Bidhata KC: The reader of random leaves

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It’s a balmy afternoon of the “Right to Know” day. Bidhata has just come out of the school where she teaches art to middle-school children. She’s also a tutor at a high school where only those students who are keen about fine arts take up the subject. She believes that courses in her time were much simpler, and her contemporaries worked harder with whatever they had. The new generation has so much at its disposal and yet is so demanding.

The tone of ruminations of the young artiste makes her interlocutor feel ancient. She’s too youthful to be talking about the good old days.
The wisdom has perhaps come from dedication to her calling. Bidhata paints, etches, prints, does installation, and loves to talk about arts and society in general. In her assessment, there’s more activity than creativity in arts and literature these days. Just as there’s a surfeit of information and scarcity of knowledge, creators are holding a mirror to society in the pitch darkness and gloating in the commotion. The observation is somewhat harsh, but artistes don’t need to be circumspect in their judgment of circumstances.

Fine arts need creators who understand. The process of understanding others has to begin with sincere attempts of making sense of one’s own life. The challenge is unnerving. It’s much easier to do the done thing and bask in the glory of regurgitating sweet stories. That’s being insincere, however. Art demand integrity and honesty, not just truth. The immortal lines from William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” come to mind:

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent

In her studio, the realization dawns: Today’s the “right to know” day, not just a day to mark the right to information. Information is power, but knowledge teaches restraints.

The room at a quiet lane of Jwagal (by Kupondole) is her temporary address. She’s just vacated her old studio and is still looking for a proper workspace. Paintings are stacked and not displayed. She picks one after another to reveal different moods of foliage she’s captured on canvases. The life of a leaf becomes a human narrative.

“One can feel her paintings living and breathing,” says Kiran Manandhar about some of Bidhata’s creations. She opens the curtain, and the room is awash in the tender light of the setting sun. One can almost hear the sigh of a dry leaf and the agony of another on the verge of disintegration.

Had she ever thought of working out of home rather than commuting everyday to the studio? First, she replies with an enigmatic smile. Then she elaborates. Painting requires full attention. Distractions at home are too many. The sanctity of workspace forces the artiste to concentrate. Commuting does pose a problem, but the self-discipline it enforces is worth the cost and effort.

In the brochure of an earlier exhibition, titled Symbolic Embodiment, Madan Chitrakar notes that Bidhata has discovered “… a strange similarity between the two—a cycle of human life and the stages of a leaf in its momentary existence.” It may not be so strange, after all—all life forms share similarities that only a practiced pair of eyes can see and attuned ears can hear. Bidhata has had enough opportunities to observe, wonder and practice her discoveries.

Born in the “city of fine arts”—Lalitpur—and trained at the Lalit Kala Campus of Tribhuvan University for Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bidhata began to display her works from 2001 when she participated in a group exhibition at Nepal Art Council. Since then, her creations have been exhibited here and abroad many times. She admires artistes of Bangladesh for their commitment but says that she realized the importance of single-mindedness in arts during a period of a six-month residency at the Goyang Art Studio in Goyang of Korea. Being academically inclined, she has enrolled herself at the newly launched Master of Fine Arts course of her alma mater. For what? To deepen her understanding, says the mature-young artiste.

At six in the evening, Jwagal is alive with shoppers. There is a light wind, and several yellowed leaves fall off the row of eucalyptus trees in the narrow street. A tiny one flies and clings to the iron gate of the house where Bidhata paints. Perhaps it’s seeking immortality, like every living being destined to die. Art can make that happen by capturing the impermanence in all its splendor.