Reclaimed text collages born through patience and simplicity of repetition free artist of existential burden.
Youdhi Maharjan’s meditative cut-out collages go on display at Seraphin Gallery, Philadelphia.
New Hampshire-based artist’s highly detailed collages employ “repetitious labour” and as Youdhi Maharjan told Art Radar, a chance to experience “eternity”:
I am interested in the idea of Sisyphean eternity, monotonous repetition of the same labor over and over again, with no hope or expectation for an end. In the process, I experience different kind of eternity, the sweet kind, that lasts for few material moments, but feels like forever, where the time stops, and with it, stops all my questions and worries, where I am free from my existential burden and get a little closer to myself.
Born in the Himalayan country of Nepal, Youdhi Maharjan left his home country to study art at the age of 19 despite his family’s wishes for him to follow a different path. A mostly self-taught artist, Maharjan successfully earned a degree in Creative Writing/Art History from New England College (2008) and an MFA with an emphasis on Painting and Printmaking from the University of Idaho (2012).
The artist’s work is currently being shown at “Emerging Talent 2016” at Philadelphia’s Seraphin Gallery, opening 15 July and concluding on 29 August 2016. Previously, his work has been exhibited at the Boston Fine Art Show (2015), the India Art Fair (2016), the Siddhartha Art Gallery (2016) and most recently, TARQ art gallery‘s “In Letter and Spirit” exhibition in Mumbai.
A cut above
Armed with an X-Acto knife and archival glue stick, Maharjan painstakingly transforms pages of books scavenged from thrift shops “freeing language from the enslavement of meaning” by repetitiously singling out words, letters and shapes. In an interview found on TARQ’s website, Maharjan relayed that although his finished work appears deliberate and “meticulous”, the journey from idea to implementation can be unpredictable and circuitous:
There is the actual work which is meticulous, methodical and calculated, and then there is a lot more work behind the curtains, which is chaotic, messy, and sometimes frustrating. It is not just me working with the text — the text also has to work with me. Sometimes I will have the idea but it would require me to wait for the right book. At other times, I will find an intriguing book but then will have to wait for the right concept/algorithm that rhymes with its sentiment. It cannot feel forced.
Led by the thrill of finding a book whose title speaks to him, Maharjan chooses each volume in a way that is almost akin to a serendipitous or even clandestine meeting. This selection process, as Maharjan said in the same interview with TARQ, is largely visceral in nature:
It is more important for me to feel than understand, particularly the title, because my works revolve around the titles of the books I choose, not their content. I am not illustrating the story or message of the script, literal or metaphorical; I respond to the emotion that its title evokes in me.
The artist told Art Radar that currently he has been collecting copies of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love (for use in a potential future project) and with each purchase is noting the location, date and time that he purchases it.
Interestingly, although Maharjan appreciates the beauty of Arabic and Tibetan scripts, he uses neither due to both languages’ sacred applications. Instead, he primarily chooses English because of its widespread use and history throughout the globe. Despite English’s familiarity, the deconstruction and alteration of words in unexpected and often surprising ways in the artist’s work, forces the audience to grapple with unfamiliar terrain.
Regardless if the audience can clearly read or assimilate what each word, phrase or pattern depicts, there is a simple and straightforward beauty to Maharjan’s reclaimed text collages. The exacting process of choosing the title and selecting a suitable concept, coupled with the labour intensive, repetitious patterning strike a delicate balance. As the artist told Art Radar, it’s precisely this rich marriage of ingredients where each piece’s beauty shines through:
I find my works beautiful, which springs mostly from the materiality of text and meditative tranquility of my processes. They have to be beautiful for me to be able to spend so much time with them. Their appeal lies not in how they look but in the labor and patience of the process by which they were brought into being.
My statement of my work being “bland in composition and colour” was about socially popular views of beauty. My works utterly lack decorative quality to the point where many viewers walk by them without acknowledging their existence. They do not demand or seek attention.
- Internal landscape, external world: Nepal’s Govinda Sah – artist profile – June 2016 – London-based artist explores “celestial realms” and man’s interconnectedness with the universe
- “Active Blur”: Tibetan-Nepalese artists Tsherin Sherpa and Tulku Jamyang at Rossi & Rossi in London – January 2016 – works by two brothers depict melding of Buddhism imagery and contemporary life while utilising different media and techniques
- 8 highlights from the 8th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art – November 2015 – “influential” event held in Australia includes artists from Georgia, Iraq, Kyrgyz Republic Mongolia and Nepal for the first time in Triennial’s history
- 10 female artists in Nepal to know now – August 2014 – the best and brightest women contemporary artists who challenge the country’s socio-economic and political climate
- Buddhas, dragons and horse, oh my! Contemporary art in Bhutan – Terton Gallery interview – November 2013 – Bhutan’s premier contemporary art gallery shares secrets of gallery’s success