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Kapil Mani Dixit: Radical Nepali figurative artist

Khushi Srivastava

Khushi Srivastava

Kapil Mani Dixit: Radical Nepali figurative artist

By showcasing his figurative paintings, he hopes to spread the word that nude art isn’t vulgar.

Kapil Mani Dixit is an extremely skilled figurative artist. He is well-known and well-received for his nude figure paintings drawn with the help of live models. The talented artist is a pioneer of nude artwork in Nepal and has been successful in shining the spotlight on nude figurative artwork in conservative societies, such as Nepal.

By showcasing his figurative paintings, he hopes to spread the word that nude art isn’t vulgar. It’s rather about appreciating the human body in its purest and most natural form. In his opinion, the human body is magnificent in every manner and even its flaws are to be celebrated. His work makes a bold and impactful statement but it has never been easy as Dixit has often been on the receiving end of a lot of scorn.

Dixit was interested in art since childhood. He says he was pretty sure art was what he wanted to pursue when he was just six years old. He took a nine-month training program after high school. His father, who was a government official, used to draw nude paintings as a hobby. “His sketches used to be so perfect and beautiful. I think that stayed in my subconscious mind,” he says.

A brief period of confusion followed when he chose to study commerce, but he was never particularly interested in it. He then got enrolled at the Lalit Kala Campus, a fine arts campus in Kathmandu, for a two-year course. After that, he traveled to the United States of America and got a degree in fine arts from the University of Texas, Arlington. Dixit was in the US for 11 years before “finally realizing that it wasn’t the place for him”. He returned to Nepal in 2008.

According to him, nudity is not and should not be glamorized. It’s the most natural thing in the world. “The models talk to me and I capture their feelings. I use male, female, and trans models. Size and gender are no bar. I just want to portray the human body,” he says. There are many models who are insecure about their bodies but still want to pose for him. They are trying to become comfortable with themselves. Sometimes even rape survivors approach him. Everyone always has a story to tell. “These models don’t do it for a paycheck. It’s a cathartic process for them where they try to accept their bodies,” he adds.

He believes the human body is a beautiful thing and no one should be ashamed of their body, no matter what others tell us. “Our society’s definition of beauty constantly changes with time. Instead of dwelling on our insecurities, we should celebrate what we already have,” he says.

You could say Dixit’s clear beliefs have been shaped by the criticism he received for his work. From being blamed for ruining the Nepali culture to excluding him from functions and gatherings, he has had to steel himself against a lot of testy times. But nothing people have said can change his relationship with art.

He has also been lucky because his family has always supported him. His wife, he says, is his biggest cheerleader. Even when people have made fun of him at family functions and he has felt embarrassed, he has taken comfort in the fact that his wife has always understood and applauded him. He laments that his work, however, makes things difficult for his family too. He realizes this is inevitable but it’s sometimes hard to let things slide when people, who are closed to new, different ideas, are mean to his loved ones.

Dixit has two daughters, and he gives his girls the necessary exposure to his works. He thinks parents and children should be able to talk about anything. He wants normalcy in his line of work and thinks change should start at home. “When my daughter was really young, she looked at one of my paintings and said that the subject wasn’t wearing a diaper. I found the comment hilarious. But it was also a good step towards normalizing nude paintings,” he says.

In addition to talking about awareness, he also aims to influence youth to take up figurative paintings. His heart swells with pride when young people say his works inspire them, it feels like his hard work and struggles haven’t been futile. Dixit wants to open a school for figurative drawing in the future so that the new generation can normalize and popularize this artform.

“If you are closed to ideas and concepts that aren’t in line with yours, everything you don’t understand will seem like a big deal. Nude painting is one of the many examples of that. There should be more conversations on taboo subjects and these conversations have to first happen at home,” he says.

Dixit is currently working for the exhibition ‘Nude’ that will be held in October this year. It’s a series of quick nude gestures.