Gary Wornell – kathmandu triennale

Curator's Profile

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Gary Wornell

Curator Statement

Nepal is a country with a rich tradition of craft both secular and religious. Men and women create these craft objects as they have for centuries and continue to exhibit a high level of skill passed on from one generation to another. Their work is achieved with primitive tools in very simple surroundings, and yet the results are exquisite. Little is known of the people themselves and the workshops and studios where they are made.

The exhibition, Treasure of Nepal, will be on show at The Nepal Tourism Board, Kathmandu. The exhibit will present the life and work of these people through photographs, written documentation, video and physical objects in a presentation that will give a holistic view of the fine crafts as they are at this point in time.

Nepal is undergoing significant development in social, economic and environmental fields and as a result these crafts are at risk of dying out. Young people aspire to the values of the developed nations who are instrumental in bringing about these changes and they no longer want to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers as crafts practitioners. For this reason time to record the life and work of this unique group of people is running out. It is important as a timely record, and also to raise awareness in the work of these people in this age of change.

Visitors to Nepal have seen many of these works in the abundant monasteries and temples throughout the country, but few have seen these works in the making. This exhibition aims to show the Nepalese people at work and their art in a way that hasn't been seen before. In the developed world we have turned to technologies that remove the need for hand skills, and so we have lost the feeling that these hand processes create. Treasure of Nepal will celebrate the work of these craftspeople and bring a unique view of the cultural heritage that is Nepal in 2016.

Social, economic and environmental changes in Nepal are taking place at a rapid pace. Education is providing opportunities to more and more young people in Nepal. Illiteracy is becoming a thing of the past. The Internet exposes children to a world that their parents were unaware of when they began their vocations. The life choices of the young are expanding and many are migrating to developed countries to pursue careers that are not possible at the moment in Nepal.

The children of uneducated craftspeople see the world very differently to their parents and they face difficult community choices in leaving the family tradition behind. In the next two decades skilled workers in their prime will get old and retire and there will be fewer and fewer people to replace them. Tradition runs very deep in this nation; customs and values will not change overnight, but the small workshops that are scattered around the Kathmandu valley will inevitably face challenges as new technologies replace the work of their hands.

You can view a 4-minute documentary video (of the 'Treasure of Nepal' book crowd funding initiative) here, which shows the story of the city craftsmen, responsible for the exhibition, in their workshops.


Gary Wornell is a Canadian born artist photographer who emigrated to Europe in 1969. In 1976 having obtained a B.A. in Art and Design at Staffordshire University he was awarded a New Craftsman’s Grant from the British Crafts Council. In 1995 he moved to Finland where he established a ceramic studio and gradually moved into graphic design, digital art, print making and photography.

Gary has been the recipient of numerous international awards in both craft, fine art and photography. These include the Japanese Inax Design Prize, The Finnish Arts Council Prize 2010, International Color Awards Photography Masters Cup 2010 and 2011, London International Creative Awards 2009 and 2012, Los Angeles Centre for Digital Art – Top 40 2009 and several awards in Travel Photographer of the Year. In 2013 he won Gold prize in PX3 – Prix de la Photographie Paris in Book category for his monochrome iPhone series on Nepal.

People are central to Gary’s current body of work. Where earlier works explored abstract representations of man and his interaction with the environment his new work explores the people themselves. Portraits and Photo journalistic work inspire him to interact with the people he meets – either on the street on in one of his photography workshops.  The iPhone – mobile device image capture has become a driving force for him since working in developing regions of the world.

Gary is a contributor to the Finnish Photography magazine Kamera lehti, and a member of Ars Häme Finnish Artists Association, the Union of Artist Photographers, The Finnish Press Photographers Association and the Finnish Photo Agency Leuku. He is also the designer of Japanese Kozo Paper Thin, a Signature Worthy brand of Epson Fine Art Papers. His years of research and teaching of ink jet technology and alternative approaches to printing have bridged the gap between traditional graphics and digital print technologies. The paper won Roll Media of the Year 2014 in the European Digital Press EDP Awards 2014. The link to Kozo is also on this web where you can find information about the product and its applications.

In recent years he has worked as design consultant on a bilateral environmental monitoring project – SEAM-Nepal – between Finland and Nepal and currently divides his time between the two countries. His current interests focus on mobile device image and video capture and capacity building initiatives with NGOs and INGOs in Nepal.