10-16 April 2015 #753

Born an artist

Nepal Art Council displays Birendra Pratap Singh’s artworks created between 1971 and 2015
Stéphane Huët

Most art lovers in Nepal will have heard of artist Birendra Pratab Singh’s famous quote: “I feel I was already ready to paint when I was born.” Singh who started painting from the age of eight is one of the most respected names in the Nepali art scenario.

Nepal Art Council (NAC) is currently exhibiting about 300 of Singh’s artworks created between 1971 and 2015. Curated by Sangeeta Thapa and will be on display till 26 April. This retrospective features drawings, etchings and paintings, representing Singh’s artistic evolution.

The mediums and the styles might have changed over the years, but Singh points out the common denominator in his work: “All my pieces are dedicated to the environment.”

In his colourful artwork, where reference to nature is more obvious, man-made monstrosities is also omnipresent. “That’s my way to depict man’s influence on our environmental degradation,” Singh explains.

At the beginning of his career, Singh made several spot drawings of the crumbling architecture he witnessed in the Kathmandu Valley. “In a way, my sketches were an attempt to restore these buildings in my head,” he says. Showing his most recent series of paintings made during a nine-year retreat in Dhulikhel, Singh remarked that he created that set of artwork differently. “I didn’t plan the paintings before my paintbrush touched the lokta paper,” he explains.

Singh may seem very spontaneous, but he is also very meticulous at revealing the detailed precisions in his sketches. “Whenever a painting or a sketch is not good, I just tear the paper and restart from the beginning,” he adds.

Through this retrospective at NAC, we navigate in time and style into Singh’s prolific career. “This is only 30% of my life,” says the artist who has never stopped working since he graduated from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) in 1979.

On the timeline summarising his career at the exhibition, there is a gap between 1997 and 2004. During this period, Singh was contributing illustrations to four Kathmandu publications.

In his curator’s statement, Sujan Chitrakar recalls that Nepali artists met ‘considerable challenges’ developing modern Nepali art. But Singh feels they still remain today.

Nonetheless, Singh says this exhibition has helped him gain recognition. “After seeing my work here at NAC, my family realised I’ve done something in my life,” he says.

However this exhibition is not an ending for the artist. He is already planning to go to Helambu to finish working on a series of 38 paintings of the Buddha.

In retrospective

Till 26 April,

Nepal Art Council Gallery, Babar Mahal,



Read also:

Nepal art special

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Nostalgic for the future, Stéphane Huët

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