This is more than just an exhibition. It is an eye-opening experience.
Invisible Interactions is an exhibition held at MCube, Lalitpur, by the artist, Ernesto Duenas. This exhibition focuses on the mundane and the ordinary. Sometimes, people choose to highlight the grand and the luxurious. So, everyday people and events are often missed. It brings them to the fore. This is the main purpose of the exhibition, Invisible Interactions. You can find many photographs and paintings. Faces stare back at you wearing a smile. They are not modelling for big brands. They are simple, ordinary Nepali. They get by their normal life, interacting with many people, including family and friends. The artist, Ernesto Duenas, seems to be reading their minds as his work reflects their psyche. His work is psychological. For instance, tourists stay at five star hotels or boutique hotels and miss out on the chance to know the real people. This exhibition is a great way to catch up on that. The Press Release of this exhibition reads:
“There are so many people passing by in each of our lives. Sometimes, they make an unforgettable impression and yet sometimes, they disappear as they had appeared. The missed interaction, the missed conversation are something to ponder about for each artist. This is probably the thin line of difference between the artist and the ordinary person. They see and perceive the ordinary event extraordinarily. Thus, this exhibition INVISIBLE INTERACTIONS is a tribute to all those ordinary people who passed through my life and I could not communicate with them due to the language or time constraints.
“I was born and brought up in Mexico. After completing my degree in architectural engineering, I worked for a decade there and migrated to Canada. I worked in Canada for five years. While doing so, I had every 'material' facility that a man needs to be happy, but I had to go through a middle-age crisis and started questioning myself, 'Is this all that I want in my life?' When the answer turned out to be negative, I left my rewarding career and started an art degree there and during the international student's exchange programme, I moved to Barcelona for 6 months and took yet another journey as an art student. The art class was not that easy to begin with. All of the students were younger than me, but once they saw me getting involved in my pursuit, they became closer to me.
“While I was in Canada and, even in Mexico, I came to learn about the mass disappearance of women even in those countries. Their whereabouts are not known to many general public and they cannot even question it. This left an intriguing effect in my mind. As an artist, I also felt that it was high-time that I needed to counteract my own inherited fears and prejudices against homeless and poor people. Later, it became an excuse to create relational links with people that have been forgotten by society; the poor, the homeless and everyone who is invisible at first sight and whose existence does not seem to matter.
Along with the paintings, I have also collected some interesting photographs for this exhibition and you are all welcome to witness the INVISIBLE INTERACTION.”
Excerpts from the interview with him:
What are your experiences in Nepal?
It has been an intense experience in many ways. I met a lot of nice people and also bad people. I have good experiences as well as bad experiences; in fact, many kinds of experiences. I have had really deep experiences with different kinds of people. In fact, I am happy to be here. The good experiences outrank the bad ones. And I’m really glad that I got to meet some wonderful people along the way.
Why did you choose Nepal to work?
There are many interesting things about the people here. It is a really artistic country. This city, Kathmandu, itself is a really artistic city.
What inspires you the most?
The culture, how it’s mixed with people's traditions and the way of living, which is different than any other country that I have visited. The culture found here is really rich. It’s new and interesting for me.
What do you claim to be the speciality of your work in this exhibition?
I try to capture the inner person. I try to understand people and try to reflect that on my art. I am not always best at doing that but I try my best. At least the portraits that I do, whether it’s a painting or picture, can capture the psyche of the people. It’s really complicated. It’s not just a simple picture or a painting. It has their feelings, sentiments, and how they perceive the world around them. I really, really want people to understand their inner personality.
I apply the Chiaros Scuro style. It means clear and dark. One of the best examples is Caravagio. This Italian painter tried to focus on a person or an image by darkening the background and creating a contrast between the front and the background. It makes the subject of the picture or painting really stand out. These are acrylic paintings. But I do oil paintings too. I do etchings, lithography, wood carvings and any kind of art medium that I can find with which I can express myself.
What are the challenges you have encountered while working here?
I face many kinds of complications. There are things that I used to do that you don’t do here, like techniques or artistic endeavors that are more challenging or expensive. I had to adapt. It is so, mostly in analog pictures, because here it’s really difficult to find those or they are more expensive. I like to do some other techniques such as engravings or etchings. It is complicated to do that here. So, I decided to do just photographs and paintings.
What do you call your biggest achievement?
I have succeeded in creating links with people here. That was important as the exhibition is called Invisible Interactions. So, I really got to understand them. It is difficult cross-culturally but I have been able to do it. That is also my artistic achievement. I really feel great being here. It’s like I have discovered a second home. That is also an achievement in itself. I got to know the Nepali spirit.
What should art do?
Art should show people and their problems that exist in society. Not just problems, but everything that is important, including the normal people. Like in this project, I wanted to show normal people, doing their normal stuff and how that is important. It’s not just the rich, famous, and beautiful, but also this side of life that seems underrated and overlooked. I am interested in the things that are hidden. This exhibition is for the Nepalese people also. Sometimes, you don’t see what is happening in your own city or town.
Please describe your journey as an artist.
I decided to do architecture first. At some point, I decided to change because it was not enough for me. I needed to do something more artistic. So, I quit my job five years ago and decided to study art. So far it’s been challenging. Putting aside everything I had been doing for fifteen years and starting a new career at forty was difficult. I am getting old now. In the art world, people at forty have fifteen or twenty years’ experience with them. I have experience in architecture but it’s completely different. So, I think that’s very challenging.
What are your future projects?
I would like to continue this project in another country- maybe Japan or Germany. There are many more to come that I haven’t yet planned out yet. I see a work of art and it inspires me. Who knows what I will end up creating in the future? I choose to keep that option open.
What are your grievances?
The contemporary art in this country as is the case in many other countries is just gaining momentum. It is still, I would say, at its infancy. There aren’t many places to exhibit or galleries for contemporary art here. It is mostly traditional pieces of art that are bought by the patrons. We have to popularize contemporary art among the young people.
Compiled By: Prashant Shrestha
Photos By: Ayush Maharjan