An unmasked man

Features Issue 134 Jan, 2013
Text by Sikuma Rai / Photo: ECS Media

The popularity of using masks in Kathmandu is so common that Hitman Gurung once saw a man wearing a mask under a Kapoor tree. The artist couldn’t just ignore it and so after interacting with local people for more than two years and analyzing their perceptions in wearing a mask, Gurung decided to mirror such a situation through a series of paintings presented at the 2nd Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF), the biggest art festival in the world to be based on championing environmental issues. The artist who likes to portray reality with a fictional twist shares his thoughts.

KIAF is a platform where international and local artists come together and share their perceptions on a common theme through various media. There is individuality in each work of art and therefore nothing dominates any other. A solidarity grows among artists from all over the world and a cultural exchange is inevitable. Since it was a selective festival, it introduced a competitiveness among us to produce our best work. It is indeed a festival no artist should miss.

The elements I had used in my art work are commonly available material that can help in environmental degradation. For the background I used cuttings of plastic bags, which are very popular in Kathmandu. Paper cuttings were pasted to embody the mask; the faces painted in the canvas represent local people whom I interacted with for my past projects.

The impact of art in raising environmental issues is something that can neither be limited nor expressed. Personally I feel that questions such as ‘how will art solve problems?’ or ‘what changes might it cause?’ are not to be taken in account. Art is more beautiful when it is mysterious and questioning. However, that doesn’t mean it cannot bring about change. Regarding the open questions that art puts forward, there is always an impact urging people to look back and wonder about the issue. And I have tried to do the same through my work - ask people “will this temporary and easy solution of wearing a mask actually solve the problem of pollution?”