Nepali Times
Life Times
Moving mountains


PROPHETIC PAINTER: K G Ranjit previews his snowless Himalaya from his studio in Kathmandu.

Krishna Gopal Ranjit rifles through his closet and pulls out a canvass, on which an explosion of light radiates from its center forming a galactic soup of colour. On a second panel a maelstrom of apocalyptic proportions swallows buildings of historical and religious importance.

"Man will destroy nature," the 75-year-old landscape artist says in a frank and almost prophetic tone. The paintings constitute part of "Nature Rage," a series set to debut on World Environment Day, 5 June, at Fusion Studio in Thamel.

Kathmandu artist, noted for his naturalist depictions of the Himalaya, is heading down what he calls a "semi-abstract" direction. In a work in progress, the familiar shapes of Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu are still there but devoid of snow. The peaks are brown and grey, and tongues of flames lick the mountains from below, highlighting the ominous threat of climate change.

A work from Ranjit's upcoming series portrays nature's terrible reprisal.
Ranjit's transition from realism to abstraction evolves in parallel with the transition from capitalist consumerism to the global environmental degradation that it led to.

Early in his career, Ranjit was recognised as Nepal's preeminent commercial artist for big industry like the then Royal Nepal Airlines, for which he designed everything, from brochures and logos to hoarding boards and airplanes, all by hand.

"When we're born, the first thing we do is cry for our mothers. This is at the heart of commerce, the human relationship," he remarks half-jokingly. With no formal education, Ranjit mastered his craft out of survival, an impetus that instigated a lifetime of trial and error--a fact no more evident than in a visit to his workshop.

More laboratory than atelier, Ranjit's workspace is replete with oddities invented and fine-tuned for his own use: toothpaste tubes of acrylic coded according to hue, mini spatulas fashioned from old toothbrushes, hair dryers for blowing drops of paint across a surface and needleless syringes perfect for penning a steady flow.

But perhaps, most obscure is his use of tukis or oil lamps, a technique that would leave even sfumato painters of the European Renaissance astonished. Ranjit burns kerosene producing a stream of black smoke on top of which he swivels and turn a netted canvass. The result is a foggy portrait painted entirely with soot.

"It's hard to get a misty layer. There's a risk of producing something really dull," says Bibha Shrestha, curator at Fusion Studio. "Most people don't know about Krishna Ranjit's talent beyond his work on mountains. In fact, he's constantly challenging himself with what he can do next. Even without a standard education, his techniques are bold and confident."

Aficionados may find the eschatological theme in his upcoming series a bit exaggerated and typical of the times, but when juxtaposed with his entire canon of art, one can only appreciate his drastic shift as a beacon call to action. By his brush, hair dryer, syringe, and smoke, Ranjit draws awareness to the global environmental crisis.

"Revival," an alternating exhibition of previous works by Ranjit, shows until the opening of "Nature Rage", his new series on 5 June at Fusion Studio in Thamel.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)