Erina Tamrakar’s third eye series has been one of the most popular, and high in demand series in the history of Nepali art. In the ten years that she painted this series, she has sold the maximum number of paintings.
Every art lover in Nepal has purchased at least one of them. Many Kathmandu home walls have been beautified with this bright eye-catching face of a woman who adorns a big third eye on her forehead.
The concept of the third eye is powerful and mystical. In Hindu philosophy, the third eye refers to the gate that leads to the inner realms and places of higher consciousness. The third eye is associated with intuition, clairvoyance, precognition, and states of higher understanding. The third eye when awakened gives clarity to one’s life processes.
Such is the story of Erina Tamrakar whose paintings are a reflection of her journey as each phase of her life gradually opened her third eye more. Most artists reflect their life in their art; and their evolution and progress as an artist is seen in their struggles, their pain, their problems and their joys. Just like Picasso’s blue phase which reflected his depressed days and the pink phase when he painted many joyous and bright paintings, Erina’s art evolution reflects similar styles.
Painting women was what inspired her as she understood and sympathised with women’s issues. Her childhood encounters and conversations with women who came to sell coal in her father’s metal craft shop touched her deeply. Their hard-hitting stories of struggle incited her to paint women’s survival issues. Her Guru, the late artist Prashant Shrestha, further helped by exposing her to the ideas of multifaceted portrayals of women; their strength, their sufferings, their moods, moments and other perspectives.
The third eye paintings began with her early series titled “Ancient Images” which were mostly paintings of women during the Malla era. In this series, her third eye is just a normal “tika” on the forehead. Artists express their state of mind with colours and strokes. This series was painted when she was fervently working on her dreams to become a better artist but was broiled in uncertainty, not being able to find the right direction. Thus, her early paintings are of light blue, light red, and brownish shadings that give an ambiguous feeling. She painted full women figures, some half finished with impressions of being lost and unsure. Her third eye is small and insignificant.
Having found a compatible artist husband in Asha Dangol, her paintings then depicted growing confidence. Her portrayal of women became more intense focusing on half figures with prominence on the face. Her series after the birth of her son also has a lot of tender understanding with portrayal of the mother as compassionate yet compelling. The colours are darker and her strokes also have more power signifying growing self-assertion. The size of her third eye is bigger.
As she travelled her road to empowerment with greater artistic accomplishments and also better personal satisfaction, her art became stronger and bolder. The colours are deep and passionate; bold reds and gold depicting the strength and power of women and above all, the third eye is the most prominent part of the painting. Erina experienced the gradual opening of the third eye through her own journey of understanding, clarity and deeper intuition that came with time and experience.
Erina was fortunate to have achieved her personal and professional goals with a balanced life, but there are women who have not been able to do so despite all their attempts. Life throws unexpected baggage to many.
Hence many of her women have a drop-down look of desolation, but with an empowered third eye. Women have lots of perseverance and emotional understanding that make them strong, yet their inability to fulfil inner life goals make many feel dejected and isolated. The intangible turbulence that shakes a woman’s soul when her desires are not fulfilled is inexplicable.
It’s high time women not only celebrate who they have become but also who they fought not to become. When others have benefited from a woman’s sacrifice, it is equally worthy of acknowledgement, but unfortunately not much consideration is given. You look at Erina’s dichotomous women and you can see your reflection in at least one of her art pieces; whether you are someone who has achieved her desires, whether you are the one who is forsaking them for the benefit of your loved ones, or whether you are both.