Sushma Shakya is a conceptual artist from Patan, Nepal. In her early adulthood, she obtained a Master’s Degree from Tribhuvan University in Business Administration. After realizing her potential and passion for art she changed paths and gained a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Kathmandu University and a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts majoring in Printmaking from Tribhuvan University. Since then she has been actively involved in the Art field. She has participated in many international exhibitions: Thailand, Indonesia, India, China, Japan, Canada, The United States, Australia, Sweden, and Bangladesh. Her second solo exhibition titled, “Chaitya,” was held in 2010 at Siddhartha Art Gallery.
Sushma Shakya has received several awards including the “Himalayan Artist Award 2009,” from the Australian Himalayan Foundation, “Special Award on Woodcut 2013,” from The National Exhibition of Fine Arts, and, “Special Award on Woodcut 2013,” from Folk Arts Department in The Nepal Academy of Fine Arts. Sushma Shakya has taught art classes as visiting faculty at Kathmandu University, Center for Art and Design, as well as a guest lecturer at Trinity International College.
Sushma Shakya works in many different mediums: painting, printmaking, video, installation, and sculpture. As a conceptual artist, she lets the concept lead her to the necessary medium in which to communicate the most effectively. In several of her sculptures, she uses discarded materials that also relate to her concept. Although her work is diverse, there is a pervasive philosophy of achieving balance in life; Sushma requests her audience to question the causes of imbalance.
Nepali Art today, is known for plurality in thoughts, styles and forms. Of late, diversity has become a key word. But there is also a common unique feature – unspoken but found as a silent collective desire. This is to dig more on the cultural roots of the past; and to use the findings in contemporary issues. On many occasions this is found vivid. An artist, who stands tall and continues to pursue it consistently within this philosophy for long, is Sushma Shakya.
And today, Sushma as a contemporary artist is a well familiar name. Anyone familiar with the current trends and art movement in Nepal, her varied explorations on Buddhist motifs and Stupas or the ‘Cheevas’ has become iconic. Moreover, since her very debut – a decade or more, her presence is being felt – thanks to her continual impressive explorations.
Her achievements in such a short span of time, one may even find amazing. But to a keen observer, it should remain natural. Born and brought-up in a Buddhist Newar family and as a child – deeply inclined to the Buddhist art forms, it is but natural she began her art quite early. And she could draw inspirations from her native locality at the very tender age. As is proved now, it is all to reflect now in her art, in a big way.
So what has remained true is regardless of her choice of theme or ways of expressions, she always seemed close to her childhood fascinations, and the roots. During her various stages of her art journey, Sushma is found responsive to various issues and themes. Yet, her choice of elements essentially stayed close to her early inspirations. Even while she’s responding to other social or contemporary issues – like the practices of cruelty on animals, or on the sufferings of common people, her tools or the choice of elements essentially revolved around her earlier artistic ambiences – she lived in the past or present.
She offers an interesting example using is Buddhist player flags-like imageries, but shaped in cut-out mundane objects like gas cylinders, or water jerkins in multi-colors. She created a Buddhist festive environment by hanging it all in ceiling – as show of protest at the day to day social sufferings. She must be commended for her such instant but innovative searches.
Through her works, it reveals in addition to being a creative persona she is also a very kind human being: and sensitive to the sufferings of others. Issues she has chosen for explorations like cruelty on animals, Nepal Diary, or the promulgation of Constitutions remain glaring examples in this regard. Mostly, it all remains satirical statements on the anomalies – inherent in it.
Conclusively, when we look at all the attributes Sushma Shakya has, she indeed remains an artist to the core, an indeed a very promising figure in Nepali Art today. Her consummated style to express, the zeal to explore and most importantly, her profound love for the past heritage are highly praiseworthy. In short, she does beckon a bright future to the Nepali Art as a whole: and a lot can be expected from her in future.
Throughout my whole life, I have been surrounded by the intricate aesthetics created by my ancestors. As a young child growing up in Patan, Nepal, my Mother and Grandmother would take me to the Baha/Bahi (Newar Buddhist monasteries). In these courtyards, every inch of the beautiful architecture is decorated with plant life, motif design, animals, gods and goddesses. This had a deep impact on me as an artist. My ancestors taught me about balance: aesthetically, conceptually, and spiritually.
What we find in our society and around the world today are the consequences of human action causing drastic unbalance for ourselves and our environment. As an artist, I feel, I have a responsibility to call attention to this unbalance. In my recent works, I explore human affects on the ecosystem. Our environment is deteriorating day by day and it is not only affecting human suffering but all sentient beings. I chose to highlight endangered animals but also question how we are linked; we could also become extinct if we do not call attention to prevailing unbalance in our world. In my previous works, I called attention to the unbalanced nature of women in society. We worship the goddesses, and celebrate women’s day but in our social and political spheres women are forgotten. I call attention to this unbalanced nature as well.
Throughout my artworks, I let the concept lead to the medium. If the concept demands three-dimensions in my work, I make sculptures. I am not limited to any medium and my concepts flow-through installation, painting, video, and printmaking as well. In my work, I always build a foundation for the concept by working in symbolic layers. For example, in my paintings the background may appear to be a single color, but upon viewing closer, the viewer realizes the background is made up of many layers of several colors. The idea is that every particle in this universe is not independent of any other. Each drop of paint relates to the next. The one become many and we only observe a general vision. If we were to look at a single drop of paint under a microscope we would only find that the dot is also made of many parts. Thus, there is no independent reality. Everything is dependent upon everything else. I believe that we can only reach our true potential by realizing our interdependent nature. I owe this realization to my ancestors who understood the delicate balance of nature.