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Chiseling the way to Truth with Pushpanjali Sherchan

Pushpanjali Sherchan is an acclaimed Nepali sculptor recognised for her creativity. She has participated in countless exhibitions in Nepal and been commissioned for her work by patrons both nationally and internationally. She is a member of several organisations including Artist Society of Nepal, Nepal Association of Fine Arts, Arambha (a group of Contemporary Nepalese Sculptors), WAGON (Women Artist Group of Nepal) and ASMAN. Sherchan works with many different mediums such as wood, bronze, gypsum, stone and glass. Excerpts of a conversation with her:

Tell me about your background.

I was born in Tukuche, a small village in Mustang and moved to Kathmandu when I was nine years old. My father enrolled me in St Mary’s School where I had a difficult time adjusting because I didn’t know a word of English and was horrible at math. My uncles realised how much I was struggling and under their influence, I switched to All Saints School in India. This turned out to be a blessing for me because I had the choice to take up painting instead of math and it changed my life. From there I returned to Nepal for college and worked in several embassies, schools, NGO’s and for cultural programs, estranged from the world of art. Soon enough I got married and accepted the full time position of stay-at-home mother. I was a 39 year old mother of two when I decided that I wanted to go to art school. I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Fine Arts and a major in Sculpture from Lalit Kala in 1999. It was in 2012 that I began my Masters degree. I consider myself blessed because even though I am older in age, I am young as an artist.

What drove you to go to art school at 40?

I came across this article in Femina magazine that expressed the idea that the purpose of birds and animals was solely to produce children, and that humans are far too advanced for this to be our only purpose. This article struck something inside of me and got me thinking about how I wanted to be more than a mother. I needed a higher calling and space to create and further my own interests. Pursuing art was a natural progression. Small moments like these have always been a source of great inspiration for me and that applies to my art work as well.

What inspires you?

The objects that capture my attention are those that seldom capture the attention of others… the small things. I find great inspiration in seeds and the fact that these seeds are constantly transforming and if you don’t pay attention, you will never see them change… highlighting the importance of observance. When I see large trees, I am awed by how they are so stable and have strong roots. When I am surrounded by nature, I am constantly learning lessons and drawing inspiration for both my work and my philosophies as a person. That is why I call nature my true teacher. It is where I am at peace and therefore most inspired.

What came first for you: philosophy or art?

These ideas go together for me but it was only after making art that I realised that I always had this deep, introspective side to me. I believe that it is up to you to find your philosophy and truth and that information lies deep within you. My art is an expression of my philosophy and I find that often times, when I am working on a piece of art I am almost coaxing it into existence, speaking to it and loving it as if it is my child. Sometimes as I am chiselling I find that I have subconsciously given my piece a distinct form and it just flowed out of me like a river.

Do you have a specific piece you are especially close to?

A piece that is especially close to my heart is Domination. This piece represents the experience I had when I was trying to join Lalit Kala where men in charge refused to admit me and discouraged me every step of the way. I got lucky though as the principal and a prominent teacher both happened to be women that supported my ambitions. I felt dominated by the men and uplifted by the women around me; this became my inspiration for my first sculpture as a graduate. In 2000, I received a national award for this piece.

Is womanhood a central theme to your work?

I wouldn’t categorise it that way. What I experience I express through art so my work is sometimes spiritual, other times inspired by nature or some other concept entirely. Some sculptures speak to my experience as a woman, while others do not.

What attracted you to sculpture as a medium?

As a child, I was really into gardening and flowers. As a somewhat older child, I used to watch Indian television shows where I saw beautiful, extravagant gardens with the most exotic flowers and sculptures. I wanted nothing more than to study hard so that I could afford a garden like that for myself, complete with huge sculptures. This small moment of inspiration has now become my passion. If only I knew how difficult it is to actually build sculptures.