• Culture & Tradition
  • 30 June, 2022

Picturing faces and landscapes with Pramila Bajracharya

Picturing faces and landscapes with Pramila Bajracharya
Photo: Sushim Thapaliya

I first came across Pramila Bajracharya’s paintings at the Himalayan Art Festival. The festival takes place every year at the Nepal Art Council, and exhibits a wide array of contemporary Nepali artists. 

While I have long been an admirer of introspective art, I was yet to acquaint myself with the ins and outs of the Nepali Art scene. Showcases such as the Himalayan Art Festival were the perfect window for me to take a peek into the world of Nepali art creatives and what I found has thoroughly enamored me. Bajracharya in particular was someone that really stood out across the blossoming domestic art scene.

Even amidst the colorful juxtapositions in the art festival, Bajracharya’s female portraits instantly caught my eye. In particular, the expression of her paintings and the balance she had managed to create with the contrast of the warm and cool colors, is something that really helped her work exude presence on the gallery floor. Her strikingly unique style makes you recognize Bajracharya’s work before you have even had a chance to peek at the artist’s signature on the canvas. 

But as I started to notice Bajracharya’s work more often, simply looking at her work on gallery walls was not enough for me. I sought to know Bajracharya more personally and figure out what really drives her as an artist. And so I jumped at the chance of getting to talk to her.

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Photo: Sushim Thapaliya

Bajracharya started her journey as an artist 33 years ago and is currently working as a visual artist while also teaching art at her studio in Sanepa. Her work primarily consists of semi-abstract female portraits alongside abstract landscapes.

She completed her Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from Tribhuvan University and is one of the co-founders of Kasthamandap Art Studio, E-Arts Nepal and Fine Art Center, Nepal. Over the years, she has had over 12 solo exhibitions in Nepal and has participated in more than 100 group art exhibitions nationally and internationally.

When asked about what really initiated her journey as an artist, Bajracharya mentioned that growing up in Patan deeply influenced her interest in art. The ancient Newari city is a settlement that brims with exquisite craftsmanship, temples and architecture. Her early days in the beautiful city ingrained in her an appreciation for design and artistic expression.

But while she was always interested in art, she confided that she never saw it as a full-time career. Her father was a jeweler and she fondly recollects memories of him designing traditional Newari style ornaments. 

“I used to love sitting with him in his shop and helping him choose elements and piece them together,” shared Bajracharya.

Through her childhood, she shared that she spent most of her free time in school sketching and painting. While a career in craftsmanship and traditional art was respected, contemporary art was still infantile and was not met with as much enthusiasm as it is today. “I was uncertain of the path forward but I decided to take the Bachelors in Fine arts course and see where it took me,” she said.

Luckily for Bajracharya, the contemporary nepali art landscape has transformed immensely in the last few decades. Many successful pioneers have since emerged in the art scene in Nepal. Bajracharya mentioned, “Seeing the support gradually growing from the national as well as the international community was very reassuring to me as well as other young artists who were finding our footing in the industry that was still in its early stages.” She believes that seeing positive growth in the industry helped her stick to the harsh but rewarding path of an artist.

Photo: Sushim Thapaliya

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“When it comes to my paintings, I mostly make portraits of women and abstract landscapes,” shared Bajracharya. When I questioned her about what really drew her towards focusing on women portraits, she shared, “In college, we were required to submit sketches every day. I lived close to a well and would often visit it to work on my assignments. Naturally, my subjects used to be women who used to fill water from the wells every morning. They were in constant movement and in their most natural state. Witnessing them filling up their water pots allowed me to study their forms in their natural setting.”

Bajrachaya explained,  “They were mostly adorned in sarees, creating layers around their figures and complexity in their form. Their colorful sarees also gave them a vibrancy which is reflected in my portraits today. I felt naturally drawn towards them. They had a certain softness and fluidity that I could relate to.” 

Image source: E-arts Nepal

Bajracharya would go on to explore her artistic fascination with women further. Her travels would allow her to visit different parts of Nepal and observe women from different communities; each with their own unique style of ornaments, attire, and social habits. She shared, “I feel like every woman has a unique story, yet we are united by our struggles and resilience.”

She reflects this resilience in her portraits by using visual motifs like cacti, that produce flowers even in the harshest of weather; or the moon, that women look towards as a figure of guidance and synonymity.

“A painting is like a conversation to me. I start with one color or element and add something else and another to maintain a balance until it feels complete” she shared.

One of Bajracharya’s most important aspects in her paintings is the eye. It creates a point of contact with the viewer and brings portraits to life while acting as the central point of the painting. “I discovered this when I started creating more portraits from a sideways perspective, I realized that just an eye can determine the entire expression of the face, and in a way the entire painting,” she said explaining that this is why she tries to treat facial features as a neutral matter, and draw more focus on the eye.

As for her landscape paintings, like most artists she started with realistic forms and depth. She would often paint the narrow streets of Patan and its houses and windows. As she started to experiment more with depth and point of view, her landscape paintings grew increasingly abstract, all the while still retaining a sense of structure and detail to it.

Image source: E-arts Nepal

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Currently, while working on her paintings and hosting exhibitions, Bajracharya also teaches young artists in her studio in Sanepa. 

“I started teaching for the first time after lockdown and I have enjoyed it immensely. My teachers have always been such a defining part of my journey so I do believe that honing young artists skills is so important,” she shared. She believes that part of being an artist is to also become a student and teacher — perhaps even at the same time.

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Bajracharya’s works are available for purchase through E-arts Nepal. Aside from exhibitions, she also enjoys welcoming guests to her studio space in Sanepa.

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