Siddhimuni and Surendra Man Shakya
The Great Paubha Artist Siddhimuni Shakya.
My association with the great artist Siddhimuni began much before I could actually handle myself properly. I have to recall the time some thirty years back, when at the age of thirteen I had come across his work by coincidence. At that time I had just joined a weekly art class at the Nepal Association of Fine Arts (NAFA), and out of curiosity I went to the art gallery on the top floor. Among the collection Siddhimuni's work caught my imagination most, which is even true today. At that very moment I made up my mind that I wanted to devote my life to the traditional Paubha art form, as I had secretly made him my inner guru.
A few years later I started receiving formal training from another senior artist, Prem Man Chitrakar, and at Prem Man's studio one day I had the opportunity to be formally introduced to this very ideal artist of mine, who I had secretly made my guru several years before. After that I started visiting Siddhimuni's home, and at times he used to accept the invitation to visit my house also. During our exchanges together I used to ask him questions about this art form, and I learned that his art was not just a profession for him but a way of expressing his devotion. He said that if you really feel this work as prayer and devotion, then you will begin to paint accordingly and your work will reflect it. These words really made a great impression on me, and I started to practice this art form as a medium for my own inner search of finding a way through delusion.
The main thing that I liked about Siddhimuni was his simplicity and his sense of innocence. For in spite of being a national figure he never displayed pride, and he always kept his simple down-to-earth spiritual lifestyle away from the glamour and the glitter of media attention. In the last days of his life when he was very sick I implored him to consult a doctor, but he was already at ease with his own death. He simply said that he was nearing his end and that it would be of no use for him to consult doctors.
Finally on the Nepali calendar date of 20th Jestha 2058 (Sat 1st June 2001) Siddhimuni left his physical body, but he left his timeless works and ideals to inspire our future generations. Although he is no longer with us, the heights that he achieved and the standards that he established will always remain a great model, and will keep on urging the coming generations of painters who aspire to become like him: the truly great Traditional Paubha Artist.
Written by the artist Deepak Joshi.
The article below, entitled: "Perseverance's Payback", was written by Anubhuti Poudyal in the April 2011 edition of the Nepali cultural magazine, ECS NEPAL. This article is distilled from an interview with Siddhimuni's son, Surendra Man Shakya, who was born in 1967.
What exactly happens when a prodigy perseveres? The answer is an astonishing talent like Surendra Man Shakya. In the field of paubha painting, the name has earned its own prestigious space. Paubha is a traditional form of art where intricate patterns, almost always religious, are painted onto cloth with special colours. The details are very precise yet are all executed by hand. For artists of the caliber of Surendra Man Shakya, to say his work is good or intricate are major understatements.
At the age of twelve, Surendra Man Shakya first realized his love for paubha painting. It did not come as a surprise to a family where his father (Siddhimuni) and grandfather (Anandamuni) were paubha artists themselves, and extremely popular ones at that. Ten years after the death of his father, he is now one of the finest practitioners of paubha art.
"I saw my father's work and was inspired to try it. Hard work is needed to excel in any field. But in art forms like paubha, one needs to have God's blessing. Art is like seeking God. If you do not have God's blessing, it is impossible." Like most artists, he offered his first painting to his Guru and asked for his blessing. He has never looked back.
His most famous work is that of Vishvarupa Lokeshvara, famous because it is not just one of a kind, but also because it took him ten years to complete. He started it with his father and eventually finished it alone after the death of his father in 2001. Other famous paintings have been sold to art collectors from Japan, UK and USA.
Most of his works are an intricate assembly of extremely fine pieces of art. The details are so immaculate and precise that we need a magnifying glass to actually see their fine structures. The minute parts have been worked with the same finesse as the larger structures. The colors of his paintings are different from the ones we see in regular thangkas. "My grandfather (Anandamuni) entered Lhasa when he was a teenager and impressed the Thirteenth Dalai Lama with his ability. He then received these colors and three kinds of gold: red, white and yellow. "They are extremely rare. I still use these colors," Surendra Man says.
The art experts claim to have seen something extremely different in his work. One needs to see his pieces to actually understand what they mean. The details are so grand, that even a non-expert is bound to be awestruck. "My father said there were three things important in life: fame, honing one's talent, and God's will in succeeding in everything you do in your life, " he says. He keeps photographs of the paintings that are special to him and almost always remembers the whereabouts of each of his paintings.
Laminated copies of e-mails and letters from people who appreciate his work are kept among a collection of items special to him. A 1997 edition of Nepal's "Who's Who" has his father's name in it and he shows it to us with great pride.
"It takes about two or three years to complete a painting, " says Shakya, showing us an unfinished painting. An art buyer has to be lucky in order to receive a work of this quality. He has to approach the artist at the end of his work and then the artist has to feel the urge to actually sell the painting. Sometimes paintings are too precious to be sold. "We offer such paintings to our Guru or to God," confesses Shakya. Among the letters of appreciation there is one saying, "He is indeed a genius." After visiting Surendra Man Shakya and going through his work one realizes, he truly is.