29 Jan-4 Feb 2016 #793

The new normal

With the use of satire and powerful imagery, two artists turn ordinary scenes of contemporary society into extraordinary art
Seulki Lee


The only clue given about the curatorial theme of the on-going art exhibition at Siddhartha Art Gallery was an image of an empty petrol pump printed on the invitation. Curious to see what this unnamed exhibition had to offer, I paid it a visit.

On the first floor, five works by Nepali visual artist Laxman Bazra Lama depict the reality of Nepali society in a satirical way. An oil painting of seven nude figures wearing Topi on their heads (pic, above), entitled ‘World of Pregnant Men’, uses rough red brush strokes to portray the dominance of male wealth in Nepal. Lama says in his note that “the nude figure represents the shameless character of person and big belly represents the wealth.” For the artist, this type of inequality is both “a fact we hide within and live by.” 

His next piece ‘Installation’ captures 33 images of how ordinary citizens are suffering from the fuel crisis and is inspired from his own struggles with commuting across the city. The series shows the artist carrying boards reading: “Petrol is easily available”, “I don’t need cooking gas/I don’t get hungry”, or “The journey is really easy” as he commutes on the crowded rooftop of a city bus. He then catalogued fellow commuters, who agreed to pose for a photo with one of those boards – creating a powerful juxtaposition of words and feeling.

OPENING DAY: (left to right) Artists Yoan Robin and Laxman Bazra Lama with Manish Lal Shrestha and Sangeeta Thapa at the opening of AIR_MCUBE artists-in-residence exhibition at Siddhartha Art Gallery.

In good company with Lama’s earnest and poignant observations of contemporary Nepali society, Belgian artist Yoan Robin, 34, shares his reverence and engagement with Nepali craftsmanship through his work. Surrounded by the sights and sounds of wool weaving and statue engraving while living in Patan, Robin observed the daily process of the craftsmen’s creations.

Robin’s three month engagement in Patan is visualised in drawings, videos, and the animation of a woman sweeping. ‘Sweeping Waltz’ captures the daily ritual every morning and evening of women sweeping the dust out from courtyards, stairs and roads – a never-ending dance. “I shot her for the first time before the earthquake, before the cloudy dusts. She is an icon of the Nepali situation,” Robin commented on the piece.

Robin’s works are focused on capturing complex ideas and concepts. A grouping of sketches, ‘Concepts‘ represents nebulous subjects like anxiousness, mindful, instability, goal, science, movement, and obsession through abstract images. ‘Trying to make simple things, Trying to make things simple’ and ‘Collaboration with Narayan’ depict the process of creation in the relationship between the artist and the craftsmen, which evokes the question, ‘What is the process of creation and production?’  Lama and Robin are the fifth group of artists in residence since the MCUBE program began in 2014. The exhibition is their final culmination of three months of work in the MCUBE studio. The works succeed in provoking meaningful questions, from both Nepali and foreign perspectives, to all the interplaying parts that make contemporary Nepal tick.

AIR_MCUBE artists in residence fifth season

Until 30 January

Siddhartha Art Gallery