have been received so well,” says Shakya who is currently busy converting his digital art into ‘hardcopy’ canvas wants to hold an exhibition. “No matter what form of art you want to pursue, having a strong foundation in traditional art is a must,” he says, "there is a lot to learn from it."

When he isn’t juggling easels with computer monitors, Shakya composes music in his bedroom which also doubles as his studio, connecting everything he has learnt in photography, calligraphy or music into composite art.

"Each element is a backbone to the other," he explains, “one needs to find the inspiration from within and not run after materialistic things.”

Read also:

An affair of the art, Stéphane Huët

Painting pictures, Tsering Dolker Gurung

Planting paintings, Smriti Basnet