By: Lindsay Covington, Seraphin Gallery Intern
Youdhisthir Maharjan is a master of contradictions. Through his work he tackles complex dichotomies, such as spirituality and nothingness, science and art, mass production and attention to detail, journey and final destination. His art reflects the human search for meaning: a subject which has taxed mankind for centuries, and which remains as futile as Sisyphus pushing his boulder up the hill. Maharjan’s installations and and prints are made from repurposed texts, which he strips of their legible content. In interviews, Maharjan has cited writings by Beckett (Waiting for Godot) and Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus) as his artistic inspiration, as well as the Buddhist Thangka (painting on cotton textile). His rich personal history is also ingrained his work -- Maharjan was educated at a military academy in his native Nepal, originally looking to become a doctor before turning to the arts. He uses the rigid, mathematical repetition learned from childhood as a source of meditation when creating his pieces.
Though influenced by the philosophy of absurdity, Maharjan’s work is far from existentialist. He immerses his pieces in riddles begging to be solved, carefully choosing each letter he highlights. Maharjan gives each page and book a new purpose, writing a language which he lets the viewer decipher. Much like the texts themselves, he repurposes the 20th century philosophies, allowing the audience to decide whether or not they want to extract meaning from his art. For Maharjan, the art lies in the process of production rather than the end result. Taking from his background studying science and mathematics, he meticulously cuts and pastes different parts of each text, scrambling the letters or erasing lines, leaving an ‘illegible’ page. This process, he states, takes days on end. During this time, Maharjan connects to his spiritual roots, his literary pursuits, and his innermost contemplations. What remains in his work is the interesting blend of incomprehensibility at first glance and profundity upon reflection.
Every book he reworks is one which Maharjan happened upon in a used bookstore, as if by a whimsical twist of fate. The titles are in some way wittily linked to the pattern on the page. In this way, the artist further plunges into the relationship between word as something with inherent meaning and word as a simple shape. In Archives of the Universe, soon to be consigned by Seraphin Gallery, Maharjan cuts out the main text, using some of the individual letters to form a miniature galaxy in the center of the page. Vowels are joined in an abstract constellation, prompting thought about the universe and our place in it. This brings us full-circle to the notion of the futility of this train of thought. Should we try to decode what Maharjan has presented us, or should we just let the beauty of the page engulf us?
Maharjan describes how he uses art to work through his musings about our role in the universe, tying together his pieces marked by stellar forms and open spaces.
"My fascination is more towards astronomy than astrology, or maybe equally both. I have always been awed by the mystery and the feeling of infinity that the space radiates in me. I like the idea of getting lost staring at the night skies, how it reminds us of our place in the Universe, how little it makes us feel, and at the same time, how lucky to be able to enjoy and experience its magical beauty."
Please see this link for more information about the artist: