Shashi Shah

Shashi Shah clings to traditional beliefs and influences which he views as an important basis of his work. He takes up age-old images and colour schemes and transfers them during his exploration of modern canvas. Shah’s paintings explore the Hindu myths in surrealist form. Horse is the recurrent image in his work which symbolizes the Kalki, the tenth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. According to a Hindu mythology, in Kali yuga, the present age, when the world will be dominated by evil forces, Lord Vishnu will take Kalki Avatara and save the world from its possible doom.

‘Shah’s vision is power, the immense energy of the horse. All of his canvases are of galloping, frenetic bright horses. He is able to convey so much energy and to sustain it without being dull is impressive. The imagery is highly symbolic. Hindu belief regards our era as the age of cheaters and liars. When the time is ripe, Vishnu, the Supreme Self and Creator, will deliver the world from evil and bring about a new golden age. He will arrive riding on or personified by white horses of energy.

The energetic movement of the horses suggests their gallop across time, on their mission to save the world. The colour of the horse is also symbolic. The white horse as Kalki attacks black horse, the evil force, symbolizing the battle between good and evil. His paintings reveal a time of spirituality in chaos, a world turned upside down as symbolized by the scattered images of horse.

Kalki Avatar, the protagonist of his paintings, a symbol, is the ‘expression of a desire for peace and a vision for the continuity of the future. In order to protect the world from its possible doom, a situation is always created in one form or another.’ In response to the fragmentation, tragedy, brutality and terrorism of the contemporary world, Shashi Shah turns toward Hindu mythology for consolation. The images of horse are not the objective representation of the real horse.

The artist plays between illusion and reality. ‘The horses are both real and unreal. Although they look real at casual glance, in close scrutiny they are outside the realm of possibility. Shashi’s horses are both undeniable and impossible. The illusion of movement expressed in the vitality of lines and shapes of the horses and their floating manes and tails give the painting an undeniable vibrancy.

Although the horse is a recurrent image in most of his works, human figures in mess and misery are also represented in some of his paintings. His highly evocative drawings reflect ably the face, the posture, flesh and bone, skull and skeleton as a massive integrated structure like a tower of skull. These drawings tell the story of a restless and sensitive artist, seeking to give an evocative voice to the injustices and inequalities of life. Some of Shah’s works depict the suppressed Nepali women’s wish of freedom from patriarchy.


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