VAST – A Champion Of Contemporary Art In Bhutan

The Founder of VAST, who is fondly known as Asha Karma, has devoted his time to promoting contemporary art ever since VAST came into being in 1998.

Bhutan's royal family portrait. (Source: Facebook/VASTBhutan)

 

By Sonam Choden | BBS

Contemporary art has soared in popularity in Bhutan over the years . All or much of the credit goes to the Voluntary Artists Studio of Thimphu (VAST).

VAST helps to promote contemporary art in Bhutan

The Founder of VAST, who is fondly known as Asha Karma, has devoted his time to promoting contemporary art ever since VAST came into being in 1998.

The studio started with just 80 members. It now boasts of more than 10,000 members and volunteers, and a majority of them are youths.

VAST thinks that the growing popularity of contemporary art has got a lot to do with youth nowadays who have a better understanding of art and its value.

 

Source: Facebook/VASTBhutan

 

Contemporary art means different things for different people. Some learnt the art to make a living while others seek to explore their inner self.

What some Bhutanese artists say

For Yeshey Choden, it is all about self-expression. “Creating your own art gives you pleasure. It makes you happy and that’s what hooks me,” she said.

“If you are angry, instead of taking it out on the people around you, you can choose to channel the emotion into creating an art piece. That way, it saves you from feeling depressive.”

Kishor Dhal, another artist, looks at contemporary art from a similar angle. “It’s a form of meditation, he says. “We involve ourselves in it.”

He added that in a digital age where devices command all our attention, contemporary art helps in preventing phones and computers from taking control over our lives. “If you are into art, you are able to gain inner peace and contentment.”

Some of the challenges which Bhutanese artists face in pursuing their passion in contemporary art

Contemporary art has no doubt come a long way, but it is not without challenges. The lack of an art institution and family support, and budget constraints are some of the challenges that both VAST and artists are confronted with.

“Their parents do not allow them to pursue their interest and passion in art,” Asha Karma said.

“Neither is there a place or platform for them to study contemporary art. There’s no state support. We only have places to study traditional art and not contemporary art. You can’t afford to study contemporary art unless you get a scholarship.”

VAST has been offering scholarships for students to study in art colleges in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan since 2003. Since then, about 30 youths have studied contemporary art under the VAST scholarship so far.

 

This article first appeared in BBS and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.

 


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