If cartoonist Durga Baral's paintings disturbed you last October, wait till you see his latest pen-and-ink drawings.
The dark silence of their mutilated subjects is beyond the satire sketches that his alias Batsayan might have been associated with. On display with other works by celebrated artists at the Siddhartha Art Gallery's Celebrating Line, it completes the exhibition's outline of art history and artistry in Nepal. But with art, these drawings reflect the changing state of the state.
The collection begins with Tej Bahadur Chitrakar's Head Study of an Old Man based on his academic background in western art. Chitrakar was one of the first Nepalis to receive formal education in fine arts. His rough full-length sketch of a man and a woman done in 1924 is among the earliest known Nepali pen-and-ink works. The holes that time has burned on these works tell of the need for preservation of these sketches of history.
"We need art management in Nepal," says Ratan Kumar Rai, president of the Nepal Water Colour Society and one of the exhibiting artists. "Nepali artists have never really sat down to discuss preservation of artworks."
Drawings and sketches retain the artist's ideas in the raw form with mistakes, experiments and corrections. These drawings also record the changing perspectives of the Nepali people in the last 81 years. Uttam Nepali's drawings from the 1950s have character-driven subjects whether it is a picture of a hermit or a streetscape. This was his pre-abstract era.
Drawings from the 1980s and around the time King Birendra proposed to call Nepal a 'zone of peace' revel in the wonder and beauty of the country and its people: Jan Salter's portraits of bright-eyed ethnic people, Shankhar Raj Suwal's stylistic depictions of the Glory of Nepal and Peace and Compassion, Sharada Chitrakar's fine-lined temples before her Bungadeo series. They are a celebration of peace, nature and the joy of being.
Sashi Bikram Shah's Composition I, a beautifully detailed piece of work with butterflies begins the 1990s segment. Ujjwol Kundan Jyapoo's works picks up the thread with his 1991's The Gift, a man bestowing a child to an imperial figure. His houses and streetscapes have dizzying optical illusion-like outlines saying what you see is not what you get. The 1990s were an experimental stage for most artists, some drawing nature and others their emotions.
In the later years, Sashi Bikram Shah's terror-stricken horses and people gallop in. Manuj Babu Mishra, the artist who has confined himself to his residence for more than a decade now, marks them with his disillusioned surrealistic self-portraits. Ragini's Arrested Time series chains these together with the landmarks of Kathmandu. And Durga Baral's dark compositions of 2005 characterise the mood with sealed countenances and mutilated limbs.