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Meena Dangol – Keeping the legacy alive

Text by: Pabita Dahal

Art was just a hobby until her debut in 2017 in a family art exhibition titled ‘Birds of Nepal’. There has been no turning back since for Meena Dangol. The exhibition was focused on bird illustrations of the eminent artist Late Hira Lal Dangol and his family. Meena’s work was noted and appreciated now leading to her first solo exhibition in May where she has focused on owls. Excerpts of a conversation with the talented artist:

Who is your inspiration in your journey to becoming an artist?

I grew up watching my father paint. I used to observe him closely, work step by step, and take the cue from him. The way he would mix colours and bring the object of his paintings to life still fascinates me. He did not only inspire me but taught me and made me what I am today. He is my guru and my only source of inspiration.

Tell us about your artistic roots…

My father’s discovery and love of birds must be attributed to Dr. Robert Fleming Jr., his son Dr. Robert Fleming Jr. who were extraordinary ornithologists dedicating their lives to the study of the birds of the Himalayas, and artist Lain Singh Bangdel whose seminal work – Birds of Nepal – a book that was published almost 50 years ago still remains an authoritative work. My father Hira Lal Dangol was the illustrator of more than 700 paintings of Birds of Nepal published in 1976. The knowledge and passion imparted by the ornithologist duo as well as the artistic guidance from Bangdel served as a stimulating environment for his creative output. This is how his journey started as bird illustrator. Then with time and his dedication and passion he became a prominent bird artist. My siblings and I are proud to carry on his legacy as avian artists and will always honour his memory.

Owl painting is your signature, why?

During my formative age, I would try my hands on any given species. Slowly and gradually, I started relishing the challenges posed by feathers and eyes of owls. The big blinking eyes of owls really fascinate me. The nocturnal creature stands out in the dark background which is my signature style. I just love to paint owls whether it’s a big horn owl, snowy owl, or a barn owl along with owlets. Just their eyes are enough to draw me towards them. Portraying their feathers with minute details is daunting, but I accept the challenge happily.

Apart from eyes and feathers perhaps the Hindu myth of owl being the vehicle of goddess Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity must have played its part unconsciously making it a favourite among all the birds.

Other than art what do you do?
I am a homemaker and social worker.

Art for you…
It is contentment.

Where is your work available
Dangol’s Art Gallery and Opium Restaurant and Bar

About your exhibition
Nepal, though a small country,  harbours over 8% of the world’s bird population, but most of us Nepalese are unaware of it. I hope this exhibition will make people appreciate the rich natural beauty of our country. This exhibition will showcase different varieties of birds in the most vivid way from the blue skies and lush jungles to the canvas of four cornered frames.

Are your children influenced by the legacy of art you carry?

Lasana, my daughter, is the one who always encourages me not to keep art to myself but let the world know about it. My father cultivated this talent in me but it’s my daughter’s continuous stimulation that motivates me to paint and take my art to the next level. She not only paints, she wants to promote Nepalese art internationally in the future.

My younger one, Aayush has it in his blood as has started drawing at a very young age. I still remember vividly when he won a colouring competition in a weekly newspaper when he was just four. Both my children love art, I know it for certain that they will carry on our family legacy.

Tell us about your upcoming solo exhibition Hira by Meena Dangol…

Hira by Meena Dangol is a tribute to my father, a veteran artist of Nepal late Hira Lal Dangol. At this juncture, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my father without whom I would have never been an artist and I aspire to be like him one day. This will be my first solo exhibition and I anticipate everyone to pay a visit and get immersed in my art.