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Ragini Upadhyay

Nepalese Contemporary Artist
Born 1961, Nepal
Lives and works in Kathmandu, Nepal

Ragini Upadhyay, Nepalese artist and a printmaker, creates artworks that revolve around religious tolerance and the space of women in Nepali society. She portrays social war and degeneration and paints hope for peace in the society. Inspired by the teachings of Lord Buddha her works depict the need of peace, love and compassion, exploring the medium of artwork in parallel with the thought behind it. Graduating from a fine arts college in India, Ragini uses bold and aggressive lines and colours giving direct emphasis to feeling, emotion and imagination. She takes inspirations from fables, oriental myths and folktales, some of the major objects in her paintings being snakes and eyes.

Education

1982

Bachelors in Fine Arts, Arts and Crafts College, Lucknow, India

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LIFE AND WORK

UNDERSTANDING Ragini Upadhyay

Ragini is contemporary in style

Ragini Upadhyay Grela is one contemporary artist, continuously growing and evolving to add creative aesthetic to her work. After being in the business for almost 32 years with 70 odd exhibitions under her belt, Upadhyay’s work is housed by royalty in Nepal and India, along with private and commercial collectors around the globe.

On display in Gallery 6 is a testament to surrealistic art at its peak. Having started her career as a painter, the artist went on to get training in print-making from the UK, Germany and India. Heavily inspired by Dali, Van Gogh and Segal, the artist is a master of surrealism and controversy.

Ragini Upaydhyay at Gallery 6, Islamabad, Pakistan​

Most of her paintings incorporate the symbols of snakes and eyes

Snakes and eyes according to the artist are a representation of desire for love, money, sex and most importantly, power. Eyes represent the depth of emotions in her work, being a symbol of sensitivities that are a part of every human being’s nature whereas snake being a symbol of desire. The artist thinks that there is a snake in each human being and one should possess the strength to keep it in check, portraying lord Shiva (who had a snake around his neck) from Hindu Mythology as an example of insurmountable strength. Her paintings show the strength of women over men, man being fire and woman, water.

Ragini Upadhyay, Flow of Endurance, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 76 x 100 cm​

Her works have a socio-political context

Ragini Upadhyay talks about themes like religious tolerance, the space of women in Nepali society, and revolts against political violence through her inter-textual and inter-generic art forms. She depicts social unrest and degeneration, and looks forward to peace and stability. Some of her graphic works have been inspired by the teachings and philosophy of Lord Buddha.

Ragini believes that politics is a part of everybody’s life and hence, is a part of her artistic work. She has depicted the harsh realities of political system in Nepal through her paintings, as seen in one of her works named, The Musical Chair, where she depicts snakes curled around a chair representing how shrewd practices are used by people to gain power.

Her paintings (as seen above) also talk about her feelings on global climate change and indifference shown by humans, causing the environmental crisis we face today. She believes that we have a duty towards Mother Earth and we ought to pay her for she is the reason of our existence. In her new series “Nature Speaks”, she uses Hindu mythic symbolism to represent the issues of urban ecology. This is another way of showing she cares about larger themes and the world beyond her own little one.

She creates a fusion of traditional and contemporary art

The artist mixes images of the mythological goddesses with the contemporary images of computers and mobiles in her recent works, the thought behind it being power of air in controlling our communication in present times. People are connected to each other via numerous electronic devices, most of them equipped with wireless technology.

Heavily inspired by Dali, Van Gogh and Segal, the artist is a master of surrealism and controversy. ‘Love in the Air-Saraswati’ is one acclaimed piece that raised many eyebrows throughout the Hindu world. This controversial piece depicting Goddess Saraswati with a computer monitor on her head and a cell phone in hand, got threat calls from Hindu extremists.

Ragini Upadhyay, Love in the air, 2009

Ragini draws inspiration from fables, oriental myths, and folktales

Ragini Upadhyay's compositions depict supernatural and mythical characters trying to bring back harmony and restore order in the conflict-ridden society.

She works with symbols in her paintings, using animal faces, women and innumerable symbols from religious mythologies to portray the truth. She symbolizes women of South Asia as goddesses and paints the fact that even though women are portrayed in the famous Hindu and Buddhist mythologies as goddesses of love and wealth, in reality they are deprived of these very basic rights.

She says “This is my way to voice concerns in a patriarchal Nepalese society where although a woman is a goddess, she is not given the right to live like a human - with all her social, economic and political rights intact.”

Ragini Upadhyay, Durga