‘Little gems’ from Nepal

Neeta Maskey


‘Monsoon’ arrived in the midst of winter in Philadelphia this month. Rich in lush hues, a painting depicting the green hills and valleys of Nepal during monsoon season is on exhibition in Philadelphia. The art piece is one of 20 paintings expressing an American artist’s experiences during his stay in Nepal.

Adam Swart from New Jersey immortalises in this art collection the smells, sounds and sights that, he says, made him “a victim of sensory overload” during his two-and-a-half- year stay in Nepal. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Chirtungdhara, Palpa, Swart says the artwork was a result of his attempt to make sense of his fascination with so many things about Nepal.

‘Laxmi Puja’, depicts the artist’s love for his favourite Nepali festival. ‘Clarity’ showcases the clear November skies and the spectacular views surrounding Palpa at that time of year. But, the painting takes a deeper meaning as Swart says it also symbolises his state of mind when he felt his life seemed as clear as the November skies .

Swart, 27, says he relies on symbolism and vivid colours to explain his art. One of the paintings entitled ‘Eyes’ uses the image of a stupa. Although each viewer would interpret its meaning differently, Swart gives this Buddhist symbol his own personal yet universal meaning. He says, “While those large eyes are certainly not closed, they can’t really see either…The painting is trying to say that seeing with your heart is more valuable than seeing with your eyes.”

Although the imagery and symbolism Swart uses come largely from the diverse Nepali landscape, culture and religion, one need not be familiar with them to appreciate his art. Mary Anne Morgan, an art education programme director who’s never been to Nepal, says she could see the universal language of visual imagery in Swart’s artwork. She says she was taken by Swart’s delicate yet rich use of colour and provocative symbolism.

Most of Swart’s paintings are roughly six by eight inches in size. Describing them as “little gems”, Morgan says, “It was refreshing to see such quiet power in such small works.” This takes a special honesty and empathy by the artist for his or her subject and Adam has done that, she adds.

Morgan says, “I found each painting fit perfectly in the scope and sequence of the collection as a whole “like a well-articulated poem.”