English | Dzongkha Tuesday, September 22, 2020

VAST continues to play crucial role in promoting contemporary art

Sonam Choden, Thimphu
Jun 30, 2018

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). The Founder of VAST, who is fondly known as Asha Karma, has and continues to play a key role in promoting contemporary art.

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 vast majority of them are youths.

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

Contemporary art means different things for different people. Some learn the art to make a living out of it and others to explore their inner self.

For Yeshey Choden, it’s 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 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 in a digital age where devices command all people’s 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.”

Contemporary art has no doubt come a long way, but it is not without challenges. 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 nor a platform for them to study contemporary art. There’s no state support. We only have places to study traditional art. You can’t afford to study contemporary art unless you get a scholarship.”

VAST has been offering scholarships to aspiring Bhutanese artists to study in art colleges in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan since 2003.

About 30 youths have studied contemporary art under the VAST scholarship so far.

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