Art in the Time of War and Famine

Art Issue 140 Jun, 2013
Text by Isha Gharti / Photo: ECS Media

A closer look at one of Late Ramananda Joshi’s great works depicts a sense of awe and poignancy encouraged by recklessly progressive mankind.

A buffalo paces with a man and a woman riding on its back with a gloomy background of a brown sky and blue earth. The eyes of the crying buffalo are alert, the male rider ardently stares at the path while the female holds the shoulders of the male for safety. Perhaps in nervousness, the animal swings its tail as it moves forward with heavy living loads on its back. This is a description of “The stream of life in spite of famine and war”, a remarkable and renowned painting by the legendary artist, Late Ramananda Joshi, where he paints about human will which strives for survival even in times of hindrances like war and famine.

The artist belongs to the first generation of modern artists in Nepal and is credited for guiding Nepalese art to a new dimension. An artist, art teacher, social activist and culture and heritage preservationist, he is revered for his unbiased approach in promoting the entire art scene in Nepal. Born in 1938 in Lalitpur to a family of astrologers, right from his childhood, the artist was interested in various cultural and religious motifs depicted in many of his works. Educated at JJ School of Arts, Bombay, he brought back new techniques and skills to Nepalese soil. “He is probably the first artist to initiate a private art class in Nepal which later evolved into The Park Gallery,” shares his son Nabin Joshi, also the caretaker of the legendary Park Gallery in Pulchowk, Lalitpur.

“The mindset of the artist while creating this painting must be the consequence of excessive ambition of human beings towards material reality that has turned the world barren, empty and bleak,” says artist and art writer Saroj Bajracharya who along with Nabin, is researching R.N Joshi’s art work. “However, there is hope; the wind is blowing indicated by the fanning hair of the male and the female, and the brushstrokes also incline towards the direction of the hair,” adds Bajracharya. This is an indication of the artist’s mature understanding of harmony in painting. The content of the painting itself is not beautiful. On the contrary, the ambience is dim and sad. However, there is an element of deep human existence that makes this painting expressively striking, akin to the expressionistic style that evolved in the western art world in the late 19th century concludes Bajracharya.

Joshi accommodated this particular painting in his 1st solo exhibition in Nepal, in Kathmandu’s Indian Library in 1964, which he painted in 1963. He also included this painting in the first National Art Exhibition in 1965 which won him the 2nd prize. The painting is housed at R. N. Joshi Art Museum at Park Gallery, Pulchowk.

Details: Park Gallery

  • Park Gallery’s name is derived from Ratna Park that used to be the gallery’s first location.
  • The Gallery was a hub to many intellectuals, artists, writers, and historians such as Abhi Subedi, Satya Mohan Joshi, Uttam Nepali and Shashi Shah in the 1970s and 80s.
  • R.N Joshi had a keen interest in religious studies. He collected and studied many valuable texts on Hinduism, Buddhism and Tantrism.