When I asked Erina Tamrakar to describe her journey as an artist, she said this without hesitation: “I keep doing what I love doing and devote myself to it with perseverance and dedication. I feel happy.”
Her studio is located beside the Patan College. Within around 100 square meter space, plenty of her pieces are seen anging on the wall or lying on the floor. “I work here every day, soon after I wake up. This small place is part of my life,” she says. From her determined eyes, I can see her enthusiasm for life and her art works.
A graduate with a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Tribhuvan University, Erina Tamrakar has been working as a professional artist since 1989. She is now the co-founder of Kasthamandap Art Studio and E-Arts Nepal, and also the Assembly Member of Nepal Academy of Fine Arts and Executive member of JK Museum, Pokhara.
Born in a traditional craftsman’s family and growing up amidst the cling-clang sounds, she started getting interested in art and patterns since she was a child. It was the enlightenment of her life as an artist. The influence of her family can still be seen in her works. A large number of her art works are acrylic on canvas, which was her favorite medium to show her extraordinary talent. But she also paints on slates that were produced by her family, trying to use different mediums to express her ideas.
As a feminist, her work focuses on women and conveys a strong commentary on women and their lives. She also explores images and forms of ancient times and emotions of female characters. “We saw so many violent accidents happening to girls, no matter in the past or nowadays. Every time I heard the news, I felt sad; it was painful. Then it transformed into power that I want to show people through my work,” she informs. Once she had been invited to a workshop organized by an NGO, focusing on helping female sex workers. During the time, she worked with other artists on improvisation, and one of the works she made then impressed me a lot. That was a typical woman’s face she usually used in her works, but was painted in a pattern of black, red and gold squares, looking like a checkerboard. “It’s just like a power game between a woman and a man. The girls exchange their bodies for money, chasing the domination with men. So I involved the checkerboard as the basic element, to show the relation between males and females,” she explains.
After giving birth to her baby, she created a volume of works on motherhood. Becoming a mother made her a stronger woman, protecting her child and family. Her umbrella series reflects her protectiveness as a mother. Perhaps the umbrella signified protection from the rain; it could be seen as the protection that is provided by the mother from the dangers in the world outside.
Erina’s latest works, The Third Eyes series, definitely represent who she is as an artist. The whole series is rooted in the femininity of the subjects, expressed through deep red. The recurrence of symbols creates a distinct opposition: the introspection of the silent, downward eyes provide a point of contrast with the dominant gaze of the third eye, open and red. “Every woman has the third eye, which enables them to have insight on everything happening around them; to discern good and evil,” she explains. She is still working on this series. “A lot of ideas can be included into it. So I just keep creating when I get inspired,” she adds.
In 2008, she received a fellowship from Korea National University of Arts in South Korea. To finish her study and work, she stayed there for six months. “I went to the local museum in South Korea, one of which was Lotte Folk Museum. This was one way for me to get inspiration from new surroundings,” she recalls. The influence can be seen in her paintings, in the way she has drawn small figures representing South Korean and Nepali women.
She was honored with the “Young Achievement Award” by Today’s Youth Asia in 2011 and she also received the Master Tej Bahadur Chitrakar and Bhadra Kumari Ghale Awards in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
In addition to her 15 solo exhibitions in Nepal and Korea, her works have been exhibited in many national and international galleries around the world since 1990 including in France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Tibet, India, Bhutan, Dubai, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Japan and USA. She has recently returned from a workshop and exhibitions that were held in China.