Confidential (18+)

the beauty of calm and chaos: understanding erotica with pranaya shrestha

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When you hear the word erotica, it’s entirely possible you still picture romance novella covers with naked bodies intertwined near the ocean waves. Or in today’s world, the Fifty Shades of Grey-esque novels. And that totally counts! But fortunately, the medium has become a little more adventurous than that. Beyond its power to titillate, good erotic art can make powerful, sex-positive social statements. Just look at how the genre has flourished on Instagram: Tons of artists with hundreds of thousands of followers have, for the last few years, been showing their huge audiences new ways to think about love, sex, and intimacy. But in a country like Nepal where the topic of sexuality is usually a taboo, erotic art is often at the risk of getting the viewers confused about what it means, mistaking it for porn.

We decided to talk to the man behind the Instagram profile Pranaya Shrestha, seeking out to find more insight on what it actually means to an artist behind this genre. He has the ability to make sensual art—and promote sexuality and body positivity in the process.

Just a heads-up though; some of what follows is NSFW.
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TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AS AN ARTIST. ARE YOU SELF-TAUGHT OR DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL FOR IT?
My love for art started from when I was a little child, as I would often find myself making sketches of various things. It was not erotica then, fortunately, that would have been weird, but as I grew older I found this area to be pretty interesting. I decided to pursue my art career by taking up animation and fine arts for my studies at Lalitkala Art Campus as well.

HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THE STYLE OF WORK ON YOUR INSTAGRAM?
I haven’t actually found my style just yet as I am still experimenting and trying to better my skills as an artist. To actually say that this is what my style is, I guess I would have to learn for a few more years. Hopefully after that I can identify myself as a certain kind of artist. However, my inclination is towards erotica for sure. And a stark contrast to that is I like illustrations that caters to kids like wall painting their favorite super heroes for instance.
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WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES YOU HAD TO GO THROUGH AS AN ARTIST?
The first thing that I am happy with is the support of my family. They were completely on board with my idea of pursuing art as my career. However, I had a little trouble with the genre of erotica as they were confused about it. But I have seen a shift in their mentality over the years for it in a positive way, so I am happy it panned out well.
Talking about the challenges, the art scene in Nepal isn’t that developed. Don’t get me wrong, we have amazing artists here in Nepal but they are all very secretive about it. It isn’t commercialized to the extent where it should be. I think this is because people don’t have much information and education about art and its techniques. I hope that changes over time.

WHEN DID YOU START SHOWING YOUR WORK ON INSTAGRAM? WHAT WAS THE EARLY RESPONSE LIKE?
I started posting my work on Instagram about 2 years back and the responses were great to my surprise because I was a little skeptical about how it would be perceived. I haven’t had a lot of people who have said that what I was doing was shameful or anything like that. I get the response that my art is different than what they have seen so it makes me feel great about it.
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WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FOR EROTICA?
Most of it is imagination, and some of it is also derived from some of my friend’s fantasies. To be honest, these sorts of artworks have been in front of our eyes since ancient times. All the statues of goddesses, the carvings in our temples, are examples erotica which show that sexuality is not something that is shameful; rather about strength. There are stories written about sex and sexuality in our holy books. It is not a new concept. I usually am inspired by lots of things, and I do these pieces during the night time; I handmake them and design on my laptop.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD EROTIC ART?
That’s a hard one to answer. I would have to say context is one of the most imperative things when looking with erotic art. If you establish a narrative, viewers are more likely to connect and engage with that work you’re illustrating. I feel like “good erotic art” should not be misogynistic, vulgar, or shameful. It should leave a lot to the human imagination. I think erotic art should be about open sexual exploration, female empowerment, and challenging the taboos of depicting sexuality. It’s important to address the concept of free, honest love through sexy, consensual, and stimulating representations.
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I THINK EROTIC ART
SHOULD BE ABOUT
OPEN SEXUAL
EXPLORATION,
FEMALE
EMPOWERMENT, AND
CHALLENGING THE
TABOOS OF DEPICTING
SEXUALITY

WHERE CAN WE SEE YOU IN THE FUTURE?
Well, I have finished my undergraduates in the contemporar y art scene. I will most probably be applying abroad for my masters and will take up street art and installation. I will have more knowledge about what I want to do for the art community. Right now, I along with a few of my colleagues, are exhibiting some of our work. It is a collaboration between photographers and artists.
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ANY MESSAGE TO ASPIRING YOUNG ARTISTS?
The most important message from me is that don’t be afraid to share your work. We have social media platforms, like Instagram, where lots of people can see your efforts. Don’t be hesitant, because you will learn a lot from criticisms, and be encouraged by applauses. Before, people had to book galleries to showcase their work but now it is easier and better. Keep learning your art and broaden your horizons.

INTERVIEWED BY: SHREEYA SANGROULA I PHOTOS: GAURAV XHOMPATE SUNUWAR

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