Artistic Freedom

February 6, 2013 , by Preeti Agrawal, 1 Comment
Artistic Freedom » My Dreams Mag
Photo: Nilesh Singh
From Nepal’s Lalit Kala Campus to Wimbledon College of Art in London, Govinda Prasad Sah “Azad” has come a long way. Throughout his journey, his closest companion was his passion and perseverance. An established artist today, Sah’s works can be found in private collections worldwide.

He sways like a cloud oblivious to nationalities, boundaries, religion, caste and creed, relishing every moment of freedom, basking in nature’s consciousness with every breath. Looking for truth and exposing his thoughts and emotions through his paintings, the artist has come a long way from Rajbiraj, a small town in southeastern Nepal to a studio in south London.

Govinda Prasad Sah “Azad” or simply Azad (meaning “freedom”) is what his parents named him to characterise his independent spirit. Considering all their attempts of getting their son to focus on what they saw as productive work failed, the pen name perfectly settles with Sah.

Though born in poverty, nothing stopped him from thinking freely and following his heart, doing what came most naturally to him—painting.

Govinda Azad

As a child, Sah would paint Hindu god and goddesses from pictures and sculptures or whatever he could lay his hands on. At the age of 15, when compelled by his parents to study science, he escaped from his hometown Kathmandu to Delhi, the capital of neighboring India to find his true calling.

As difficult as life can be for a young boy in a metropolis of millions, he survived as a housekeeper for sometime before working as a signboard artist and a full time painter for four years. The young artist then returned to Kathmandu in 1995 to support his family with a humble plan to run his own signboard shop.

But a chance to meet renowned Nepali artist K. G. Ranjit, inspired him to join the local art school and pursue his passion.

As a struggling artist and an art student at Lalit Kala Campus in Kathmandu, Sah supported himself and his family by his unshakable determination and discipline.

Sah’s daily schedule was rigorous: By 5 am, he was out in the open to explore landscape through colours on his canvas. By mid-morning he would be attending college and then afterwards managing a shop till late into the evening.

Despite his busy schedule, Sah always found time to continue his passion for art. As a result, he held a number of of group shows and exhibitions as a student. But in 1999, Sah accomplished a major milestone in his career as an artist–that year marked his first solo exhibition.

Hailed by critics and art commentators, that exhibition helped Sah to leave a longlasting impression in Nepal’s artistic canvas. For his bold and inspiring work, Govinda Dangol, one of Nepal’s most prominent artists and then college chief of Lalit Kala, gave Sah the title of being a “lion heart.”

Govinda Azad

At a time when the nation was reeling through the Maoist insurgency, Sah’s heart and mind was flowering with an artistic flair to spread the message of peace. The fact that Buddha, the apostle of peace, was born in Nepal helped shape the artist’s ideas in innumerous ways, giving him a personal identity in relation to the chaotic world around him.

And the only medium he knew was art.

To fulfill his desire, during his college vacation in March 2000, Sah decided to embark upon a solo nationwide bicycle tour from east to west Nepal. His objective was to paint landscapes and spread his message through art with the slogan “21st century is the century of art and peace.”

Nothing detered the ambitious artist. He overcame all odds and travelled those three months interacting with children and local artists, organising exhibitions and teaching art in various districts throughout Nepal. The success of his Nepal tour motivated Sah to expand his tour. Armoured with art for peace theme, in 2002, he travelled with his exhibition in India and Bangladesh.

The following year, Sah graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Art.

Sah associates and describes his art using the words “truth and emotion”. And as his fame evolved, a number of art patrons and connoisseurs who began to follow him realised the depth behind those words.

Sah’s zest for spreading peace thorugh his art took him to Germany and Holland in 2005, and made him pursue MFA in Bangladesh in 2006. Destiny played a wonderful game when his patron moved from Bangladesh to Britain and sponsored him to pursue an MFA degree at the Wimbledon College of Art in London.

Securing a placed in Wimbledon College was one of the turning points of Sah’s life.

I truly evolved as an artist here,” Sah says.

Starting with the spirit of culture and landscapes of his homeland Nepal, it was in Wimbledon that Sah was challenged to move into modern expression of what lies within, into the heart of creative energy. He was encouraged to progress his paintings of clouds which he painted since 1999 and take it in a new direction. His studies in London also challenged Sah to provide intellectual reasons for what he did.

Despite some initial difficulties Sah soon learnt to rationalise his creativity and also his feelings. One of the major transformations was seen in his art at his interim MA exhibit in 2008. The artist now inspired by the Western principles, Sah examined clouds in the works of painters like Constable, JMW Turner and Casper Friedrick which also led to a sophisticated merger of conceptual ideas that transcended appearances and pushed his work to another level.

An exhibit at London’s prestigious October Gallery was another turning point in his life.

It has helped open more pathways,” Sah says.

And Sah’s mood and reflections of where he stands today is also reflected in his paintings.

Through the use of exciting contrasts of light and dark, he evokes light as optimistic, and dark as pessimistic, both as a metaphor for life and enlightenment, which cannot exist without each other. With both these energies he tries to find balance, as he believes they go together and support each other.

His broad brushstrokes and rhythmic compositions move the viewer into a vortex that melts convention and confinement, as if asking the viewer to look beyond borders, and to explore their own consciousness.

His paintings are a telling example. Sah’s work can now be found in private collections worldwide.

But even in the height of success, the modest artist has not forgotten his roots. He returns to Nepal frequently, and often his visits are an inspiration to young art enthusiasts.

Govinda Azad

His rendition of clouds propells young hearts to see the limitless possibilities in this world and to not get discouraged by dire situations or failure. Like a free cloud that reinvents itself endlessly in the wind, he asks the youth to be free like a bird and explore countless possibilities that life offers.

But you have to invest your hard work and improve your skills through regular practise,” Sah shares words of wisdom.

A man of strong conviction and absolute passion, he tells not to lose hope or succumb to the demands imposed by society.

“The destiny that you are seeking, is also ultimately seeking you,” Sah says. “All you need in life is to believe in this simple truth and you will have everything you ever wanted.”

Photo: Nilesh Singh

  • Govinda Azad
  • Govinda Azad
  • Govinda Azad
  • Govinda Azad

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Categorised in: Arts, Features

One comment on “Artistic Freedom

  1. snehakoilada says:

    You truly outdid yourself Preeti Agrawal in portraying an artist’s journey. It gave me a quick insight into the world of art and expression and I’m inspired :) Keep writing!

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