Cover Story

Black Is His Favorite Color

Dec 10, 2014 |

While observing Kiran Manandhar's performance with color and canvas, for the first time you may label his acts as mad acts. He revolves in circle, picks up color and scrubs madly over the canvas. Rough selection of color, rough patches over the canvas and all rough acts - you simply judge it and your mind whispers with yourself "I can make better paintings."

He revolves around the canvas and uses different four directions to throw the patches of color in. He plays with color and merges it with tact and vigor. He interacts with the colors for a long. The needle of the clock goes beyond but still the painting does not get complete. The very incomplete art is 'the complete and perfect art' for us. He says, "It never completes."

A devotee of Bacchus, he makes double love while making paintings: One with colors and another with liquors. "A sub-conscious form of mind is the true source of art; a conscious mind never makes better paintings," justifies Manandhar. That can be one reason for his intense love for black: Black stands for unconscious mind.

Even professional painters be in awe while Manandhar makes excessive use of black color. "Black is one of the boldest colors and it turns to be difficult to make changes once it is patched on the canvas. That might be the reason why others dare not make excessive use of black," says Manandhar.

He has interesting anecdotes with black color. One was while he was in Japan to participate in Asian Painting Exhibition in Fukuoka. A Japanese artist in a challenging way had claimed that only Japanese or Chinese can make daring use of black. In reply Manandhar had picked a broomstick made of straws that he had brought with him from Nepal and had made paintings making excessive use of black. Then, out of surprise, the Japanese had asked, "Where did you learn it from?" Manandhar had learnt from his native culture and surrounding nature, and, so had he replied.

"Black is the dominant color in Chinese and Japanese lithograph painting," says Manandhar. In China, the color black is associated with water, one of the five fundamental elements. It is also associated with positive chaos which leads to change and new life. In Japan, black is associated with mystery, the night, the unknown, the invisible, and death. Black also symbolizes experience.

But for Manandhar the color inspiration came from the culture he was brought in. Black is considered to be a secret color in Newar traditions, as well as in many other eastern traditions. In most of the rituals they have secret practices and they end such practices putting black tika on the forehead as mohini: Black is dominant color and stands for power. In other occasions too, even in Dashain, they put black tika on the top along with red tika. We can see dominance of black color in the traditional Newar costumes like haku patasi, too.

Another source of inspiration for him was the nature. Regarding his acquaintances with color he says, "Bishnumati and dark groves of Nagarjuna forest are my first universities where I learnt color from." He used to wander around Bishnumati and Nagarjuna and used to make paintings using local colors. Similarly he used to play with colors for hours in local festivals like Mah Pooja and Bhaitika. He learnt texture from the trunk of trees in which he used to hide his paintings in; fishes that he used to catch in Bishnumati; and the grains that used to be customarily used in different festivals.

Black was one of the first colors used in art: The Lascaux Cave in France contains drawings of bulls and other animals drawn by Paleolithic artists between 18,000 and 17,000 years ago. Black was one of the most important colors used by ancient Greek artists, too. In the 6th century BC, they began making blackfigure pottery. In 19th century, black regained some of the territory that it had lost for a few centuries. The Russian painter Kasimir Malevich, a member of the Suprematist movement, created the Black Square in 1915, which is widely considered the first purely abstract painting.

Manandhar prefers darkness to light and black to white. The main reason for his love for black is its purity."Black is the purest color," adds Manandhar. Could black be pure? –If the pure means not mixed and free from any colors, black is the purest color, without any doubt. If you experiment with light, mixture of all the colors results in white and the absence of any color results in black. Newton, one of the prominent color theorists says, "Black is the absence of colors."

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