It’s autumn and I watch petals shimmer and fall off the branches touching the ground with gentle softness in the beautiful courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House. Amidst the tranquil setting, the realist artist Manish Dhoju welcomes me with a smile and fist bump into his studio.
Standing in the atelier, I communicate with every artwork hanging on the freshly painted black and white walls. Here I get an insight into what is called visual language. “The vocabulary of arts,” Manish says. “Finding shapes and lines, contours, shadows and highlights, selective focus and perspective are some of the rules which hold the visual language of art together,’’ he elaborates.
A student of architecture, Manish displays his ability to communicate art with great detail and sophistication through his realistic images. With just charcoal and pencil he creates reality with such accuracy that only a few can see the world in such detail. “To create a whole, one must look into the sum of its parts, that’s my mantra when I sit down to create. It helps me in sketching details with a language that I want to deliver,” he explains.
Gesturing with his hands, Manish recalls, “Among my classmates I used to have the most accurate shape while drawing. I used to feel uncomfortable if others drew better than me. It might be because of my competitive nature that I was able to maintain a discipline.” For him art has always been about persistence. It was a long and arduous process to master the techniques which he now uses, but a journey marked by his keen observation for detail and sheer passion for his work.
Manish is an emerging artist. His foray into the art world started with an exhibition at Danfe Arts. Ever since he has been on a journey of exploration. “Often people define me as a hyper realist artist but I’d say my art is more an expression of realism. To split these art genres, techniques play a crucial role like textures and surfaces but also you have to go above and beyond to create such surreal pieces. I’ve not been able to set the benchmark of hyper realism yet but I am on my way,” he says.
He shares that many in the art world criticise realism for being devoid of creativity. “Art is often perceived as a medium to transport us to another world, more like a detachment from reality. This is completely opposite in the case of realism,” he says. Realism art is based upon unprecedented attention to subject matter with detailed, unembellished depiction of nature and contemporary life.
Manish says, “After a century of repression, defamation and near extermination the accepted beliefs of realism have been that this is unoriginal. What they say is that realism is a copy from nature. But what really lies beyond this thought is a painstaking discipline and effort to master the skill.”
Despite the fact that this art form heavily competes with photographic and digital images art, Manish states that drawing cannot be ignored as it takes effort, attention and experience and is not something everyone can achieve or commit to. “Learning to draw requires techniques, it takes long hours to find the right lines, and only a strict discipline can bring the art to life. Realists seek to portray the truth and real life situations including all the unpleasant and dusty aspects of life,” he shares.
In realism, artists attempt to create approximately what humans see. Something that can be obtained through photographic images. So, why realism? Why this tireless obsession. Manish smiles and says, “It’s spellbinding to see people’s eyes wide open looking at my art. What motivates me to pursue this path despite criticisms is the mystery, excitement and colourful emotions that people takein. Through my art I want to tell people to cross the boundaries of their limits and really see what lies beyond that”.
So what really inspired him? “The internet played a crucial role in helping me hone my skill. As an art fanatic I used to scan the work of several artists. Looking at them I questioned myself, if they are doing why can’t I? Then I started drawing and posting on social media platforms. People started appreciating my pieces and I got this sense of achievement which boosted my confidence to create more,” he says.
In just three years, Manish has learnt to face the challenges of the art industry. He points out, “In this vast globe, speed has taken over mindful thought, meaningful exchange of ideas, pleasure and research. Creative production needs time and space to fully develop, whereas the new global audience demands expeditious results.” With a moment of hesitance, he adds, “People love my work but a few buy them.”