preserving and reproducing energy in sculptures with vijay maharjan
Call it god, or call it nature; but there is no denying that the world we live in operates on a magical level. We’re not saying that this is the only way to look at life, but it is nice to think that the way we came into existence was not entirely random or a happy accident. So what is the meaning of our life? Well, one of the abilities we humans possess is that of reproduction. Now, this goes beyond the union of a man and a woman to birth a new person; this process functions as a way of imparting one’s energy. And when we do birth a child, we can’t help but smile at it. Not because it is cute, but because we feel a fragment of our energy in it. Energy being a force that makes the world go round, we feel a sense of fulfillment, like ticking off something from our to-do list. All because we did something we were meant to do.
Now, we don’t expect everyone to be onboard with this spiritual mumbo jumbo; but someone who shares a similar insight is Mr. Vijay Maharjan. He is a sculptor by profession with a list of things he wants tick off from his list.
I LIKE TO THINK THAT IT WAS THE ENERGY THAT WAS HOUSED IN THE STRUCTURE; THE ENERGY I HAD PUT INTO IT. AND PEOPLE RESPECTED THAT.
Do you know why the army and policemen wear uniforms?
Because it gives them the energy to perform their duty. And that is exactly why I work in my studio with boots on.
This is how our conversation with Maharjan began as he stomped around a huge clay tiger he was working on. He has been working on this piece for almost three months now, and it grows more impressive and fiercer with every detail he carves in.
On the face of the clay beast, there are some lines, which appeared to be some sort of guide lines at first; however, he explained that those were the stripes of the tiger. And then it became apparent. As this one is not going to be painted, Maharjan plans to define those stripes with values; by applying more pressure to render the hair details on the stripes, deeper valleys will be created which will draw in more shadows and look darker.
Becoming a sculptor was never the intention for him. But the connection he had with Form Art was unbreakable. During his childhood days, he had sculpted a Shiva Linga out of mud, and much to his surprise, people worshiped it. “I was taken aback by how they prayed to it. I like to think that it was the energy that was housed in the structure; the energy I had put into it. And people respected that.” This proved to be a turning point for him as he had settled on a career path, and thus a whole life style and philosophy.
When he was starting out, he was sculpting statues and busts of those who had passed away. It was a commercial gig for him, and the only connection he had with his clients was purely professional, and what he produced were mere products.
Until a commission from a Swiss lady came in.
She wanted to make a bust of her deceased husband, who was a Nepalese. “I asked for a year’s time to complete it but I managed to do it 6 months. When the lady came to see it, she broke down and cried.” This moment for him was monumental. “The lady had been reunited with an energy that was missing in her life, and I felt honored to audience this precious moment. For me, this was greater than any form of money, or words of praises.”
When she took the statue home, she propped it in her room and surrounded it with the late husband’s belongings. They had two children together, and for them too, a father had returned. As if he were alive, they would talk to him.
The lady had actually intended the statue to be a gift to the late husband’s mother. So when the day came for the figure to depart, everyone was in tears. For the family, it was a member. This moment made Maharjan realize that his art form had transcended the commercial field into the lives of people. What he was doing was preserving and reproducing energy.
And by preserving, he does not just mean keeping it in something tangible. “When there was the earthquake, apart from the safety of my family, I was worried about the conditions of my sculptures as well.” So he had hopped on his bike and went around the valley to the place where his works were, checking up on them and the people and families who had adopted them.
That being said, the field of sculpturing, much like any other art, is quite expansive. One can’t possibly put a price tag or a dead line on it. Then again, it being a means of earning bread for Maharjan, he has to. The consequence of this is that he must compromise on the quality; something he does against his will. Then again, what he is able to do within those tight boundaries is astonishing.
A sense of life is quite apparent in his works. One can sense it right away when they look at the eyes of any of his statues. “The difference between someone who is alive and someone who is not is the luster in their eyes. A dead person lacks that sheen.” And that shine is what makes his statues shine.
But just intricate details don’t cut the cake; they need certain life-like characteristics that make them actually come to life. “I feel that there are three kinds of people in this world; constructive, mechanical, and spiritual.” As he puts it, a constructive person is someone who is a rock, a shoulder anyone can lean on. Someone who functions in hyper productivity is mechanical. And an individual who is in touch with their energy and wields it to the best of their abilities is the spiritual sort. This explanation puts our lives into perspective, and more than that, when Maharjan sculpted the concept into three distinct fiber glass figures, he got an international award for it.
I FIND THAT A LOT OF ARTISTS TODAY FOCUS ON THEIR STYLE RATHER THAN THEIR SUBJECT
So is rendering life more like his style?
“I find that a lot of artists today focus on their style rather than their subject; and I think it’s just a way of blowing one’s own whistle.” He adds that when an artist establishes a style, they are bound to it. They create a track for themself, and in other words, they limit themself. They won’t be able to explore other creative pursuits, and to a human being that is crippling. “They stay on the same path with the fear of losing their ‘unique identity’ and loath the idea of being pointed out by the commercial media for changing styles. And I’m not about that.
“My work as a sculptor is to transfer human energy into a figure. If I were to spend six months on a piece, I am spending six months of my own energy.” And probably that is why his works are so appreciable; people admire, respect, and moreover, feel the energy in them. When entering his gallery, Aaju Art Gallery in Panipokhari, there is a sculpture of a reclining woman with a swan cradled in her hand. Upon seeing it, it is natural to put a hand on her and feel the flow and curves. “I sculpted this one with a blindfold on. Every curve you see has been rendered out with nothing but my instinct of touch; I’ve kneaded my own energy into it and that is what attracts the viewer to touch it.”
Perhaps that is why Ms. Nagma Shrestha was a strong contender for Miss Universe 2017. When she walked down the ramp with her National Costume, all eyes were drawn up to her head gear. It was a grand metal mandala crafted by no other than Maharjan; a just attempt to reflect the goddess like poise of Shrestha, capturing the spirituality, purity, and tranquility of Nepalese tradition.
“I have a list of things I want to do. And the list is derived from visions I have had in my life. I saw that I would have my sculptures in the high points of the world; which I was able to execute three years ago. Next, I want to exhibit my sculptures in all parts of the world.” But in the meantime, there was another vision he saw of a dog under a street lamp against a backdrop of the night sky invaded by a pile of garbage. This inspired him to carry out a new project. “I want the people to showcase the trash they throw out in their own homes.” He intends to collect the litters of the city and assimilate them into conceptual art pieces.
While working, Maharjan interacts with various sorts of energies. Be it soft, violent, peaceful, or primal and animalistic, “I like to unit them in matrimony. To be able to make that into a palpable form of art brings me immense joy. And my advice to anyone would be to pursuit that joy. Don’t do it if it does not yield you that.” And ultimately, happiness is what we all deserve and that is the only thing that matters and should matter.
Story by: Nirveek PPJ Shah | Photos : Gaurav Xhompate Sunuwar