A niche of his own


I don’t even keep a proper bio-data. I think such things restrict one’s personality. You should try to get to know someone personally, not by the number of pages compiled with his achievements

Leafing through the pages of his life Shashi Bikram Shah, a name to reckon with in the world of art, reminiscenced about his childhood.

“I grew up in a family with 13 children. I had an ordinary childhood like most kids those days. I flew kites, played with marbles and went for a swim in the Bagmati river,” he said.

“I also remember knowing the Saraswati Mahadrista shloka by heart, even though we didn’t even recognise the alphabets,” Shah added.

When he was 12, his mother passed away and his father remarried. “After that my elder brothers and sisters-in-law loved me and even scolded me. I think that’s the best part of growing up in a joint family. There are always people there to look after you.”

Shah started drawing since he was a kid. “I consider myself lucky and think it was God’s gift to me. As a child it was with my mum and my brothers that I learnt how to draw. We had art classes in school. For SLC, by taking Art I would have to study one subject less, so took Art and scored pretty well too.”

Shah did his schooling from Durbar High School after which he joined Tri-Chandra College for Intermediate level, and continued his education for his Bachelor’s level there. “It was when I was in college that I met Kedar Bhakta Mathema. He was very intelligent and a really good artist too. Since we were both interested in art, we used to exchange art materials and became really good friends,” he said.

“Another person whose sketches highly impressed me was Dr Harka Bahadur Gurung. He was my brother’s friend. I still remember being amazed looking at his drawings.”

It was while he was doing his Bachelor’s that he got a scholarship in Sir JJ School of Arts, Bombay and thus began his venture into the world of colours and imagination. Describing his initial feelings about going to India to study art he said, “I realised that I didn’t know anything about art. Until then I was only copying things. There we realised that art is a form of self expression. It is about letting your imagination soar.”

“When we joined, Bombay was totally influenced by the Western civilisation, even the art scenario, and we grew up in that environment,” he added. “Besides studying I was an avid football player and did yoga too. Since I had got a scholarship, I was completely devoted to my academics at that time.”

With his education and dedication, he has continuously been creating masterpieces which have been acknowledged and appreciated for decades. When one hears the name Shashi Bikram Shah, he is instantly associated with paintings of horses.

“I do paintings of other things as well, but it is the paintings of horses that have gained more popularity,” he said.

And he does like the recognition that it has brought him.

“I think as an artist you do get inspired and influenced by others, but it is important to have an identity of your own. It feels good that when people see these paintings they know that it is mine,” he said.

Talking about his fascination for horses he said, “Being a religious person and according to religious belief, it is seven horses that pull the sun, and without the sun our universe would just collapse. It is the strength of these animals that really inspired me to focus on horses. It is also believed that when there is Maha sankat, Kalki avatar will come and save us. While some say that it will come on a horse, it is also said that horse is also a form of Kalki avatar. So it is these interesting facts that have led me to draw horses.”

His creation that has given him the most satisfaction is today hanging at the Conference Room of Kirtipur University. However, he says artistic creations are tricky.

“Sometimes as you paint, it doesn’t come out as one expects it to and you feel bad about it. But there have been instances when the ones I rejected were liked by clients and have been sold,” he elaborated.

But Shah said that “more than the paintings, it is my sculptures and sketches that I really like”.

Even then, it is through his paintings that he wants to be known.

“I don’t even keep a proper bio-data. I think such things restrict one’s personality. You should try to get to know someone personally, not by the number of pages compiled with his achievements,” he said.

Though Shah is famous as an artist there are other equally important positions he has handled. After returning from Bombay, he started teaching at Lalit Kala Campus and taught there for almost 22 years and was the Campus chief for 11 years. He then joined Nepal Academy as an academician and served for five years. And these last five years, he has taken up the responsibility of principal of Srijana College of Fine Arts. With his experience and knowledge in this field he said, “I think the art scene is flourishing in Nepal, it has a lot of demand these days. It is very encouraging to see the spirit and enthusiasm of the young generation.”