I had a solo exhibition of my paintings at Gallery 9, an independent gallery started by artists in Lazimpat, Kathmandu, in 2004.
This report was published in Kantipuronline.com, the online venture of the Kathmandu Post which has since been incorporated as part of the digital online presence of the newspaper and is no longer a separate entity.
The reporter who filed this report was quite young, so I wanted to clarify some points: I was explaining to him that Claire Burkett, the founder of the Janakpuri Women's Art Project, had rented an apartment in our home when I was 18, so I was influenced by the piles of folk art which I saw in the house. Despite taking courses at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design in visual art, I wanted to draw in a more simple manner, so I deliberately tried to copy their folk style. The uneven crosses took me some time to draw, because I needed to un-train myself from drawing perfect lines. I was mimicking the Janakpuri women's borders, which often have a colorful edge done in a rustic pattern which can include crosses, circles, paisleys and other motifs. I was trying to move away from what formal art training I had received, which included classes in RISD during which we drew from live models, as well as black and white photography and a course in digital design, towards a more simple and uncomplicated way of viewing the world.
I also briefly worked as an art model after graduating from Brown. The experience allowed me to see the workings and styles of many professors at RISD without spending 4 years as an undergraduate student. A friend of mine had introduced me to modeling as a feminist enterprise.
I had also drawn some paintings after I returned from Vipassana meditation, so the figures in the painting were trying to capture the feeling of being inside a meditative space in which one becomes attuned to the vibrations of energy inside oneself.
The "Blue Nepal" is a reference to Picasso's Blue Period. Nepal was at the peak of its civil conflict when I did this exhibit, and 2004 was also the year with the highest numbers of disappearances. The future did seem amorphous and uncertain. The "Present" painting uses the rice grains and red carmine powder used during Nepali festivals, and which are integral to Nepal's identity, to depict the violence and hunger of that period.
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Sushma Joshi's "Blue" Nepal at Gallery 9
KATHMANDU, May 26 - The poignant hues of deep blue in her paintings serve to embody the agonies of the present "Blue Period" in Nepal. A period that artist Sushma Joshi, also a Brown University graduate and a former art model, describes as a state of political stagnation and instability that has reaped nothing but torments and sufferings for the people of this once peaceful country.
"It is high time that we had had a change for the good," she adds. "My paintings are just the reflections of the urgent need for creative and spiritual transformations on both personal and national levels."
The paintings, which are on display at an ongoing exhibition entitled "Transformations" at Gallery 9, also prove the artistic and intellectual talents of the artist in Sushma Joshi. She has used highly symbolic icons and myriad of feminine images to expressively represent the suffering of the people. With attention to the slightest details, even the direction of paint flow on the canvas has been carefully coordinated to create that perfect picture. The emphasis on facial features such as the eyes and nose, and the omnipresent cross on most of her works also, add an individual signature to the paintings.
"Learning to draw a cross by not using straight lines was a challenge. It took me three days before I could draw a cross that did not have perfectly straight lines," recalls Sushma.
Popping out from the otherwise almost entirely blue series of paintings are three small works that are dominated by red color. Named Past, Present and Future, each of these distinctive paintings, as their names suggest, represents the states of Nepal at different times.
"I've depicted the past and present of Nepal as being violent and bloody," explains Sushma. "And as for the future, it is uncertain and amorphous as are the papers that have been pasted on the painting."Sushma has also used real rice grains in the painting entitled "Present" to, in her own words, appreciate the significance of this cereal to Nepalis.
Sharing the secrets to creating such unique artworks, Sushma reveals, "Learning to see realistically is only the first step. After that, you take off and try to see all the unseen dimensions." She further adds, "Art is more than aesthetics or creating just beautiful pictures. It is an experiment using different media and genres to see and show the phenomena not visible to the naked eyes."
The exhibition continues up to the end of May.