Nepali Times
Different strokes


On a cold winter day, sadhus at Pashupati wrapped in ragged gundris sit beside a dying fire and watch the funeral pyres. Somewhere in Patan, the god of compassion rato machhendra is splashed with red vermilion and clothed in rich red before being taken out on a chariot. Meanwhile, the five Bodhisattva-the five different forms of the Buddha-enshrined in countless alleyways and bahals spread around the Valley glimmer in the twilight as a couple prepares to tie the knot in a temple.

These are the cityscapes 51-year-old artist Roy Breimon walks through, observing keenly. He then retreats and recreates them with brushstrokes and acrylic on Plexiglas. Breimon uses an unusual technique called reverse painting. Breimon applies many layers of colours mixed with bronze and gold powder, so his work has a rich metallic lustre.

"I am very impressed by the intensity of the colours of life here. The basic colours people have incorporated in their culture and lifestyle are intriguing," says the peripatetic artist who, in between his extensive travels, spends a few months in his native United States and in Prague, where he is based. "Kathmandu for me is vibrant colours-red, green, yellow," he says by way of explaining the almost primordial quality of some of the paintings. Like the one called Tara, for instance-a thin stem-like yellow line leads from the base to form a slim neck which opens up to an almost rectangular face painted in pure lemon yellow with bluish-white eyes, all against a black backdrop. It seems that here, vigorous life is coming into being from pure emptiness, infinite space.

But Breiman's are not all metaphysical ponderings, removed from the people around us everyday. Because he is out there, watching the faces that watch others and recreating them in The Guardians, gazing at the visitor. There are faces that are giving, (the different Buddhas) and those that appear like caretakers (Pujari). "I try and unveil the mask that every human carries. I observe faces wherever I go. Faces are my subjects," says Breiman of his unique perspective on human visages. He dims them or exaggerates them to reflect the influence their surroundings have on them.

Occasionally, this requires a departure from rich, deep colours. "I like white. It is very pure," he admits. In the collection of 31 paintings currently on show at the Indigo Art Gallery, there are colours ranging from the very dark shades in Mahadev to life-giving, sparkling tints in The Guardians. And, that is at the core of what one takes away from the show: the colours Breiman uses together with his lines delineate figures, particularly, in Ishwar, Kwa Bahal Pilgrims and Devotees that are unforgettable. If, after viewing the show, you shut your eyes, the colours and forms are imprinted, as Nabokov's Humbert said of his muse, on the inside of your eyelids. Almost like a laser show projected against the night sky. "I consider the projection of every innermost feeling, even death, as pure beauty," he says.
Breiman has been working exclusively with reverse image painting since 1981. Basically, the image is first painted on to the back of the Plexiglas, and worked from the foreground to the background to enhance depth and texture. The spluttering of colours in Faces of Shakti gives a dynamism to the texture, while the undulating lines in Naga and the geometric patterns in Yantra Deity display well the flexibility one has in stroke-making in reverse paintings.

Breiman, also a theatre, ballet and opera set designer, studied art as a fifteen-year-old at the University of Mexico in Satillo and had his first major exhibition in Washington DC in 1976. He has had numerous exhibitions including in Berlin, Los Angeles, Miami, Barcelona, and Washington DC. This is his second exhibition in Nepal. When asked what makes him paint Kathmandu's faces the way he does, he says: "I like people who are really devoted to what they believe in. I don't like obsessive and intolerant people. And that is the trait I have followed all these years to bring about these works of art." And it shows.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)