Surya Bajracharya: Passengers

Above: Surya Bajracharya, Untitled 2, 2018, monotype, 40x40cm. Right: Untitled 3, 2018, monotype, 40x40cm. Below: Untitled 7, 2018, lithograph, 40x40cm.

Surya Bajracharya reflects on a recent exhibition and residency at Megalo Print Studio + Gallery.

Imprint: What is the premise for this exhibition and how have you been working towards it?

SB: The beginning of Passenger was mid-2016 when I was awarded a six-week residency that I painfully stretched out to late 2017… maybe even some of early 2018. (Thank you, Megalo—I love you.) This residency was a chance to work freely, unobserved and unhindered by old ideas.

Two independent series of work emerged. Initially, other than the 400 x  400mm format, I intended no real connection between the imagined monotypes and the photo-based lithographs, that I was simply leaving one for the other: a reactive release, giving in to the impulse to do so… I found it restorative, a way of balancing the differences in process, hoping to sustain/foster the excitement I felt making prints again, a way to ward off the onset of stagnation/boredom.

At some point, as I shuffled prints around from drying stack to plan draws to cardboard folders, I began to play with various arrangements, setting lithographs and monotypes next to each other, then separating them into pairs… things started falling into place, I could now visualise how it might all set together.

‘Passenger’ is a word that somehow felt right, fit perfectly, a word that seemed to drop out of the sky and explain something of the lithographs and monotypes I’d been making.

Imprint: What are some of the foundation ideas for the work in the exhibition, and what are visitors likely to experience?

SB: We are all passengers. Some of us have destinations in mind, while others, are happy to stick a thumb out and chance a random ride.

As passengers, we are free to observe, daydream, contemplate, and half knowingly set aside responsibility in an uneasy equilibrium, that the fate of our journey is ultimately beyond control.

 The exhibition was opened by artist, friend and mentor Patsy Payne, and she found a quote by Aldous Huxley that I think sums it up well: ‘My fate cannot be mastered; it can only be collaborated with and thereby, to some extent, directed. Nor am I the captain of my soul, I am only its noisiest passenger…’

Hopefully visitors will be able to reflect on the works and align them with some of their own experiences. This is one reason I’ve left the works untitled—I wanted to make a space that was open to a viewer’s interpretation and that would let them engage on their own terms.

Imprint: How was the work developed technically and what were some of the challenges involved?

SB: The residency gave me the opportunity to try my hand at monotype, and I found its immediacy and simplicity really appealing and refreshing. The process lent itself to creating more emotional responses… images from memory and the imagination.

Lithography meanwhile has long been a primary medium for me, and it sat well alongside the monotype works to capture different aspects of the same idea. The extreme detail of the lithographs, working from photos, pushes realism into abstraction. The biggest challenge with litho, and so with creating this exhibition, is the huge time investment and labour-intensive process.

Imprint: What future projects are you working on?

SB: For now I’m having a bit of a rest and regroup, cooking up an idea for a show I’d like to curate with some Canberra region artists. Later this year I’ll have some work in More than Human, Anthropocene curated by Julian Laffan and Natasha Fijn for the ANU School of Art and Design Gallery.