Critics’ Picks

Shared Skies II, 2018, print and stitching on fabric, 43 x 43".

Shared Skies II, 2018, print and stitching on fabric, 43 x 43".

Kathmandu

Sunita Maharjan

Siddhartha Art Gallery
Baber Mahal Revisited Babar Mahal Kathmandu
December 2, 2018–January 10, 2019

Space is elastic in Sunita Maharjan’s second solo exhibition, “Shared Skies.” In textile, it expands and contracts. Her works in “Marpha,” 2013, one of four series on display, showcase an abundant sprawl of high-altitude desert undulating through pastel fabrics. Meanwhile, the series “Terrace,” 2016-18, offers a glimpse of the intensity with which buildings jockey in overpopulated sections of the Kathmandu Valley. Much like a cartographer, Maharjan presents the landscape in aerial view, mapping people’s experiences with lived spaces onto fabric, padding cramped livelihoods with the comfort of cotton and measured needlework.

Space is brittle here, too. In “Earthquake,” 2016, kitchen interiors are recreated through photocollages, and paintings of village homes in acrylic are punctuated by charcoal lines that create a similar collage-like effect. Maharjan, who lost her own home in Nepal’s 2015 earthquake and had to reside in makeshift accommodation, does not take stability or wholeness for granted. Her work directly references the cut-and-paste, ad hoc way in which she had to reassemble life with fractured remains.

Throughout “Shared Skies,” Maharjan foregrounds the built environment in terms of subjective experience. “I depict human activity without the presence of human figures,” she writes in her artist’s statement. Whether it’s the pile of laundry still hanging on a clothesline in “Earthquake” or the leitmotif of black water tanks scattered among the rooftops of “Terrace,” Maharjan’s portrayal of “people’s choices of objects and their arrangement” gestures toward the priorities, comforts, and anxieties that tremble beneath their wakeful days.