VAST: The first thing Jigme Dorji, a teacher graduate noticed when posted to Bayling higher secondary school, Trashiyangtse, was that students in the remote school shared his interest in art.

An artist himself, it pained him to see myriad of artistic skills going unnoticed in the schools for want of a platform. He wanted to promote contemporary art. That was five years ago in 2010.

However, there was no place where such talents could be groomed and guided. It struck him that someone had to take the lead.

Given his experience as a senior artist with VAST –Bhutan in Thimphu, he at least had the idea to reach out to the right people and support to begin a club of artists.

With the help of a friend, another teacher Chojay Tshering, and support from the founder of VAST-Bhutan, Azha Karma, he started the Visual Artists Studio of Trashiyangtse (VAST-Yangtse) club in 2012 with about 20 students.

Without a proper place for the club, members would initially gather at spaces wherever available until Azha Karma started supporting them by paying the monthly rent for a house they have now occupied in the heart of Yangtse town.

“It has been a rough ride but we managed set up a club that would provide contemporary art enthusiasts, young and old, a platform to showcase and develop their talents while we also strive to provide our artists with better opportunities,” Jigme Dorji said.

But sustaining the club is still a challenge. VAST-Yangtse members contribute Nu 500 every year to buy colours, brushes, pencils and other necessities. Donors have been hard to come by.

Today VAST-Trashiyangtse has grown to 60 members mostly comprising of students. Besides having aided in the Trashiyangtse beautification initiative, the club has held several exhibitions.

At present, paintings of a Paris-based artist, Olaf Van Cleef are being exhibited at the club. Organized to promote contemporary art in the east, Jigme Dorji said the event is a major leap for the club.

“Through the exhibition, artists in the east are getting exposed to the paintings of a professional,” he said. “Besides, the artist also trained young members of the club to do paintings centered on Bhutan with a global taste.”

He said that Olaf Van Cleef smartly uses different techniques that give a third dimension, the glittering appearance, to his paintings. For instance, the different colors of chocolate papers, parcels of metal mixed with various plastic geometric forms gives out interesting effects.

“With support from Olaf Van Cleef, we are also planning to hold an exhibition in Thimphu with paintings made by artists from eastern Bhutan. We are hoping to achieve this within a year, ” he said.

Meanwhile, Olaf Van Cleef has also made monetary contribution that would keep the club running for another two years. The club is in the process of getting registered under VAST-Bhutan.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang