Sudarshan Rana and Sunita Rana have now spent decades in the Nepali art scene, with numerous feathers in their hats, excelling and adapting not only in one genre of art, but many. Sudarshan is a sculptor who also paints, and at one point in time, has been known for photography, animation, and illustration. Sunita, on the other hand, has authored poems and stories that have been published. Together, they make a formidable power couple.
But, there was a time when they were newly-wedded and used to go to art classes together. Upon returning, his father would look over their works, giving feedback when and where necessary. After all, he is a painter himself. A former army man, he is a self-taught painter who would cut on his card and alcohol time to study and paint. With their daughter, Pradhi, in the picture, things have not changed a lot. This practice of looking over each other’s works and helping out, Pradhi says, is one of the best things about being a part of this artistic family.
The next best thing is probably having your potential recognized, and interest nurtured, from the earliest. “When Pradhi was small, we used to take her to our studio,” he father says. There, she’d not only be in constant watch of her parents, but also their contemporaries. At just four years of age, Sudarshan used her as an installation in a restricted area in the valley.
As someone who grew up surrounded by artists and their arts, you’d think that following this path for her would be without question. Surprisingly, that was not the case. Pradhi used to play basketball and was eyeing a sports scholarship after SLC. It was only at her father’s gently nudge towards art, and her finding out appropriate classes in Srijana College of Fine Arts, that she thought that she had found a medium to express her feelings.
Over the years, Sudarshan has resorted to many mediums to pour out his virtuosity. “Your art is to express your inner thoughts, so the medium should not be a boundary,” he says. In fact, he says that medium and material don’t matter for an artist. That’s the reason why he has experimented with many things, and proudly calls himself ‘Jack of all’. This is a trait that the couple share, as Sunita, too, has successfully explored writing and poetry. But, it wasn’t that easy.
For a few years after Pradhi was born, Sunita found herself unable to go back to painting. But words came as a silver lining—she took up poetry. “So, what couldn’t be manifested in images came out in words,” she says with a smile. It was the time that made her believe that art is really without borders, and is a continuum. Perhaps this realization by the couple helps them adapt to the changing art scene, where technology is one of the main impact-makers.
In this family, art is culture that generations of artists have lived and breathed. Thus, they fondly recollect old stories and anecdotes, which nudges them one step further towards their legacy. For example, Sudarshan talks about how his father shared bits from a 1973 expedition with German and Austrian teams to Kanchenjunga. The rivers and mountains and the proximity of nature inspired him so much that he painted them. Such an experience of a family member would no doubt remind the rest of the aspirations and ambitions, for such is the legacy that has to be accepted and built on to pass to the next generation.
Being a family with the same interests also enables them to juggernaut into a cause that they’re all passionate about. Their ‘materialistic dream’, as they say it, is to establish an art village, where they can support other artists and contribute richly to art and culture; where artists won’t feel compelled to compare their work with the popular pieces to survive and be relevant.
But, for now, they have The Art Club Nepal, which encourages awareness for nature and its conservation through art. Another aspect is to collect funds for the Relief Fund for Wildlife Victims (RFWV). They’ve been doing important work by organizing exhibitions and challenging the public to think about the dire state of nature.
As they have the privilege to sit together and make plans, undisturbed by politics and individual interests, so rife in most of the other organizations, their ‘materialistic dream’ might just work out sometime in the future. Perhaps, collectively, this latter project could be their biggest legacy and gift, not just to their progeny, but also to the public. That would be a great achievement for this art power house.