Bidhata KC is well-known in the art scene in Nepal as well as abroad, winning various prestigious awards – not a surprising achievement after 15 years of dedication to the arts. Her work is predominantly focused on identity: individual, cultural and societal, as well as the country’s identity as a whole. Her recent artwork was motivated by a need to teach and raise awareness about deep-rooted cultural and social issues that Nepal is facing in this age of modernity.
Bidhata’s inspiration and interest in the arts began with her father - it was his passion. She was initially more into volleyball, stating that she “even got the Best Player award”, quite different to art to say the least. But even though she says it was her father’s passion that inspired her, she obviously had the talent, drawing in her free time, as well as agreeing to go to Lalit Kala Fine Arts College for the last two years of her schooling. After finishing college, realization struck that art was “the best way” forward which she did not really consider during her college years because of the relaxed nature of college life. Art as a career prospect as she saw it was the only path forward, so she immersed herself more in art, practicing and experimenting to cultivate her own style. “College was more about learning techniques and the fundamentals of art,” she says, which did help in future projects and enabled her to work in printing, painting and a variety of installations. Her education did not halt at college because after completing a bachelor’s degree in 2002, she began a Master’s in Sociology which she deemed redundant at the time, but was to compliment her art in later years with her focus on identity and society. Finally in 2010, a Master’s programme was introduced in Nepal, this time she focused on printmaking and for the past 15 years has been teaching A Level Art part-time.
Bidhata has created many memorable pieces over the years, from vibrant and insightful paintings on Mustang to bigger than life installations; such as her famous Rato Machindranath chariot made out of wires. But what did she start with? Which of her early pieces was her favourite? Rather than pinpointing a single piece, she was proud of a continual concept which ran through her work. Unaware at the time, there was an evident expression of this notion of individual identity which aligned with her post-college struggles of career prospects.This was portrayed through her focus on enhanced parts of a singular leaf. The scattered veins portrayed a “scattered life” and although there is one main vein straight through, “we do not reach the top, we get lost in the middle. We have an aim, but we scatter, we cannot reach what we aim for.” As with her later work, she focused on space: the scattered veins within the limited space of a leaf are seemingly attempting to escape –as with many of us, we feel constrained, longing to escape from that certain confinement of society or culture, but we cannot remove ourselves from that. Even when considering the blooming of flowers, the leaves go unnoticed, but they play an important role in the growth of a flower – “We always ignore the process, we are always more focused on the result.” Life and leaves were interconnected with her own experiences of feeling lost, but also helped her find her way to art.
Recently, Mustang has been the main focus and inspiration for many of Bidhata’s pieces after a trip with many other Nepali artists to that region in 2014. Since her first visit, she has returned twice; to Lomanthang and then to Jomsom. Her recent paintings which were exhibited in a small, light space in Dalai-la’s art space in Thamel, were focused on the structures and colors of the houses in Mustang. The vibrant, acrylic paintings where you see only particular spaces of the houses, like the structures. Bidhata wanted to portray “the abstractness of those spaces” and instead “bringing the elements from inside the buildings, outside.”
For her, the houses are a part of the landscape, although man-made, it is made using the resources from the area, merging into the landscape with the earthy tones. “The houses are also a part of the culture; it is all intertwined, and if you are to remove that and replace it with modern concrete houses – you remove the essence of the place. You are left with a beautiful but barren landscape without any culture and history. This can also be transferred to Kathmandu with its countless UNESCO heritage sites; if you were to remove that, there is not much left of the city to showcase, it’s one of a kind culture,” explains Bidhata.
What struck K.C. into following this concept in her art was an incident during a procession where the King of Mustang who usually had a decorative umbrella was carrying a commercial one; it was surprising and stark in the earthy toned surroundings. We have forgotten so much of our culture as a society and as a country due to modernity, and though we “have to accept modernism, we need development for everyone, we can’t reject it. Everyone wants a comfortable life. But, there is a way to integrate that. But why isn’t this happening?” It seems like the country is blindly accepting this. And for those who don’t know or need it to be expressed in a different form to help them realize, Bidhata’s art is one means of propagating the message, acting as an eye-opener.
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