The Prakriti Project
SHARING this wonderful tribute to the late, great Drs. Mary Slusser and Dina Bangdel, prepared by Dr. Elena Pakhoutova, Curator, Himalayan Art, the Rubin Museum of Art, NYC. I had the great privilege of being professionally honored, appreciated, and supported in my work by both these outstanding scholars, and will miss them deeply.
Maureen Drdak was awarded the 2011 Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowship for visual art in the nation of Nepal for The Prakriti Project. Taking its name from the Sanskrit word prakriti, signifying both physical matter and the primal creative force that shapes it, The Prakriti Project is the first integration of contemporary painting and the metal art of repoussé, an ancient technique in which sheet metal is hammered from both sides to produce a three-dimensional bas-relief; many of the works on this website feature this groundbreaking synthesis. Drdak’s Fulbright project advanced and built upon her 2009 feasibility study, for which she traveled to the Patan atelier of Newari contemporary master Rabindra Shakya—who remains her guru. (For an in-depth examination of Newar metallurgy and celebration of Rabindra Shakya's atelier, read The Gilded Buddha by Dr. Alex Furger.) Drdak's relationship with the family of Rabindra Shakya, considered the finest practitioners of repoussé practice alive today, is a significant personal honor for Drdak as few foreigners have studied with this atelier; to date, Drdak remains the only foreigner to have attained technical proficiency under study with this family. Tracing their family lineage to Pandit Abhaya Raj Shaya in 1564, this family of artists and scholars was favored by the Malla and Shah kings of Nepal. Kuber Singh Shakya—father of Rudra Raj and grandfather of Rabindra and his brothers Rajkumar and Rajendra—remains the acknowledged historic master of the repoussé form in the Himalayan region; Rabindra's brother Rajkumar designed, directed, and completed the creation of the repoussé colossus comparable to America's Statue of Liberty--a one hundred fifteen foot image of the Buddhist saint Padmasambhava--in remote Takela, Bhutan in 2014. Drdak’s Fulbright research period comprised six months research and study in Nepal--where she was also Kathmandu Contemporary Art Center Resident Artist in the Patan Museum--and culminated in an exhibition at Siddhartha Art Gallery with Rabindra Shakya in which her Fulbright statement piece, The Flying Nagas, was exhibited along with the works of her guru. In writing of Drdak’s paintings and her study with Rabindra in The Art of Rabindra Shakya and Maureen Drdak: An Appreciation for Drdak's catalog, eminent scholar Dr. Mary Slusser of the Freer Sackler Galleries in Washington wrote that Drdak's “astonishing paintings” represent an “inspired coupling apparently without antecedents,” further describing her use of repoussé in her paintings as "revolutionary."
View a wonderful video of Rabindra's brother, Raj Kumar's work here!
The Prakriti Project presents a unique contribution to the vocabulary of the visual arts, evidences the unexplored contemporary applications of the venerable and ancient art form of repoussé, addresses the relevance of qualitatively endangered material techniques for contemporary art practices, and furthers the dynamic expansion of cultural boundaries and the ongoing artistic and cultural dialogue between the Asia and the West. This was Drdak’s fifth trip to Nepal, and third for artistic study. In 2008 she traveled with composer Andrea Clearfield to remote Lo Monthang for research for the highly successful multidisciplinary collaborative Lung-Ta, which premiered in Philadelphia in 2009.
Download Drdak’s Fulbright catalog, Eternal Visions-Contemporary Forms here.
In the Footsteps of ArnikoImpact Productions
Making of Padmasambhava in Bhutan by RajKumar Shakya
The Living Traditions Museum: Repousse Practiced by The Newar's of The Kathmandu Valley by James Giambrone