Enlivening concrete walls
Undoubtedly, murals have been around us since the inestimable testament of life from the prehistoric time to today. From the cave paintings to street art murals of today, people have been leaving their signs of existence around the world. Over the course of time, murals have covered the interiors and exteriors of many public places spreading onto the streets and architectural elements, all while keeping the initial meaning and purpose—to paint a picture of society and change.
Though street art murals were quite a new topic to experiment with a few decades back, today the boring concrete buildings are enlivened with the vibrant colours of thought, making cityscape aesthetically pleasing. One of the artists giving dead walls of the Valley a life is Shradha Shrestha. TNM with an attempt to learn more about Shrestha visited her studio.
An independent artist, illustrator and a designer, Shrestha has been working as a freelancer for the past nine years. An art enthusiast since she was a child, Shrestha wanted to join an art school as soon as she could identify her interest. But the story of getting into art school came when she was studying A-levels while one of her subjects was art and the teacher was from KU School of Arts. The idea of street art, however, came into her while watching the videos on VH1 and also from the magazines she read and similar form of art she was in the streets of Thamel. Her interest in murals grew deeper and she started designing on papers but it was until her graduation when a French artist began illustrating on the walls of Kathmandu, her enthusiasm excelled and she started off to stroke on different walls of Kathmandu. Sharing her first experience of working on a real wall, she says, “Me and a few of my friends went out to paint on the wall of Trichandra College. In the beginning it was nerve-wracking for us and took a lot of time to finish a single piece.”
There indeed is a huge difference in painting on a canvas sitting at your comfort zone, while in contrast to that, having to paint on the public wall. “There are people staring and questioning. Moreover, there are still some people who instead of appreciating the work and rewarding the artist, they demand money as if they are renting off their wall to us,” she shares.
“Once we found a wall that we wanted to illustrate on. We consulted the owner, but he asked to pay him first.”
However, she says the time has come more favourable than before. “When I started this profession, people were not comfortable about painting their walls. But now I have realised a great change— people now call street artists to paint and even pay good money for the work. These days people are investing in making their space look good from wall paintings and illustrations,” she shares.
People have started appreciating street art, however there are other challenges that make it difficult for street artists like Shrestha to excel in their field. “In the course of studies, I worked with diverse groups in different cities abroad including the UK, Belgium, Germany and India. There are wall sprays, cut out and good quality paints but in Nepal finding a good quality paint and spray bottle is itself a challenge. Nepal doesn’t have all the requisites an artist seeks for in making good art, ” she claims.
Not only does the quality of materials differ from Nepal, she explains, “Street art has also become the medium of advertising; numerous multinational brands invest in street art. It has been a route to express the emotion of people towards societies, but since this is an evolving concept in Nepal, here artists hardly get commissioned; they just randomly paint.”
Buzzed off with different artists, today the competition of illustrator and artist can be seen comparatively higher than the past few years. There is a flow of various art designers and painters with a great competence in Nepal. Social media has obviously been a great platform for artists like her to exhibit their talent. “Having an online portfolio of my work, there are people reaching me through Instagram, Facebook and other means,” shares Shrestha.
The talented young artist takes her favourite art to be the one series she made recognised as holy headspace on the streets which portrays the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. She wishes to paint more and collaborate with different artists so that she could learn more and do something different in Nepal. When TNM asked Shrestha about what it takes to be a wall illustrator, she smiled and says,
“It takes an open mind to get the creative juices on and a little bit of risk to be an artist in Nepal.”
Street art can be controversial sometimes but it moreover acts as a medium for the voices of social change, protest or expressions of community. Not just looking at the boring walls exemplifies into something interesting, it also gives a social message if you have a close look to it.
For further info on Shraddha Shrestha, we can easily view her work on her website.
Text by Prija Koirala
Photos by Royal Raj Manandhar