Review

Asha Dangol's 20 Year Retrospective

Jun 13, 2016 |
 

Pragyan Thapa, Kathmandu - For Asha Dangol the city exists as his soulful muse. His artistic imagination hovers around the didactical idealism in Kathmandu's decay from a lionized marvel of medieval architecture to a sufferer of ill-improvised urbanization. Dangol's twenty years of artistic dabble was in the forefront at The City Museum where 36 illustrative pieces of the artist's life work were exhibited.

In Where is my city?, we find Dangol himself in the scenery as he flies by in search of his city whose older settlements are engulfed by the mushrooming skyscrapers. Here he paints the fading plights of the nature: the domination of skyscrapers can be seen as the unknowing wreckage and invasion on the persisting entity of Kathmandu's state of being, eclipsing it meagerly as an insignificant space on the map. He appositely applies stronger imagery in Vehicles over My Head, where big SUVs are stacked on top of his hollow head – perhaps symbolizing our hollow conscientious tilt for consumerism – and in Lost Identity where Kathmandu's reputation, predominated by temples, is comparatively dulled down by the city's overcrowded traffic and unplanned urbanization, and at the backdrop we again find Dangol, this time his hands are wide apart in a pose akin to the Statue of Christ the Redeemer's looming over Rio de Janeiro, only difference in this courteous expression is that Dangol's Kathmandu counterpart bulks large wearing a gas-mask

 

The ubiquity of the gas-mask in most of his paintings works as a larger dialogue between the artist and the observer. It seems he has dedicated this recurring motif designing the right symbolization for claustrophobia and breathing space. Air Pollution, a plainly named piece, regenerates this: a ten-headed creature – constituting from four heads of animals, five heads of human beings and a central head of a deity – lets all its heads inhale, using the aid of breathing mask, from a single oxygen tank. This visualization decrypts into the ecological pertinence that the air everyone breathes is common and when human beings are the sole agent of pollution, we have a far-reaching responsibility in caring about other life forms existing along with us in our organic structure.

 

Dangol's sociological imagination has matured over the years. His assurance is evidently counterpoised by his articulation in casting the contemporary issues of the country in his compositions. His earlier water color and poster color paintings – dating back to 1992 – capture the avidness, observing people and places, of the artist in his formative years. Gradually dislodging his artistic sentiments as a bystander, he has passed on to encounter a flexible voice by being able to master a more subjective interpretation in visually detailing the world he lives in. Union in Destruction's complexity emerges from the same passing. Two figures in the painting are deities in divine unison, celebrating the act of procreation, but Dangol lends some introspective items to the composition. The female deity is lifting a gun while the male deity cups two hand grenades. These strangely odd assortments transcend the delivered intentions beyond the scene. It may convey how religious extremism urge violence or how the society has surrendered completely under the weaponry of the power hungry demigods.

In his book Ways of Seeing art critic John Berger writes, "Every exceptional work was the result of a prolonged successful struggle." Asha Dangol's two decade long journey holds true in this matter. The journey itself has made him able to carve himself out as the most exciting Nepali artist who prepares the perfect concoction by colliding art with social commentary

 

 


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