New artworks conjured from the mountains of Nepal
Patrick Cullen ● Tobit Roche ● Tim Scott Bolton
Community Action Nepal
Out of Thin Air is in support of Community Action Nepal a registered charity number 1067772
Community Action Nepal is a UK based charity whose aim is to help some of the poorest people on the planet – the mountain people of Nepal who live in the totally isolated communities often with no roads. CAN helps them to help themselves to raise their standard of living and to strengthen indigenous, community-based culture. CAN’s ethos is quite simple in its ultimate objective; having provided the initial support to eventually reduce donor dependency.
After 30 years, CAN has delivered or directly supported over 45 projects in Nepal, including: 20 health posts, 15 schools, 3 porter rescue shelters, 7 community buildings and other welfare / community related projects, and numerous livelihood and social welfare projects.
The charity is now moving into a new phase of existence. Following the rebuild after the earthquake, CAN’s structure and profile is greater than ever. It currently provides access to health care, education and porter protection to approximately 250,000 rural Nepalis.
In March 2019 artists Patrick Cullen, Tobit Roche and Tim Scott Bolton and filmmaker, Jack Hextall set off to complete the Annapurna circuit in Nepal. They returned with paintings which, as well as being to some degree topographical, also conveyed the atmosphere of particular moments, to say nothing of their own emotional responses to the dramatic grandeur of the incredible Himalayan mountains. Jack’s film captured the whole process, both the journey and the making of the paintings.
Things started badly; luggage lost by the airline with some of the painting gear and a colossal storm which closed the Pokhara road just after they had left Kathmandu. Beshishahar was reached 24 hours late and the baggage didn’t arrive until the next day. Their ever-smiling guide, Yam, reacted to these frustrations with the greatest of calm. He arranged jeeps, accommodation and porters where necessary, constantly adjusting plans to fit with the painters’ need to have a very flexible schedule dependent on when inspiration struck. For instance Tal, the first planned stop, was found to be too gloomy at the bottom of its steep sided valley. Then journeying on near Dharapani the landscape was revealed, and above the fine old fir forests Manaslu's lofty peak dominated in the east. A productive painting session was followed by a hearty supper of Dal Baat washed down by some strong home distilled spirit in the smoke filled kitchen of a remote and delightfully unsophisticated guesthouse below the road.
Pisang is a substantial settlement of largely traditional stone and wood buildings and, at 3200 metres, the air much thinner. A longer stay here reflected the greater variety of subjects on hand, village life as well as great views of the surrounding mountains. Braka was another unplanned stop, an attractive settlement in the broad floodplain of the Marshyangdi river with an ancient monastery above looking over Annapurna 3 and Gangapurna both looming above in snow-bound magnificence.
From here the jeep was abandoned in favour of trekking, with porters to carry the significant equipment artists and film makers require. Manang is a regional centre and popular for acclimatisation before tackling the Thorong La pass. The old village is a cluster of close-set ancient houses with temples and prayer walls with low dives to drink Chang and eat Momo’s. After this there are no roads and the climbing gets serious via Yak Kharta and Thorong Phedi. There were exceptional snows and rumours abounded about the pass being closed. A few years before a large number of trekkers and porters had died on the pass with a change of weather and the authorities were jittery. From Thorong Phedi the track, then snowbound, seems to snake up a near vertical slope. At four in the morning the sight of other trekkers with their twinkling head torches high above is somewhat daunting but almost mechanically one foot was put before the other, the crampons digging into the snow, and some two hours later as the sun rose in a clear blue sky a welcome cuppa was taken at the upper camp (High Camp). Thereafter the climbing is easier and the scenery inspirational: a vast bowl of high snow-covered peaks. The pass itself at 5416 metres was reached at about midday and the skies remained clear all day. The descent was tricky at times in the slushy snow until Tim realised some parts were best negotiated sliding down hundreds of yards on one’s backside!
Muktinath, the first settlement to the west of the pass, is a renowned centre for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage and it gives this ugly little town a vibrance and attractiveness which otherwise it would lack. Streams of people are taken up the hill by ponies to the shrines and with this there is the usual trading of saintly memorabilia from colourful stalls. Being in the rain shadow of the Annapurna the landscape is an arid wasteland of colourful bands of rock with the river Kali Gandhi Nadi cutting great canyons and gorges below. This is the edge of the Tibetan plateau and although less picturesque than the eastern approaches to the Thorong La, it has its own barren magnificence.
Tukuche, the final painting stop-off, is also an ancient town with productive apple orchards and the added attraction of an excellent little inn run by a Dutchman and his Nepalese wife. This community had long prospered as evidenced by the numerous grand houses with their attractive balconies that line the main street. A monastery almost in the floodplain of the River gave a fine foreground for the great snowcapped peaks around, the massives of Dauligeri and Nilgiri to the West and East of the river valley respectively.
Out of Thin Air
A short documentary about three artists' journey into mountains and onto canvas by Jack Hextall.
Patrick Cullen NEAC is an award winning artist known for his scenes of Tuscany and Andalucia in all seasons and weathers. More recently he has been a frequent visitor to India, painting in the streets and markets of Rajasthan. He persuaded fellow artists Ken Howard RA and Pete "the street" Brown, amongst others, to join him on several India trips which were followed by joint London shows in 2013 and 2016. Public purchasers include the Royal Academy and Sheffield City Art Gallery.
"This opportunity to paint the dramatic beauty of the Himalayas with such experienced mountain artists as Tim and Toby has been a revelation. Why did I leave it so long?!".
Born in Manchester in 1954. Tobit spent his childhood in Hong Kong, Canada and India. After studying at the Ontario College of Art, Canada, he spent a year living and working with Duncan Grant at Charleston, Sussex before completing his studies at Camberwell School of Art. Tobit divides his time between London and Hastings and travels frequently to India.
Tim Scott Bolton
Landscape painter in both oil and watercolour, he travels widely especially to India, The Middle East and Europe from his home, an organic farm in Wilshire where he and his wife run the Summerleaze Gallery. In 2016 he wrote and illustrated a book on ‘Capability’ Brown and in 2017 was the Royal Tour Artist for HRH the Prince of Wales. He undertakes commissions internationally of country houses, rivers, landscapes and conversation pieces. He is represented in many collections including those of HM The Queen and The National Trust.