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Meena Kayastha

Indian Contemporary Artist
Born 1983, Nepal
Lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal

A chronicler of the woes of industrialization, Meena Katastha's art takes on a lyrical and poetic form of expression. She transforms recycled and discarded objects into works of art through her astute yet creative ideas. She combines musical instruments with junkyard scrap to bring out the emotive quality of human figures. A recent entrant into the art scene, Kayastha's work has been described as 'boldly dada-esque'.


Diploma in Fine Art, Department of Arts and Design, Kathmandu University, Nepal

Bachelors in Fine Art, Centre for Art and Design, Kathmandu University, Nepal


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Discarded objects form the nucleus of her works

The sculptures are almost entirely made of disposed material, junk and waste that make up an everyday world. Meena uses discarded objects like bicycle wheels, old pans and pots, almost anything that that has been rendered useless in daily scheme of things. These objects are moulded and combined with other materials like papier-mâché and terracotta to create her rhythmic, biomorphic forms.

Her use of discarded material in her art is a way to stop the process of aging in these objects. She finds a philosophical activism in her choice of waste as material. By the way of aestheticising, transposing the frail and unused objects from the junkyard to the art space and instituting artistic contexts to otherwise very familiar objects, she reforms them, and in the process breathes her own emotions and feelings into them to an end of immortality.

Meena Kayastha, Lyrics of Chaos, 2010, mixed media (papier-mache, beads, wire, bicycle wheels, etc.), dimensions variable (set of five).

Works influenced by forms and methods of great modern art of the past century

Meena’s influences come from an interest and studied references to great pioneers of modern art in the past century, mostly Western artists. Marchel Duchamp's defining moment of putting a urinal as art or Picasso's influences by the African masks, or even inspiration from Brancusi's sculptures, Meena's forms are inspired, and also a homage to that great legacy.

Lyrics of Night is the intertwining embrace of two figures locked in a kiss, a direct reference to Brancusi's The Kiss, 1908. The original is re-appropriated from the stock limestone to fit her material vocabulary of scrap. Her figures stand on spindly legs, bodies composed of mechanical wheels held and clamped together with a metal band, while the elongated and deformed heads are passionately locked in a kiss. The reminiscence to the original lies in the simplicity and sparseness of the forms and the intimacy that it conveys.

Meena Kayastha, Lyrics of Night, 2010, scrap, paper mache

Part-human, part-machine-sculptural figures are an indictment on industrialisation

Meena’s forms are situated within a post-industrial situation, almost apocalyptic. Her subjects are endowed with an existential crisis in the face of greater mechanisation and industrialisation. The figures are of a hybrid nature, human parts and mechanical parts making up the whole. The human parts are contorted, deformed and dehumanised while the familiar mechanical parts are conjoined within the length of the body.

Her figures bear an indictment on the increasing industrialisation of human lives, not just confined to the factories but even an everyday emotional level. This incursion of mechanised objects into daily lives is projected through these figures where mechanical parts provide the replacements and create new monstrous figures, hopeless and despondent. The emotive quality of this industrial despair is evocatively drawn on the creases and shapes of the figures.

Meena Kayastha, Lyrics of Trio, mixed media, 140 x 50 x 32 cm.

Musical instruments add a lyrical quality to the sculptures

Meena uses throwaway musical instruments to combine with her human figures. These instruments now rendered cacophonic serve as a reminder of lyricism of the past, and yet by reviving and leasing a new life with sculptural forms, create its own present lyricism.

Lyrics of Street is a bundled group of figures with trumpets pressed to their mouths in a reference to the traditional musicians of Bhaktapur in Nepal. The figures are sickly and flat, while posed on elongated legs; their blowing of trumpets enthusiastic.  Her earlier work Lyrics of Mother is a saxophone entwined with a spindly figure with a terracotta enclosing. The face of the figure doubles up as the mouth of the instrument, drawing a poignant and sensitive image.

Meena Kayastha, Lyrics of Street, 2011, paper mache, bus horns, scrap metal, pipes

Meena Kayastha, Lyrics of Mother.

Shadow play with the sculptures adds a dynamic quality

Meena's sculptural forms exude an additional dimension in terms of a play between light and shadow with the sculpture in the middle. She induces a lively and dynamic feel to the forms with this play with shadows. The sculpture no longer can be perceived as just static. This quality also teases a noir-like atmosphere to the exhibit, adding a bit of theatricality.

Apparently with the situation of blackouts in Nepal being a daily trend, she used to make sculptures under candle-light. This process of making, already involving stark shadows created by candle-light only seemed like a natural flow into actually using light and shadow for her displays. The dynamic quality of this in exhibiting her work is not an after-thought in her case, rather a planned insertion in her artistic and creative fold.

A sculptural installation by Meena Kayastha on display at an exhibition.