Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Gai Jatra on canvases

KATHMANDU, Aug 26: Ragini Upadhyay Grela might have had controversies surrounding her after her resignation from the Nepal Art Academy. However, the sassy painter does not seem to be bothered as she continues to do what she does best.

Gai Jatra, her latest art series currently on display at the Siddhartha Art Gallery at Baber Maha Revisited is undeniably an interesting series to go through. Coinciding with this year’s Gai Jatra day, the series fully follows the ethos of the festival.

Her paintings parody the current political fiasco and the power-hungry politicians of Nepal. About the series, Sangeeta Thapa, curator of the gallery, rightly puts in, “Ragini’s Gai Jatra is a witty and vibrant exhibition that captures the farce of the ongoing socio-political situation in Nepal.”

The Gai (cow) symbolizing Nepal as the enduring mother nation, but beset by lions with snake-like tongues and tails, symbolizing the so-called rulers of the nation and the Goddess Kumari, temples and chaityas symbolizing the cultural dignity of our country make up most of her paintings.

She continues to use many flying or suspended images, and with the additional sense of Gai Jatra, her subjects are even more topsy-turvy than usual. There are tons of symbolic images on a single canvas, and that is what keeps you pulled in.

In one of her paintings entitled “Divided Nepal,” the beasts or lions clawing on a cow shred her to pieces as the eyes of Kumari watch in distress. In another, while the beast donning a bhadgaunle topi (hat) leaps greedily onto a chair, the cow stares at it, all powerless. Dismantled traffic lights, electric wires, dysfunctional bulbs, cows milked excessively till they bleed, and alarming temple bells are some repeatedly used themes and images in her paintings.

For colors, Ragini sticks to bright yellow, pink, green, red and white, keeping in tune with the festive spirit of Gai Jatra. Cows are also ornamented likewise in the festival. However, the painter says it reminds her of “how politicians use the name of public in their speeches in very ornamented and different ways for the sake of public support, but they aren’t even concerned about what the public wants.”

Though filled with symbolism, the viewers will easily be able to relate and empathize with Ragini’s paintings.

“I see Nepal in a permanent Gai Jatra situation,” says Ragini about the unending political feuds and chaotic situation in the country. And for the awareness of all this, she has echoed her wake-up call through her symbolic images in the paintings.

Ragini’s Gai Jatra works will be on display at the said venue till September 20, and for a Gai Jatra fun, this artistic parody is not to be missed out on.

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