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Manish Harijan is a contemporary Nepali artist who lives in Sheffield. The son of a shoemaker from the Dalit or untouchable caste, through art, Manish questions the injustices inflicted upon minorities and the lived experiences of vulnerable populations in all societies around the world. His work traverses the east and the west, casting iconic images from religion to pop culture, smoothly embedding them in one canvas to create bold, beautiful and provocative paintings.
His main media is painting using oil, acrylic and mixed media with techniques tending toward Super flat popularised by Takashi Murakami. Inspired by Nepali art traditions of Thangka and Paubha, Manish also borrows styles from graphic novels, especially manga and popular superhero comics. He calls it the ‘Thang-Su-flat’ technique. Manish’s compositions reference a variety of subjects from social issues of caste discrimination to art history, merging local stories with the global, fairy tales with news pieces, mythology with facts — questioning both the portrayal and the portrayed.
In 2012, for his first solo exhibition at Siddhartha Art Gallery in Kathmandu, Manish brought together these themes challenging the status quo of tradition, hierarchy, religion and beliefs in Nepal. Unfortunately, the gallery was vandalised and Manish was sent death threats and accused of being anti-Hindu for portraying Hindu gods in superhero costumes. The exhibition was shut down, court cases were filed and UNESCO issued a press release to support the artist’s freedom of expression.
Deeply affected and saddened by the state of affairs, Manish moved to the UK, where he enrolled in a Master of Fine Arts programme at Sheffield Hallam University. While in university, he redoubled his commitment to exploring the rights of the marginalised through art, participating in art projects that gave voice to the rights of the marginalised, the stateless and people at risk. He graduated in 2019 and was awarded the Dianne Willcocks Lifelong Learning award. His works have been exhibited at Welt Museum in Vienna, Museum of Communication in The Hague, Tate modern London (Virtual exhibition because of pandemic) Nepal Art Council in Kathmandu, Yorkshire Art Space in Sheffield, India Art fair New Delhi, CKU Copenhagen Denmark, October Gallery London, ROSL Gallery London, Bloc Project Sheffield and Artist’s journey #3 UK and among others. Besides paintings, Manish also experiments with installations, sculptures and multimedia.