By Shraddha Shrestha
KATHMANDU, Feb 20 - After two years of extensive work, Ragini Upadhyay Grela has come up with 38 paintings. Her exhibition "Ragini’s Odyssey 2001" is currently on display at the Siddhartha Art Gallery, Babar Mahal.
The paintings and sketches carry a certain vagueness at first glance, especially to those who do not have an eye for art. At closer inspection, however, feel what the paintings are trying to express.
But nothing can beat Ragini’s own explanations for the paintings she is exhibiting. They unravel and verify everything on the canvas.
Her paintings proclaim the strength of women over men. For her, man is the fire and woman, water.
"I do not do art just for art’s sake, art is life for me," says Ragini.
She has made her name in national and international circles with her paintings. Her first exhibition was held in 1979 at NAFA and she has exhibited her works in Germany, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Pakistan, Taiwan and India.
Her paintings portray the current social and political status of the nation. Almost all of her paintings incorporate snakes and eyes. The snake, according to her, is the figure of desire for love, money, sex and power. And eyes are the symbol of sensitivity that prevails in every human being.
The reason for using snakes in her paintings, as she feels is that despite the garland of snake around the neck of Lord Shiva he himself is free from desire. Similarly, a snake exists within every human being, but one should possess the strength to keep this desire in check. If this desire takes over then all is not well.
In an interesting piece entitled "Musical Chair" snakes are used to illustrate the desire for the chair among politicians. Only a little bit of trickery is needed to win the chair and the game is all yours. It also symbolises the anarchy pervading the present political system.
Another painting shows the country being gnawed away at by mice with human faces. It traces the outgoing human nature and also reveals the current corruption that’s going on over our heads while we remain powerless to do anything about it.
The painting seems to symbolize the nature of a mouse present in the human being, eating away the country piece by piece.
A well-known Nepali maxim - "Bandar ko hat ma nariwal" (coconuts in the hands of monkey), is demonstrated in one of her paintings but eggs replace the coconuts. For her, eggs are the symbol of fertility and life, and need lots of care, warmth and affection to grow. In her opinion, it is the same with democracy. Proper care is needed to handle it or else major complications will ensue.
For her, goddesses Saraswati, Durga and Laxmi are the three most powerful goddesses. This portrayal is shown clearly in her art.
Women have the power and will to prove themselves but all their feelings are locked within - due to social restrictions.
"All women possess the key to open the lock of their feelings and desires. I urge women to open the lock to our divinely-gifted self. Once we do so we will come to terms with our potential," says Ragini.
Women’s repression which is locked within them is clearly portrayed by taking the beam of animals and goddesses.
She pours out her frustrations and fascinations with womanhood in her paintings.
According to her, women intermix in each and every step of happiness and sorrow of life, giving love and affection to all. This is why she ressembles water and the flow of water. As women resemble water, men resemble fire - she believes that water is more powerful than fire.
"I have tried to express social truths in my art. The exhibition illustrates the social and political situation in Nepal from an artistic point of view," says Ragini. "Women must realise that they hold the key to their own creativity and power."
More about Ragini on : www.ragini-art.com