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Text by: Rojina Adhikari

When most children of her age didn’t think of or understand art, Sheelasha Rajbhandari dreamt of becoming an artist. She loves the process of transformation – even changing a sheet of paper into something meaningful captivates her. As a young girl she found it easier to express herself through drawings. Painting is a 2D form, Sheelasha practises visual art, also known as 3D. She has done her Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) taking sculpture as a major subject.

Sheelasha is Co-founder of Artree Nepal, a group of contemporary artists who strive to create works of social significance and utility and also serves as an open gallery. She has also represented Nepal at many international art festivals.

What does art mean to you?

Rather than a sophisticated thing, I see art as a part of life. It’s a lifestyle for me and my everyday revolves around it. Being in the creative field, I am always alert to artistic interpretations. Whether inspired by a dream or imagination, we keep on working on our projects with continual flow. Art is my profession and a part of my life that I enjoy the most.

Which medium do you like working with?

Sculpture has always been the medium of my visual expression which comforts me the most. But I am very specific while choosing the material to work with. I choose the material based on the concept as I want my work to have history, meaning and a strong voice.

In my previous works, I have used sanitary napkins as material and even chicken flesh. Recently I have taken a copper repousse training. The medium can be anything really. Even a piece of cloth or wood or even a photograph can be material.

Your inspiration…

My earliest memories are of the statue of the Yeti at the Nepal Airlines Corporation building, and the mosaic of Hanuman on the Bir Hospital building… these fascinated me. Later, in college I got to know that the statue of the Yeti was made by a woman sculptor called Pramila Giri. It impacted me deeply that a woman sculptor had made a statue which stands in central Kathmandu. There are many other sculptures in government offices and public places made by her. It inspired me.

Another person to inspire me is my teacher Gopal Kalapremi who has always motivated me to do more in the art field.

Message you want to give through your work…..

My works represent my analysis, expression and experience of social and political content, as an individual and collectively as a society.

Also every woman in our society is bound by taboos and discriminations. There are so many issues faced by women which are rarely talked about. Identity crisis being an important one. For example a girl is identified as the daughter of someone whereas after getting married she is expected to recognise herself as someone’s wife… but what about her as a person?

A girl has to go through psychological traumas… she grows up in one family and gets married into another. Yet he is often unprepared for the changes and often succumbs to circumstances. I try to unveil the not talked about issues, social taboos and discriminations women face in my works.

Your best work…

As an artist I really can’t pick one of my works and mark it as my favourite. Before executing any project I spend more time on research and material experimentation. I feel work in process should be given more emphasis. It is not like just about expressing your thoughts, painting a canvas and finishing it. It takes huge effort and collaborative skills. For example in my recent project exhibited at the Serendipity Art Festival 2017, I collaborated with more than 15 people. It would be unfair to favour only one project.

Favourite Nepali artist

There are many artists who are continuing their journey despite huge struggles and suffering. Some renowned artists are today contributing as art educators and supporting young artists. Some have very impactful creative ideas. I have distinct respect for all artists from history to the present.

As an artist I use to travel a lot and whenever I visit a new country, I get drawn to learning about how the socio political status has played a role in supporting and inspiring their artists. I recently visited India to represent Nepal at the South Asian Art Festival where I interacted with artists from different South Asian countries and got to know that their government are very supportive towards artists. But we rarely see any support from the government here and there are not any remarkable buyers, but we are still continuing because we have a passion and want to continue our work.

Another thing I would like to emphasise is the different clusters in the art world. Each cluster has an important role in art execution, be it a thinker with distinguished thought processes or even a venue partner. Many people think an artist is as an isolated being. This is untrue. An artist is made up of a collaboration of various clusters.

One International Art Festival you would like to be part of and why?

In today’s context, what I really feel is rather than emphasising on Western influence we need to study and understand our own roots.

There is a strong Western influence in or part of the world. But if we look closely at any nation, the loss of indigenous identity has occurred due to monolithic ideological system. Now people are searching for their indigenous identity in their own culture, belief system and roots. This is happening in Nepal as well. As a Nepali, I would prefer exploring our cultural hub and attracting other nation to be part of it. We have a lot of opportunities and possibilities in our country itself because we are so rich in our culture.

Where can people contact you?

I acn be reached through facebook and instagram. You can also reach me at Artree Nepal not just to buy an art work but for observation, interaction and discussion. All Artree members are very open to interaction and collaboration.

Future plans…

I have been selected for the Dhaka Art Summit, one of the biggest platforms in South Asia, where distinguished international artists gather. I am busy preparing for it.
Also, in Vienna there is an exhibition being held at Welt Museum which will be the biggest international platform for Nepal in our history. The director of that museum also curetting the event recently visited different art studios in Nepal and I have been selected for this. It is a huge ambitious project and I am going to make a 15 to 20 feet installation which will take much time.

Email: Sheelasha.np@gmail.com
Facebook: Sheelasha Rajbhandari
Instagram: Sheelasha_rajbhandari