Jigmi Wangdi

For young individuals with a passion for art, there aren’t many places in Bhutan where they can go and learn from master painters and professional artists.

From a handful of art studios that exist today, Voluntary Artists Studio of Thimphu, popularly known as VAST, is one place where these budding artists turn to. 

Since its inception in 1998, the main objective of VAST has been to create a platform where young Bhutanese artists get an opportunity to hone their skills and showcase their talents. Located at Chubachu, VAST thrives on the ingenuity of budding local artists.

VAST is organising an art competition in collaboration with White Canvas Thailand, Eastern Culture Foundation Japan, and Bhutan Acorn Tours and Travel.

The competition is exhibiting the work of local artists at the studio. Close to 60 artists are participating in the White Canvas Bhutan Art competition. 

The youngest artist is just five. 

When one enters the VAST studio, a lingering smell of paint is what you will be met with first. After a few steps in, you will see beautiful artwork by the participants.

Kinzang Chophel, 31, contributed an art piece to the competition. 

“I try to paint whenever I can get time,” he said. His artwork depicts traditional Bhutanese houses in ruins, with trees growing out of them. To him, this represents the current state of the country with young and capable Bhutanese leaving for abroad. 

“I want to show the country’s situation. Our young people should stay back and contribute to the growth of our nation,” Kinzang said. 

Another artist, Tashi Pelzom, painted artwork of a handheld prayer wheel. To her, the art symbolises old age. 

“When we are young, we don’t think deeply about our Buddhist values and the religion in general. But as we grow old, we start to become more drawn towards Buddhist teachings. Ultimately, the prayer wheel becomes our only companion,” said Tashi.

Each painting at the exhibition speaks a thousand words. 

Ugyen Dorji took interest in art ever since he was 12 years old. His father was a painter too.

Ugyen’s artwork shows a colourful extract of chaos in the form of war. To him, this represents the pointlessness of ego. “This is the true picture of the world today. When two world leaders clash in ego, there is only destruction and war.”

These creators of the marvellous artworks are the gentle renegades of society. They bring out the pulse of the changing society in myriad colours and haunting narratives.