Saturday, April 6, 2013

Some photos from Berlin exhibition 2013

A great set of pictures

The weather was - - too cold me ....but inside the Studio Am Schloss , Berlin was warm with a glass of wine, meetings friends from Stuttgart , Sweden , Art Lover's even the gallery was small ...its became more interesting when Dr. Thomas Labahn and Nepalese Ambassador for Germany Mr. Suresh P. Pradhan and Nepalese friends Arrive ....

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Speaking for rivers and trees in paintings

Ragini Upadhyay Grela’s current exhibition, “Nature Speaks,” at Solace International Designs in Lazimpat, Kathmandu, sets the stage for other ongoing and upcoming art events in the second half of 2012.

Alliance Francaise kicked off its six-month event, “Planet Nepal: Festival of Arts and Environment” on June 5, while Siddhartha Arts Foundation will be hosting the second Kathmandu International Art Festival titled “Earth│Body│Mind” in November end.

What they all have in common is the underlying environmental messages which are being and will be conveyed through works of art.

While the two Festivals will have a large number of artists participating, Ragini goes solo in her initiative to highlight the 21st century’s environmental woes, with a total of 51 acrylic and watercolor paintings.

“I can’t help but feel the anger of Nature…She is giving back to us what we have given Her,” states Grela about her latest series in which she interprets nature’s distress as humans dirty rivers, cut down trees and pollute the air.

Although different in terms of subject matter from her usual paintings and prints, which are laden with political commentaries, Grela maintains her bold satirical approach in Nature Speaks. More importantly, she uses a recurring form in her works to symbolize nature – a goddess.

“Clean Us” (acrylic on canvas) depicts a goddess swimming in a river and picking up garbage, with white gloves and socks on. But interestingly, the rest of her body remains unclothed. The goddess holds a bottle in one hand, as the other hand tries to reach out to some floating fruits that were probably offered to her by her devotees.

“Ragini challenges her fellow Hindus who worship the rivers with one hand and pollute it with the other,” comments Michelle Winston, the Director of Solace International Designs, who has been friends with Ragini for years now.

In “Suffocating Bishnumati River,” Grela creates a sweeping motion for water, again personified by a goddess. On one hand, it appears like she is gushing down with great force from the mountains, and on the other hand, the goddess could be attempting to flee the chaos within her. The watercolor painting gives us only a small glimpse of the state of our rivers. What we see for ourselves in reality when we walk or drive along the banks of Bishnumati River or Bagmati is much worse.

Rivers asides, trees also appear in the form of deities and humans. The sacred tree of Tulsi is embodied by a woman dressed in pants and a vest. She stands on her pedestal holding an umbrella and a computer mouse. A single leaf springs out of a cord, a motif that recurs in the series.

These paintings with mutli-armed Tulsi takes us back to her works in the series ‘Love in the Air’ from 2008 where keyboards, computer monitors and cell phones had replaced the traditional iconography of Hindu goddesses.

The clash between modernization and religious values continues to be a major theme of her works, and she aptly makes references to it again, in Nature Speaks.

Majority of the colors in Grela’s paintings aren’t particularly pleasing to look at. Dark browns, grays and greens blend and flow into each other, especially in the watercolor works, to create muddy combinations – almost like the colors themselves are polluted.

The whole series has an eerie undertone with its subdued colors which are not visually attractive, yet serves the purpose of the issue at hand.

Adding to this eeriness are images of anthropomorphized trees with frail and disjoint limbs, clad in shoes and socks yet naked and vulnerable, oversized heads and snakelike eyes with titles such as ‘Protect Our Future,’ ‘Dream for You,’ and ‘Afflicted Avatar.’

Be it anger, pain or suffering, the emotions that Grela conveys of nature, as it speaks to her, come across as disturbing and grim – relevant to the real prevalent situations in Nepal.

“Nature Speaks” will be on show at Solace International Designs on Radisson Hotel Road, Lazimpat, until June 18, 2012. Gallery hours are from 11 am to 7 pm; closed on Saturdays.

Burathoki is the contributing Arts Editor for The Week.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Living Gods And Goddesses In Climate Change

My latest series NATURE SPEAKS is inspired by Nature's suffering and devastation. Cutting trees, dumping waste in river and sea, polluting the air endlessly with our cars all for the sake of human comfort cannot continue without consequences. Climate change is Nature's response and the result is in the violence of earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes etc. I can't help but feel the anger of Nature when I see proof of these devastating events as if She is giving back to us what we have given Her.
The present climate change is the result of our negligence and ignorance toward Nature. When I am close to a river, sea or forest I try to understand their unspoken language and feelings. They speak to me of pain, suffering, unbalance, injustice and worries for the future. My paintings are a translation of the woes of Nature.
As humans we think only of our needs as valuable but truly we are forgetting how dependent we are on the light of the sun, water of the glacier and oxygen released by plants. We should remember how dependent we are on Nature for our lives. As we respect our lives we should respect the cycles of Nature. I have made the great forces and forms of Nature resemble humans as well as Gods and Goddesses in Hindu mythology in a quest to illustrate our need to think of Nature as God Herself. Here I question the Hindus who profess to worship the river Ganga and Bagmati as most sacred while polluting them with foul smelling human waste. How can a Hindu worship a Pipai tree with thread and incense believing in the God in the branches while cutting and choking other trees? My work illustrates that Nature is God both male and female dressed in our shoes and socks for protection which they need as our human bodies need.

Explanation About Few Works
My Parijat tree, symbol of love in female form, is pregnant which whose the dream of a tree for her future as a woman!
My River Goddess is unhappy because the water is so polluted that she must wear gloves, the fish are running away from the dirty water, and she is forced to clear out the rubbish. She is show sweating and furious arriving from the high mountain glacier.
My Monkey God, Hanuman, has lost his forest of Sanjivini.
The Air God is angry as he pushes down the old car belching black smoke. His fury shows as a bird dies in his hand choked by pollution. The forest of trees disappears as the forest of tyres touches the sky.
My Buddha wears socks in order to protect Nature and Peace in the world.
All my tulsi, medicinal plant, are in modern dress to show the importance of tulsi even in the 21St century !
Ganesh (the elephant god) with grass (duboo) Lord Shiva with Bel patra (tree) Lotus with Goddess Laxmi show the connection between GOD and NATURE which also show the importance of nature.
Umbrellas, socks, shoes are used here as symbol for protection that they all need today.
It is our duty to protect and love Nature with space and respect. It is in our own interest because if Nature dies we all die.
Remember that if we ruin Nature She will find a way to continue but we may not.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Live and let live

KATHMANDU: Nature is the supreme manifestation of power that exists on earth and the Hindus regard natural resources like river, plants, Sun and more as various forms of divine gods and goddess. However, due to the selfish wants of human, the environment is degraded everyday creating an adverse effect on the natural surroundings and the human themselves.

Artist Ragini Upadhyay-Grela’s new exhibition ‘Nature Speaks’ delves into this very topic. The exhibition on at the Blue Note Cafe, Lazimpat began from May 19.

In ‘Tulsi in Modern Time’ piece, she has created a white background where the Tulsi is personified as a Hindu Goddess. Goddess Tulsi is coloured green dressed in a modern attire like jeans pants and a tee-shirt, with six hands and carrying six different items like mobile, leaf, flower, diyo, vessel and rock and sitting on a stand light brown and white in colour, which is usually used for keeping Tulsi for worshipping. In the piece, Grela has portrayed that Tulsi had medicinal values in ancient times and still has, hence the modern attire.

Grela shares, “Tulsi is known for its medicinal value from the ancient period and my Tulsi is wearing a modern dress to show the importance of its medicinal value even in the 21st century.”

The formation of structures while personifying the natural objects are interesting and can strike one’s mind and convince the viewer that nature needs protection. But her works also suggest that nature will find a way to continue, but humans may not.

The human touch given to the nature’s works with arms and legs look unusual but with Grela’s bent of artistic imagination they have an elegence of their own. One cannot help but appreciate the flow in the work.

Her works in this exhibition has nature’s motifs of basil plant, peepal tree, banyan tree, night jasmine, rivers and air all personified and symbolised like various deities like Vishnu, Krishna, Buddha, Kumari, and more. She has given modern attires to some of the personified forms of nature, whereas some female personifications are portrayed nude. According to Grela, all natural things are personified and attired in modern clothes as they are also seeking protection as humans who also wear clothes for protection.

Grela has used watercolour and acrylic on canvas where colours like green, blue, white, brown, red, yellow and more dominate her painting.

Ten per cent of the sales of her painting will be donated to the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation.

The exhibition will continue till June 18.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Contemporising a goddess

Archana Thapa

FEB 18 2011

A news item in Kantipur on Feb. 13 attracted my attention. The news was about an objection from the Forum for Hindu Awakening, a US-based religious organisation, to Nepali artist Ragini Upadhaya Grela's painting depicting the Hindu goddess Saraswati. According to the news, the Forum asked Ragini to take the painting off her website. The report reminded me of the same painting that I photographed during the opening of Ragini's exhibit Love in the Air in February 2009. I was particularly fascinated by that particular piece because Ragini's Saraswati did not represent the traditional, iconic image of the goddess; instead it re-imagined the traditional image in the context of contemporary life. Most of the artwork in the exhibition dealt with the theme of an increasingly integrated global world order—a liberal utopian world where, despite cultural and geographical differences, love was a possibility. Most of the works reflected mixed images of god and political leaders. Others showed modern gadgets and cupids flying over world-famous monuments. In addition to the theme of love, some of her work represented serious concerns over the failings of national politics.

Particularly striking were the works in which the artist self-incarnated into the mythical matriarchal figures of powerful goddesses like Saraswati and Durga, seemingly concerned over the failing political scenario in post-conflict Nepal. Love did seem to be in the air as political parties had finally reached an agreement on rewriting the constitution; however, all was not well. Ragini's artwork represented the troubled national psyche in the land of temples where gods and goddesses reside. In the painting that is now stirring a controversy, Ragini projects herself as a modern Saraswati riding her vahan—a white swan—holding mystical weapons as well as a keyboard, a computer display and a cell phone. Such a representation of the goddess of knowledge, synthesising modern and traditional imagery, generated new perspectives from which to understand new forms of knowledge. In other words, Saraswati received a makeover for the techno-age.

There were other works where devotional iconographies of Saraswati and Durga were re-imagined in modern, mortal forms and woven within the post-conflict political framework which, to me, looked appealing and appropriate for the moment. Her works were conscripted within a specific political background and overlaid with new religious imaginations. The deity in a new form looked in no way offensive or demeaning. Rather, such a portrayal allowed a new critical perspective to emerge. What is the reason behind the current controversy then? Is it because the iconic representation does not represent the goddess in her traditional form? Or is the modified representation sacrilege?

Disagreeing to assent to the rigidity of traditional iconography, the artist constructed an altered image of a contemporary Saraswati. By reinterpreting the conventions of religious iconography, she explored the possibilities of re-imagining the traditional image into new, agreeable forms. Gyatri Spivak, an art critic, argues that if we can learn fixed meanings for terms through the processes of ideological interpellation, we can also 'unlearn' those meanings by questioning their fixity. In this case, self-representation of the artist as Saraswati can be seen as an example of such 'unlearning'. Her self-incarnated divine image challenges fixed knowledge-centres and re-locates them to keyboards that anyone can access. On another level, maybe Ragini was 'unlearning' the traditional cultic imagery of the goddess of knowledge and re-imagining a goddess in every mortal human being, including herself. As I see it, the painting is not only liberal and religious, but also very political because it captures the mood of historic times when the power of mortals forced a supposed incarnation of Vishnu to step down. In addition, the embodiment of the artist in devotional iconic features, combined with material goods such as computers and a cell phone, in my understanding, was an effort to bring divinity and humanity closer in an age of modernity. The artist used free play of signifiers—both divine and mundane—to reconstruct divinity in a contemporary form. Combination of the half-human and half-divine figure demystified the beliefs and religious rigidities that have remained resistant to change, even when the nation has been undergoing multiple changes.

Benedict Anderson argues in his book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism that "print capitalism" has unleashed the new power of technology on the world, and the revolution of mass media has helped create new cultural affinities and national borders. While Ragini's exhibition was similarly concerned with the technological aspects of globalisation, it simultaneously pointed to the blurring of national and religious borders because of technology. Her paintings also imagine newer religious and mythical forms to redefine cultural meanings in Nepal's post-conflict period. Instead of reproducing religious icons mechanically, she tried to fill in elements of its presence in time and space. She merely revised the political and divine 'aura' of the period and used her artistic imagination to create new, emergent forms in the age of mechanical reproduction. People need to understand that the image that caused the current controversy is not merely meant to be a simple reproduction of the religious icon.

I have come to believe that we can form as many religious fraternity groups as we want, but if doctrinaire religious views are not redefined, no group will lead anyone anywhere. In times of virtual reality, when cultic-gods are being replaced by techno-gods, when some spiritual babas have formed political parties and have crusaded against political corruption while other babas have acquired a new taste for hi-fi commercial commodities like Rolex watches and fancy communicative gadgets, why can't an iconic god or goddess take on a new, agreeable makeover? Knowledge is never stagnant; it is a stream of fresh and free thoughts that flows across the horizon of our daily experiences. Religious knowledge can only survive if it redefines itself into pragmatic moralism, rooted in humanitarian values and causes. Unless we redefine and rewrite

rigid theological metaphysical beliefs, those beliefs will never reach new heights. Chained, domesticated religious interpretations and rigid theological dogmas will eventually lose religious credentials.

Ragini's painting is about more than the religious aspect—it has successfully blended contextual political concerns and religious concerns in an alternative humanitarian form that de-constitutes and situates (but never rejects) the essence of religious imagination.

Published in Kathmandu Post

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Art Attack by Abhi Subedi

As always Abhi Subedi provides very fine words for my paintings.

Art Attack

A unique visual of Nepali politics is on display at Siddhartha Art Gallery in Kathmandu. This is an exhibition of paintings executed by the well-known mature artist Ragini Upadhyay Grela. She has used oil, drawings and intaglio in her works. One afternoon, I visited the gallery to see her paintings mainly executed round the theme of current Nepali politics. The occasion was Gaijatra, literally translated as cow festival, which is a famous Newar festival. This day triggers ambivalent impulses of fun and sadness. Fun is associated with sadness because Pratap Malla’s queen, inconsolable after the death of their son, had laughed at seeing the fun and frolic created on this occasion. According to historians, the originary of this festival can be traced from much earlier times. However, the dead become the motif of the festival on this day. A combination of street performativity and memory of the dead constitute the uniqueness of this culture.

But when I met this artist fluently interpreting her entire art to show the weakness of Nepali politics and politicians, I became very pensive. I have done art criticism since 1971; and as a theatre person, I have used the wisdom, semiotics and symbolism of this festival for my plays as well as for my book on the history of Nepali theatre. But what struck me here was the sheer politics—the burlesque and the anti-climactic moments of Nepali politics created in art form. I know Nepali politics is not the sublime; it is not the only subject of discussion among Nepali artists and writers. But to see this Nepali artist with an international reputation dwelling passionately on the current absurdities that she sees in Nepali politics is a subject of tremendous significance. It raises questions of the following nature.

Has the current political imbroglio so completely dominated Nepali artists’ imaginaire as in this exhibition? Has Nepali art always been so responsive to the political consequences of current Nepali history? Why did the artist become so sensitive to the present state of stalemate in negotiations among the parties? I have heard about the bravado of artists and some writers about the political changes and being sensitive to the events in the past years. Some have used the often-repeated stories of their involvement in creating history as artists. But what is never seen is the picture of Nepali history when it was embroiled in the 10-year war.

No artist has significantly made any paintings on the fate of those who have lost their lives, lost their properties and become victims of war and homeless. We tried to talk to war victims from different places in the country for theatre. Their stories were heart-rending, but performing the same was not possible because the people who would be linked to the events would not allow the show to go ahead in their areas.

To artists and writers, that sombre history mostly remained invisible. Of course, some good works have been written. Semioticists found the impact, the devastation and the faces of the victims and their plight photogenic. Important and sleek volumes have been published; exhibitions have been held in different parts of the country. It is easy to do photographic works and media dissemination of the same. But to execute a similar number of paintings or sculpt works on the gory themes and disseminate the same is not possible for painters and artists.

Poets have been going to different places and reading their symbolic poems. Plays have been taken to villages and performed by good theatre artists. But for artists, it is not easy to take their works and exhibit them in different places. The question why comes up. The answer is that artists cannot execute paintings as easily in different situations as media people can manage it.

Artist Durga Baral made strong paintings about the war and cartoons of the cow metaphor; several young artists too have executed paintings about the war and its consequences. But of necessity, they had to choose galleries to exhibit them. Very few people go to see the paintings.

But Ragini’s intaglios and drawings have drawn so much attention recently in the capital. Her fluent interpretation of her figures did not make me feel happy. I quietly wanted to see her exquisite works on my own. She is a very talented artist. Her lines are amazing. She draws lines without using erasers or pencils. In her intaglio, her combination of colours is powerful and charming. Her print works are very fine; she can give an expressionistic mode to her print works. Many artists who use her medium have ended up in the twilight zone of decorative and expressive art. But Ragini has transcended that. She has exhibited her works in Europe, India and Nepal. She is one of the few Nepali artists who sell their works at good prices. In this exhibition, I found her drawings very interesting and powerful. Though it takes her less time to execute them, they impressed me, I must confess, more than her much hyped intaglio cow figures and figurines in some cases.

Ragini’s cow images are amazingly beautiful despite the burden of the bizarre theme she attributes to them. Her cows are dismembered. Some of them are in the belly of the lion that has devoured her. They yield not milk but explosives; people are exploiting her. The cow is people, suavity and the country. Lions are cheats. People are dishonest. But it is a different experience to see these bizarre figures. They do not frighten the viewers. The cows, even in their precariously imposed symbolism by the artist, give the impression of folktales and fables.

But what I find difficult and also feel intrigued about is the combination of fables and fabulation. Ragini like a Christian artist valorising a Christian theme is projecting the Hindu holy-cowism in her works. That could be a limitation; but for Hindu viewers and others who know the culture, that is a natural symbolism. But the paintings and the rhetoric of the artist exaggerate the so-called evil of politics. Valorising the holiness of the cow and feudal Hindu values, abusing the democratic system of government and the present state of political awareness, and ignoring the multiple openings of consciousness is not a progressive concept in art.

A cow’s body parts are falling off. The artist and the media said that this was the dissolution of the country’s body under a federal structure. The news spread; and I was told that Chitra Bahadur K.C., an anti-federalist communist leader, was going to speak on it at the gallery. That would perhaps be K.C.’s first painting encounter in life. But he would speak about his usual politics, not about art.

Ragini is a very good artist; she is a good friend. I will tell her what I feel about her work. But I would like to warn the politicians of this country that their reputation is plummeting; and very soon it will go down in people’s psyche through art, songs, poems, stories and folklore. Better change your ways and write the constitution before you are given permanent places of tricksters in paintings and folktales. Remember, the people’s patience with your politics is running out.

Abhi Subedi
Originally posted on: 2010-09-01 08:37

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Love Bells a remake

Albert got a new version of his morphing software and had to experiment it with the Love Bells. It comes quite nice.

You could also look at his other videos on Youtube - just search bubur5


Buddha series a new video

Back in 2002 I introduced the Buddha series with these words :

"A sun never dies, Buddha lights and Truth shines

Since the beginning of time the sun never died so is the real and authentic Truth, it lasts generation after generation despite the oppression, the violence or any obscurantism.

The Truth is wisdom and has to be nurtured day after day.

The world during the last 15 months seems to me to have forgotten the path to Truth and wisdom. Very close to us in Nepal, the 1st of June royal massacre has instilled a lasting sorrow and a desperate thirst for genuine Truth. Across the oceans, the unthinkable terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York has given us apocalyptic images that are going to be replayed for some generations as a proof of the extreme vulnerability of modern societies in face of fanaticisms. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan was an other blow to the fundamentals of humanity and culture. It was an act of arrogant ignorance and total disrespect for the world cultural heritage.

I am still completely puzzled by the magnitude and the depth of such violence , arrogance and disrespect for Life. Are these people putting themselves in the place of Gods. Are they the precursors of KALKIN, the forthcoming reincarnation of Vishnu, supposed to destroy the whole Creation ?

Life is already so short when it comes to build knowledge and wisdom. It is already so tedious the know something in this existence, how can so many work to so much destruction and hate ?

In this confusion, I felt very healed by the peaceful images of Buddha and I felt compelled to emulate the long succession of artists who found in Buddha a profound source of inspiration and a strong desire to propagate his shining message of compassion, peace and tolerance.

So here are my Buddhas, very afflicted by the catastrophes plaguing the humanity , torn apart in some pictures but delivering tirelessly their injunction to meditation, self-control, peace and compassion.

May peace prevail. "

Today Albert gives a new lease of life to this very nice series of colographs

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dusting off an old article - Ragini's political stand 1995

From Maurice O’Riordan
Asian Art News – August 1995

Myth and politics have always been a strong and inextricable themes in the artistic career of Ragini Upadhayay-Grela, one of the few fully professional artists working in Nepal today. The title, The Myth of Politics, for her most recent exhibition of 21 paintings was borrowed from an American academic who interviewed her for a thesis on women in South Asian political life It is from this that Upadhayay-­Grela explores the joining of power and human destiny. At a more local and contemporary level it also portrayed elections in Nepal (in November 1994) which saw the collapse of the ruling Congress Party and the installation of the Communist Party Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPNUML) minority government.

One work which stands out in contrast to the turbulence is Let Them Bark. I Go My Own Way, dedicated to her late father and a center piece to the show. This rather proud and defiant title could easily serve as a motto for Upadhayay-­Grela's artistic career. The I of the painting is an impressive elephant lyrically depicted in motion and profiled with several heads at either end. Inside the elephant Upadhayay-­Grela has suggested a landscape with angular distant mountain peaks and spiraling water. In the foreground is a consistent symbol in her work, poetic birds in flight or contemplation. Encroaching upon the elephant (but no match for its serene and steady course) are the multitude of hounds suitably cruel and ferocious looking but obviously more bark than bite. These hounds also border the top of the painting and fulfill the failure of their futile menacing by appearing to chase their own tails.

The timelessness to which Queen refers in The Mytb of Politics relates not only to human politics but also to rudimentary forms, subtle layering of hand prints and color absorption into the handmade paper which evoke the aura and vitality of ancient rock art. It would be wrong, however, to think that Upadhayay-Grela's paintings only offer a 'bemused' response to political life. The symbols in her narrative reveal a far more profound and poetic investigation. Game of Blood, for example, makes no pretense about the brutal culture of politics while drawing upon a uniquely Nepalese blood-lust context with the Kumari, Khukuri, and goat.

The Myth of Politics sheds some light on issues raised in a recent overview of contemporary art in Nepal (Asian Art News, Volume 4, Number 5, September/October 1994). Politics is integral part of Nepali life which in some way accounts for Upadhayay-Grela's choice of theme, as her artistic intention has always been to produce socially meaningful and relevant work. Among the obstacles facing Nepal's contemporary art community the most prevalent are a lack of exposure and exchange. Upadhayay-Grela's enormous body of work builds effectively on the Nepali traditions and techniques with a universality and individuality that exposes the limitations of national or contemporary classifications.

In terms of exposure and exchange, Upadhayay-Grela's career echoes the path of the more successful Nepalese artists with initial fine arts training abroad (India) and participation in a number of international workshops, residencies, and exhibitions. Being part of a more global contemporary art scene has no doubt given the humanism of her work greater scope, opening it up to varying modes of expression and more sophisticated media, particularly in terms of printmaking. With The Mytb of Politics, Upadhayay-Grela shows that, although she is an artist in constant quest of new ways and forms of expression, she remains true to the symbols and subject matter which are close to the heart of her Nepalese cultural heritage.

In Election 94, Upadhayay-Grela built upon the imagery used by the two elections rivals: the Tree for the Congress Party and the Sun for the CPU‑UML, as well as party flags and political slogans. Throughout Nepal one finds a proliferation of these two key symbols vying for public wall space. Ragini did not hesitate to explain that the prominent tree with its attendant mermaid-goat on the left hand side of Election 94 was a direct copy of an ancient Nepalese folk symbol. For Upadhayay-Grela the appeal of such symbols lies in their potent contemporary and ancient duality and this is arguably the overall strength and effect of the exhibition. A central motif in Election 94 and another, the ten headed human form based on the ten fold incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu, complete with the prosaic addition of sunglasses and umbrella represent the duality of the political climate perhaps, with the Communist Sun, for the time being, victorious above.

The Mytb of Politics was met with a number of enthusiastic reviews in the local press. A review in the newspaper 7be Rising Nepal challenged the degree to, which Upadhayay-­Grela had delved into such a loaded subject as politics given its heightened Nepali context. The criticism was, in part, a response to the artists' reliance upon children's folk story telling traditions as the allegorical Truth behind many of her paintings: for example, The Rabbit and the Tortoise and Tbe Matsyanyaya Big (Fish) Eat Small Fish. Perhaps it is fair to say that Upadhayay-Grela is more interested in myth than in politics. Her intuitive style and the unequivocal morality of these folk narratives blend a child-like simplicity and wonder to these paintings which is part of their charm.

Dr. Abhi Subedi observed in his catalogue essay: "Ragini's political paintings do not project the grim and violent post-modernist images of the political myth of the recent times." There is unbridled optimism in the love of experimentation, in the vitality of her symbolism and the continuity of her artistic­ folklore heritage. As with all mythology, her work conveys a sense of timelessness, partly because of her technique, but mostly because of the human players in her narratives, those who are hungry for the power of The Chair, but are no more than the spirit of mythologies that have come before and will ultimately outlive them.

Maurice O’Riordan
Asian Art News – August 1995

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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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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Opening of Double Vision in Gallery Epreuve d’Artiste – Nepalese artists in Antwerpen - Belgium

A nice crowd gathered for the exhibit regrouping for the fourth time, the prints of the Ragini Upadhyay, Seema Sharma Shah, Gea Karhof and Nan Mulder. Ragini Upadhayay and Seema Sharma are established Nepalese artists, Gea Karhof and Nan Mulder are originally Dutch but Nan lives now in Edinburgh. The group had previously displayed their work together in Edinburgh, Kathmandu and Haarlem

On first October 2010, a heavy evening rain was an uninvited guest but it did not deterred, the Nepalese ambassador and several members of the Nepalese Embassy in Belgium to come to honour some of the most celebrated artists of Nepal.

His Excellency P.K Hamal spoke highly about the convergence in humanity that these East-West artistic gathering produce. He emphasised the mutual enrichment and deepening of cultural roots resulting from the show.

Gea and Nan explained how their journeys in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka have influenced their work both in shape and concepts.

Ragini developed her vision of an omnipotent Time that she represents very graphically in her Time Wheel series. She added a few words about the Third Eye of the Kumari which allows to see beyond the appearances.

The combination of the four artists provides a unique echo chamber of artistic and philosophical concepts. The cultural continuum is remarkable despite the strong individuality of the artists.

The exhibition is hosted by Chris Verheyen at the Gallery Epreuve d’Artiste in Oudekerkstraat 64, 2018 Antwerpen. The display lasts until the 17 October 2010. The gallery can be contacted by email : or telephone :03/238.68. 58 . Opening hours : 14 to 18 on Saturdays and Sundays ; on appointment only during week days.

The photos of the opening on :

More on the artists web pages :,, ,

Albert Grela

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A walk in the clouds

By Anwer Mooraj

Sunday, 21 Feb, 2010

Most visitors who flocked to the well-publicised exhibition of the Nepali artist Ragini Upadhyay Grela at Gallery 919, Karachi, on February 13 were somewhat mystified by what they saw. Perhaps it was because Grela’s work was unlike anything they had come across before. Or because they felt there was certain ambivalence about her art which appeared at once both childlike and highly sophisticated and had to be viewed with a morbid relish.

Habitu├ęs of exhibitions in Karachi are accustomed to tasting the fruits of realism and occasional forays into the world of the abstract—towards which a large number of local young painters is gravitating. The symbolic and emblematic imagery that this cerebral artist from Katmandu presented, though it was classy and urbane, had for many viewers a disparaging uniqueness to which they could not relate.

But if the visitor probed a little deeper, he would uncover a world of fantasy, hope and enlightenment. ‘Love in the Air’, the title of the exhibition, is faithful to the script. Everything that moves does so high above the ground, way up in the clouds.

Though there appears a constant striving for man and woman to come together as they whimsically frolic on a celestial trapeze, the love that the artist is trying to portray has a much deeper significance.

It has an almost subliminal, religious base, and is, in fact, a discourse on the love for God, the Creator of all things. Underlying the theme are the symbols of globalisation which, along with historical buildings and monuments, insinuate themselves into every frame and run like a thread through the fabric of the pictorial dissertation.

The items that were common to most of the compositions were the popular tourist structures that one sees on picture postcards, along with TV and computer screens and mobile phones. Often the women are portrayed as avenging deities and even the goddesses Laxmi and Saraswati, and the Buddhist goddess Nairatma appear conversant with the accoutrements of modern technology.

Sangita Thapa, curator of the Siddhartha Gallery in Katmandu, once pointed out that Grela often portrays the female form as enlightened beings that make satirical comments on the failings of politicians.

Among other pictures that the visitor saw was a nude riding an elephant over a tilting church steeple and pagoda; a couple on a horse or kissing somewhere in the stratosphere with a telephone wire and cradle dangling from the woman’s calf; a woman with the head of a bird sitting on a cell phone; a couple flying over Big Ben and the Taj Mahal while the Statue of Liberty clutches a mobile phone; a woman flying towards a pram; a snake flying over buildings; a woman on an albatross; women and children flying over the Blue Mosque; a couple atop a quartet of galloping horses after somebody has pulled away the chariot.

The Eiffel Tower also pops up somewhere and there is even a woman wearing hijab sailing through the breeze on a flying carpet! And somehow or other, a bull found himself on top of a factory chimney.

Altogether, there were 32 exhibits, including digital works manually enhanced on canvas, etchings in mixed media and two ‘unique prints’ whose prices ranged between Rs40,000 and 50,000. Each of the four acrylics in which real gold was used on a traditional canvas was priced at Rs476,256.

Grela is very much a part of mainstream Nepali art—along with Urmila Upadhayay Garg, Pramila Giri and Shashi Kala Tiwari—all worthy successors to the pioneer women painters Jawala Shama, Bhadru Kumari and Sihi Pyari.

Grela has had considerable international exposure. She has studied in Germany and the United Kingdom, and is married to a Belgian. She has a formidable personal record of 56 solo exhibitions and has participated in 14 group shows where she always strives to be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Outside of Nepal and India, her works have been seen in Belgium, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Japan.

She has also had numerous appointments and has bagged three prizes and awards, one of which was in the United Kingdom. People who bought her works reside in 24 countries scattered around the globe.

The display which was inaugurated by Mushtaq Chhapra, honorary consul general for Nepal, was her third solo offering in Karachi. It is one that will stay in the mind for a long time.