All about Expression

Art Issue 160 Mar, 2015
Text by Neema Ghimire

Colors are metaphors and images symbolic. Expressing through colors and images is a challenge, yet Sheelasha Rajbhandari is out to take this art form to new heights. Her art is not just limited to colors and images, but also encapsulates a wide variety of genres. 

In your recent work, women are a recurring theme. What are your muses?
When I started doing a series of feminine paintings from 2011, I was trying to understand my self and the position of women in our society. I was exploring what are the basic differences between the two genders and how do our biological differences affect us psychologically, socially and politically. 

My recent work, which I did during an art residency in India was about two working women who had similar personal history but were from very different backgrounds (village -town, tradition - modern, uneducated - educated). Both of them had painful pasts and now they have overcome it to empower themselves. Shanti Bai is involved in traditional embroidery and is in charge of a craft center where she teaches hundreds of other women. Another influential women Dr. Jayshree, is the manager of women empowerment section of a JSW Foundation, where one of their prime work is to produce sanitary pads and encourage women to use them. She is also working towards women empowerment.

There, I tried to play a role of mediator between the two women through my art work. I depicted their individual stories and their emotions. So, I did delicate embroidery on top of sanitary napkins and also used their personal old clothing. 
How do you go about creating your artwork?
Art is a process to me .Every project I work in is a process of learning and understanding myself and my surroundings. Therefore I prefer to do research before I sit and create a piece of art. I talk to people, collect materials, and understand the history and how people living in this time react to that history and traditions.

I find it interesting when I find similarities in differences and also differences in similarities. I like to know what creates those similarities and differences— is it because of our genes/DNA, of certain situations we face as children, condition of the nation,environment or fault in our stars?  
Color is the major tool of an artist. So how do you select and play with colors?
Color is a visual language and the understanding of color depends upon each individual depending upon their memories, personal history, their education, tradition , social status etc. I like to use colors which have local or indigenous significance, which have a collective memory attached to it .Colors to which I can relate personally as well as people who look at it, feel an attachment with it. And also the concept of my work plays a major role in the selection process. My recent work has been largely based on people, so I try to include the colors which the people I am working with can connect to.
Is there a color that you prefer to express yourself with?
The application of color depends upon the concept I am working on, color definitely helps me to express more deeply, with more feelings. I like to include colors in my sculptures as well. 

Is there a particular medium that you prefer?
 I do three dimensional work, I like to touch the material while I work, because I am manipulating the material in real life (as opposed to virtual manipulation). I like to use materials with history attached to it or materials having meaning of its own .Thus the materials in my works become a part of my conceptual journey. I use lot of salvaged or used material. Some of the materials I have used are flesh of chickens and pigs, soda bottle caps , used clothing, salvaged objects from the Bagmati River like hair, needle etc.

The way an art work is displayed also plays a vital role in conveying its meaning. So, I try to display my work so that it achieves that end.