Sagar Manandhar, Born in 1985 in Kathmandu, Nepal. He has completed his Bachelor in Fine Arts and Master in Fine Arts from Banaras Hindu University, BHU, Varanasi with gold medal in both Bachelor and Master degree. He is now working as an Assistant Professor at Kathmandu University, School of Arts, and Department of Art and Design. He has designed the flag of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and has participated in many national and international art workshops such as ‘Yogyakarta Art Festival’, Jogya National Museum, Jogya, Indonesia, Shanghai International Exchange and Workshop, Hongqiao Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai, Inspiration Manaslu, Samagaun, Manaslu.
He has fourteen solo exhibitions and many group shows in his name in Nepal and foreign countries. He has also worked at Panjim, Goa in a residency organized by Indian Atelier.
He is enthusiastic to work in different theme based series paintings with experimentation in mixed media techniques. He lives and works at Kathmandu, Nepal.
Laxman Shrestha, the well-known painter based in Bombay, opening the exhibition of a young Nepali painter Sagar Manandhar at the Siddhartha Art Gallery on June 5, made a few telling observations. What struck me was this, like different people who have their own perceptions on abstract art, young people too have their own visions. I found that expression worth pondering over as it had come from this great painter whose works have been recognised as great pieces of art around the world.
I recalled here a modest and important occasion way back in the late sixties when Laxman Shreshta exhibited his paintings in what was then NAFA. The brochure was written for him buy the maestro of Nepali theatre, Balakrishna Sama (1902-1981). As a young university student and regular visitor, I had struck a unique bond with Sama. My interest in art, drama and sculpture were growing at that time, and Sama was the source of y artistic epistemology, crafts, museumisation and criticism. That year must have been 1967. I heard about Laxman Shrestha from Sma for the first time. One morning when I went to his house, he was as usual, writing in Nepali. He mentioned Laxman’s paintings to me and gave me a good but somewhat meandering discourse on the concept of abstract art. He brought in Picasso, the post-impressionists and Turner as far as I remember. But he stressed that the traditional Nepali and sculptures do embody the technique that we know today as abstract.
As a student of English Literature, these subjects were very favourable to me. I was very happy to read his brochure in which he had introduced a problematic. That was a good piece of art criticism. He says in that brochure. “Painters and sculptors begin from non – figurative forms and gradually move towards figurative forms.” Then he questions, “Why does this happen?” He tries to answer his own questions by devotees of Shiva. These beads that the Shaivites have been as a subject of discussion about abstractions. Sama calls Laxman Shrestha a painter who understands and uses that complex aesthetic – religious perception.
Sama makes another very important observation in that short text. He juxtaposes the Sanskrit poet-dramatist Kalidasa’s Rati Vlapa and Jackson Pollocks’ Suvaas, which means good smell. I do not know exactly which painting he was referring to. But both paintings, he says, have the same purpose – to express human feelings. He concludes- “Laxman Shrestha, by putting up on the old walls the pictures of the human mind in abstract paintings, creations of his brilliant mind, has enhanced the prestige of Nepali art in the world. Such is my conviction and my perception.”
I thought a certain sense of history was becoming reiterative here when Laxman Shrestha opened up that question about the multiple interpretations of abstract paintings while commenting on the paintings of this young and talented painter. I looked at SAGAR MANANDHAR’S paintings very closely to write a text for the brochure and found that something important was happening there. This young artist’s paintings have brought to us one important problematic that people in the art world are discussing in the west. A tension is emerging in the art world between two perceptions – art as performative form and art as conceptual form, in the sense of modernist art. There has been a resurgence in abstraction in art. Critics have been saying that artist are wistfully looking back at the past and have been resorting to some form of modernist art forms, but they draw not from the past but from the present, from the quotidian reality. All this is emerging, critics opine, as a result of the new generation’s disenchantment with the proliferation of discussions about theories, and also due to their sense of disapproval of the commodified art forms that reflect the late capitalist world. This tension, I guess, is between two modes of art forms- the installation, the media or commodity savvy art, and what same called ‘the paintings that hand on old walls’. That makes neo-modernist or neo Formalist art charged with inner dynamism.
My revelation is a dynamism that I noticed in the exhibition of this young painter’s abstract works opened by a great painter whose paintings constitute a formidable alternative to the installation form. SAGAR MANANDHAR’S paintings have come after a great splash and unprecedented visual luxury of object art forms- the installation arts at the Kathmandu International Art Festival. I do not want to over generalise this subject, but what this young artist does with great skill and imagination is important here. His motifs, he claims, are drawn from his own native Newar Culture of performance. This subject today draws every person who is interested in performance studies, like myself and my colleagues and students at the postgraduate level who study theatre and performance art.
But SAGAR MANANDHAR has done two things. First, he has used abstract and modernist art forms, Second, he has liberally drawn from cultural performative practices in which he claims he participated and even sweated, for about two years. But are this young artist and his contemporaries and seniors like Sujan Chitrakar going beyond objectivity by choosing this form? They too use abstract art to sho performativity. My findings so far is that a unique blend of technique and subject could emerge in Nepali paintings that would productively utilise both the erstwhile modernist forms as well as culturally charged performative forms and motifs as painters like SAGAR MANANDHAR.