Asian Art News complete review

The Relentless Critic

Nepalese artist Ragini Upadhyay Grela has never been afraid to ask questions through her art, which has revitalized the satirical tradition of social commentary in the art of Nepal. She is exceptional in identifying contemporary ills be they of the environment or socio-political issues.

By Kurchi Dasgupta 

Divided Nepal, Acrylic on canvas, 2009

Nepal’s art world is dominated by men. Hindu and Buddhist religious paintings, for example, such as the Newar paubha and the Tibetan thangka are traditionally made by men. Western influenced academic and modernist traditions as well as contemporary art have been so dominated by a male vision that the emergence of distinct female voices in art—such as that of Ragini Upadhayay Grela—introduced a new worldview and visual language. Art historians have summarized the phenomenon “as the profession of painting was traditionally a man’s world, contemporary art produced by Nepali women speaks forcefully of a shift towards a perception of a world often centring around their gendered identities: of self, body politics, gender and sexuality.” Ragini Upadhayay Grela, who was born in 1959, is one of the most important artists in Nepal. And with nearly 60 solo exhibitions in Asia and Europe she is perhaps the most prolific woman artist of her generation. She moves as well with ease between printmaking and painting.