Yearender/Arts: The horse year saw much strides made, when it came to the state of art in the country.  The year saw many avenues being opened for artists through different themed art exhibitions, literary fests, to the Voluntary Artists’ Studio of Thimphu (VAST) attaining civil society organisation (CSO) status.

The year kicked off with a joint exhibition titled Impressions of Happiness between Bhutanese and Singaporean artists held in Singapore in April.

The artists came together and expressed their concept of happiness through their artworks, which was sold during the exhibition.  Part of the sales proceeds of the artworks went to two art causes – international young artists exchange and VAST Bhutan.

The next month saw the fifth Mountain Echoes, which took place in the capital.  The annual literary festival served a literary banquet to suit everyone’s taste.  From religion, culture, politics to the phallus, the festival was a delicious spread.

Spread around in various venues located at the Tarayana centre, Taj Tashi and Nehru-Wangchuck cultural centre, one had to pick what interested one the most.  There were talks, films, art exhibitions and workshops.

The year also saw children present an opportunity to express themselves through art, based on the theme ‘imagine our future’.

Good school structures, better health facilities, helicopters, and airplanes and blacktopped roads were some of the common elements expressed through their artworks.

About 60 students attended the summer art camp held in Thimphu, which marked 25 years of the UN convention on the rights of the children.

While the next month saw the first ever exhibition by 20 Bhutanese women titled Her Expression, providing a platform for budding as well as professional female artists.

These female artists came together proving that even females are capable of working on contemporary paintings, or bringing a new perspective through art in a male dominated arena.

Despite creativity reaching a new height, art in Bhutan is still searching for a foothold.

However, a glimmer of hope was seen for Bhutanese art when VAST got their CSO status on September 2, providing a legal background and recognition to raise funds for the growth of art in the country.  VAST now has an office with salaried staff.

Towards the end of the year, Bhutanese art was taken to yet another level when a French artist, Olaf Van Cleef, offered another perspective with a European touch.  He showed the paintings of Buddhist icons, like Guru Rinpoche, Tsheringma and Zhabdrung, not only painted colourfully but also studded with Swarovski crystals, gems and chocolate paper.

The 64-year old artist will display his works in an exhibition, which will be held in September this year.

Thinley Zangmo