In Assistance with Shushank Shrestha
[This interview has been translated from Nepali]
How did your artistic journey begin? Can you talk a little bit about your studio history?
From a very early childhood, I was fond of playing with mud, which led me to enroll myself into Lalitkala Art Campus. I also achieved the national award for young contemporary artist in sculpture. Looking at my passion and diligence, the government gave me the opportunity to conduct a ceramic promotion project for aspiring sculpture artists of Thimi and Bhaktapur. I was given the responsibility to teach them and hone their pre-existing practices. I taught for 3 months in Thimi and 2 months in Bhaktapur where I got information about the processes and methods of the various sculpture artists I encountered. In this manner, I got acquainted with Nepali traditional pottery making techniques. I also came to realize that the pottery sculptures need another form for progression in the nepali sculpture-making scenario. I started to learn new techniques and decided to start a studio named- ‘Gokem Ceramic’ where I initiated ceramic-making techniques and more.
Can you tell us about your artistic process, the materials you used and your inspiration?
The materials that I use for my work are mainly locally sourced and I make a conscious effort to do that. However, I am obligated to get some materials from other countries since some local materials are inadequate. My work is mainly inspired by my own personal experiences as well external factors of the society, nature, religion and our culture. In this way I have three approaches to look at my work.
First, working with an ‘unconscious mind’ has led me to observe my innermost feelings and expressions which I am unaware of, which unknowingly translates in my artworks. Second, through my subconscious mind, I am able to understand my unconscious and conscious thoughts simultaneously. And third, the experiences that I face in my environment and society, the things I observe in daily life are all aspects that I consider while creating my work. I try to observe the pain and agony caused in these situations, reflect upon them and move towards creating my work.
The next important aspect of my process is experimenting with rough sketches and maquettes which inspire me to do some writing. I like to lyricize each of my maquette with poetry around it and thereafter move towards bringing the sculpture into form.
Why is the white lotus (kumudinee) so significant in so many of your artworks?
The recurrence of white lotus in my work is not intentional and perhaps should not be highlighted as that. This series of work dates back 15-20 years from today when I was still in my youth. During those days I would give a lot of importance to love, affection and woman’s beauty, encapsulating it to my work.
Kumudini, the lotus is actually the feminine form of the lotus flower. Kumud, being the masculine form. The kumudini flower mostly blossoms during nighttime. In Buddhism, this flower is recognized as sublime, symbolizing purity. This sublime and sweet flower reminded me of the qualities present in a woman which then inspired me to create the kumudinee series
In reference to your art journey, what message or teaching would you like to give the young contemporary artists?
Art is like a slow-growing tree that only blossoms after 30-35 years. For example, when you inculcate the practice of ‘art’ in a child, he/she is reborn as an artist only after 30-35 years of continuous practice and effort towards their work. Only then, the art is suitable to reach the market. To become a successful artist, it is important to practice patience and maintain daily milestones and more importantly practice hardwork and discipline towards your work. Even after that, if you don’t reach your goal, it is important to keep your calm and stillness and start over. This quality is the essence of becoming a successful artist.
The primary necessities of human beings are food, water, house and clothes. When fulfilled by the basic necessities, the human mind looks for entertainment in the form of gatherings and dining, dance and music. Only after which, the common man feels the need to experience art and sculpture.