Samundra Man Singh Shrestha started his journey in art at the young age of 14. He’s a virtuoso when it comes to Paubha art and has been decorated with multiple national and international accolades.Almost thirty years in this field and he’s still on top of his game.
What was your inspiration for starting at such a young age?
I think the cultural environment around me had a big impact. I grew up in Raktakali, a place near Basantapur, which hosted a number of cultural programs and jatras. These programs are brimming with art - paintings of Naag in Naag Panchami, costumes and make-up during Gai Jatra. All this unknowingly left a mark in my subconscious. Also, the painting of Astamatrika in Indra Chowk’s Bhajan Mandal and different paintings of Buddha in Swoyambhu captured my imagination at a young age.
What’s the essence of paubha according to you? How do you see your personal style in Paubha art?
As far as I know, Paubha is an art form closely intertwined with religion. It’s used for religious and cultural practices. Not everyone is blessed with visualization, so the paintings act as a focal point. The form helps one to concentrate on the formless.As far as style goes I try to do something different. I experiment with the medium, composition, material etc. while still keeping in mind the immense heritage of Paubha art and its grammar. You need to incorporate your style without compromising the tradition of the art.
What’s the piece closest to your heart?
I really love my painting of Vajrapani Bodhisattva of 2011. It became very popular at the time. Another one is a painting I made especially for the museum during the pandemic called ‘Teaching of Buddha’, which is on display right now.
Yet another is a recent painting of mine of ‘White Tara’ in which you’ll find the painting completely different from my usual work. I have leaned toward simplicity rather than assiduous detailing. The idea was to do something different with a subject that I have worked on in the past.
Who are the artists that have influenced you?
First, obviously my Guru, Prem Man Chitrakar. Then artists like Amar Man Chitrakar, Uday Charan Shrestha, Deepak Man Joshi, Lok Chitrakar.
What’s one suggestion you’d like to pass on to the new gen artists?
I have worked for almost thirty years and in this period, I have focused only on painting.You can’t work in painting part time and expect to have efficiency and mastery of the skill. Not just in art but everywhere, if you are dedicated and focused on one job, you’ll achieve great feats.