The self-conscious intertextuality between art and literature in Youdhisthir Maharjan’s artwork

Home » The self-conscious intertextuality between art and literature in Youdhisthir Maharjan’s artwork

By Avani Solanki

Youdhisthir Maharjan is a Nepali artist with a background in creative writing and art history. His formal education includes a Bachelor of Arts from New England College, New Hampshire in the aforementioned fields, along with an M.F.A. from the University of Idaho. Maharjan’s intense affiliation with literature and the craft of literary and artistic creation is evident in his artwork.

Maharjan explores the confluence of literature and art through the intricately carved-out details in his work. The viewer is immediately drawn into his processes of creation, as words–and sometimes even letters–fragment and mingle into one another. 

At the India Art Fair 2022, Blueprint 12 gallery’s segment on Maharjan continued with the motif of self-conscious creation, with artworks like The Life of a Useless Man (2021) presenting a post-modernist take on the increasing incoherence of the human psyche in contemporary times. The Life of a Useless Man depicts a page from Gorky’s novel with the same name. Each letter on the page has been painstakingly carved out of its location, only to sit, displaced, right under the original printed line. By individually stripping away the spatial and the written contexts of the words,this artwork communicates a sense of displacement. When located within the text’s own location (it is, after all, a translated edition of the original work), the displacement and disorientation becomes even more evident.

Another fascinating piece presented at the India Art Fair is Maharjan’s Of Time and Memory (2021). The source material of this artwork is Don J. Snyder’s book, Of Time and Memory: A Mother’s Story. The artwork visualizes the two entities, ‘time’ and ‘memory’, in a refreshingly unique way. Instead of positioning one page after the other, Maharjan chooses to create a scroll-like installation using the book’s pages. The scroll is not uniform; as the spectator traverses lower and lower into the recesses of time, gaps and folds emerge. The folds in the paper seem to hint at the non-linearity of time in memory, wherein hours, days, months conflate into flitting moments, while even seconds may seem to last a lifetime. Additionally, Maharjan alludes to the corrosion of memory with time. Letters cascade off of the pages, only to lie in a heap at the bottom of the scroll. 

Thus, the distinct textuality of Youdhisthir Maharjan’s works, coupled with the subtlety of his artistic creation, invites the viewer to revisit the nuances of each art piece.