Samundra Man Singh Shrestha – A Jewel of Nepal

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“Artists want to be free. So, I define myself as a freelance artist”

Jewels are desired by all. Likewise, Samundra Man Singh Shrestha is the shining jewel in the Nepali treasure consisting of eminent artists.

One of the most famous artists for Paubha art in Nepal, Shrestha portrays a multidimensional scenario in paintings. He is the vice president of Nepal Association of Traditional Artists (NATA) and also a member of the Artist Association of Nepal. Shrestha has been honored with National Awards for four times. He is recognized as traditional, modern, contemporary and neo-classical artist among the fraternity, and his paintings are sold in both national as well as in international market.

His journey into art started from White Field School (Previously Rakta Kali School) while he was in class eight. “Deepak Joshi, my uncle’s friend was highly impressed by my passion for art. In 2049, I joined 6 months of Traditional Paubha Painting course organized by NATA on the recommendation of Joshi where I got the opportunity to learn basic pencil course,” he shared. Later, he also went to Prem Man Chitrakar’s to learn art further. “During that time, I used to draw cartoons for Sapathik Bardali and Jheegu Swonigah publications. In 2050, I sold my first painting at the price of Rs.700,” he reminisced.

He has completed Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (BFA).

Shrestha’s compassion on art is reaching great heights of prosperity now. He was honored with Commanded prize on 28th National Art and Craft Exhibition & Competition organized by Royal Academy (Nepal Association of Fine Arts -NAFA). He was also recognized as the Best Craftsman of the year 1999 on the Thanka Competition organized by CRAFTSMEN FOUNDATION INC – USA. Apart from these, he has also been feted with numerous other national and international awards and has showcased his artworks in various exhibitions.

“If Buddha can sit, Buddha can dance

Shrestha started his painting with tradition based-concepts and themes. His creation focuses on pictures of gods and goddesses. “Whenever I traveled to Thamel Chowk, I used to see paintings being sold like that of sari. The painting used to be sold in terms of square feet. There used to be a demand of some paintings, and the same painting used to be copied and sold. It was just a skill, but no creativity,” he confessed. “I too had a similar painting like that in Thamel. So, I decided to add creativity in my painting. I basically have a signature style of painting which is only found in galleries and with art collector,” shared Shrestha.

“Drawings capture pictures of emotion

Shrestha believes in colorful life and he loves to play with colour in canvas. The painting seems like a Ludo game with snakes and ladders where he slides the struggle of life and motivates to add colour in life through positivity. The devastating earthquakes of April 2015 destroyed several monuments, gumbas, wall paintings, etc. On the aftermath of the quake, he depicted grief in paintings through cracked gods and goddesses and shared message of renovating our country’s prides. He also paints emptiness in drawing where several gods are presented at the border of painting, but the main painting is torn apart. “It really saddens my heart when I go to temple for worshipping gods, and the main god of the temple goes missing due to smuggling of sculptures. I wanted to show present scenario of lost idols of gods in painting which seeks and pleads for the preservation and promotion of gods and goddesses. I also wanted to capture the feeling of the observers,” said Shrestha.

“Drawing flows in my vein”

“I have always believed that I was born to be a painter. I can feel painting flowing through my veins. It is deeply rooted in my heart and stuck in my iris. I sometimes get nostalgic remembering the day when I used to count the days for painting. I used to wait for Fridays as rest of the days were covered by tons of homework from school. Whenever I see blank sheets of paper, my hands would rise forward to paint and fill colour on it. I have been doing art from my childhood. And, the skill has been deeply rooted on me since my childhood, unknowingly. I have never thought anything beyond art,” he shared.

Currently, Shrestha is working on ‘White Tara’. It is also known as Sapta-lochani Tara. “It has been a long time that I have not painted and painting Tara was really admiring. These two arts are my favorites and these are the paintings that have touched my soul,” he said.

“Youths in art should not only be interested in modern arts as it is inherited from foreigners. Instead, they should have an interest in traditional art as it contains the flavor of art. Even if the art is copied from centuries, it preserves our culture. Generally, youths do not prefer traditional arts as it contains very fine and detailed work which requires passion and dedication. Everyone wants an easy work, which does not carry much value. First, we must strive for hard work and only then we should go for simplicity and minimization,” says Shrestha giving his message to all the youngsters who want to take up art.

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By Garima Rajdhami