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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 October 2006, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Nepal show fuses art and fashion
Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Tantric and Stone-Age art influenced the artists' designs

Imagine an exhibition where instead of the art-lover walking among the paintings, the paintings walk among the public.

That is the concept of Wearable Art, which has been displayed at a unique show in Kathmandu.

It has been created by seven young Nepali artists and the exhibition's curator, Deneth Piumakshi from Sri Lanka.

In a palace garden after dark, performers walk the catwalk to the accompaniment of carefully selected music.

'Art not fashion'

For the first half of the show each artist has chosen an influence from a different period of history, from cave painting via the Renaissance through to Cubism.

I don't like canvas or paper - so I started painting on clothes
Deneth Piumakshi, artist

One performer is dressed like a Roman gladiator, his cloak adorned by sensuous female forms; another wears a version of Picasso's "Guernica", the depiction of a Spanish town destroyed by fascist bombing in 1937.

In the second half, the artists have created modern wearable art of their choice. Some draw influences from the folk art of their own people; another is Buddhist-influenced; further works show two faces intertwined, a traditional festival, or a mosaic of mirrors.

Deneth, 26, is at pains to say this is art, not "fashion".

"Art doesn't have to be in a square on a wall," she says. "I don't like canvas or paper. So I started painting on clothes."

A dress inspired by Picasso
Artist Asha Dangol used canvas for his Picasso-inspired dress

She chose Nepal for this project because from the moment she first visited the country in 2004 she fell in love with it, staying 10 months.

"People basically live in art in this country," she says, meaning that not only are artists devoted to their workshops but also that wonderful historical cityscapes are permanently inhabited, unlike in her own country.

"Nepali artists are very creative, although they sometimes follow others a little too closely."

The seven Nepali artists agreed to make wearable art if Deneth returned to work with them on it. The result: the creation of these artworks over 100 days in the art studio where the seven are based - Kasthamandap, in Kathmandu.

"It's totally different and I'm very excited," says 33-year-old Asha Dangol. "Even if on canvas we've been using new media and textures."

He uses canvas for his reproduction of Guernica, which is fairly faithful to the original and adds bull's horns on the performer's head, the animal being picked out from the painting and from Spanish culture.

Asha chose the Picasso as a reminder of the destructive effect of Nepal's own conflict. His modern work - on cotton - is completely different, inspired by Tantric art - a common form displayed on temple pillars in the Kathmandu Valley and depicting the sensual bonds between men and women.

Buddhist influences

Erina Tamrakar, 36, is inspired by folk art, but of the opposite nature. She comes from a copper-working caste and decided, she says, "to expose our work in this artistic way". Her message is that art is all around us, and the core of her modern display piece is a pot painted with animals, trees and the figure of a woman.

The artists are Newar people from the Kathmandu valley

Sunila Bajracharya, 33, uses stone-age-style cave paintings on animal skins for her historical work and Buddhist influences in her modern one. The latter is supposed to portray peace of mind and is a view of God through Buddhist eyes, with yellow representing peace and red, power.

Deneth Piumakshi is back in Nepal for several more months studying the art of the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley - interestingly, the ethnic group from which all seven of the Nepali artists come.

Her own creations for this show - the gladiator and a Sri Lankan dress depicting heavenly maidens and a procession honouring the Buddha's tooth - receive enthusiastic applause.

Despite Nepal's conservative reputation, she says, "people here are very broad-minded. Give a push, and doors will open".

Drawing laughter amid Nepal's woes
01 Aug 06 |  South Asia
Country profile: Nepal
15 Sep 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Nepal
23 Sep 06 |  Country profiles

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