An exhibition held at
This exhibition at Peaceful Wind Gallery was the first major broad-ranging exhibition of contemporary art from Tibet to take place in the United States.
The exhibition included paintings from many of the contemporary artists working today in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and the heartland of Tibetan history, culture and religion. It featured the work of the artists of the Gedun Choephel Artists' Guild who have organized a cooperative gallery and exhibition space in Lhasa.
Tibet is in a state of flux and change that impacts all of its inhabitants and cannot help but catch the notice of the many visitors and tourists that come in increasing numbers to the high plains of this magical land. Tibet's artists are at the cutting edge of this evolution: it is they who are constantly dealing with the contradictions and rapid change of their treasured home. As Gade, one of the founding members of the group whose works are featured in this exhibition, recently wrote:
"Modern art in Tibet never seems to relate to the modern art movement in the outside world, seldom even participating in any contemporary art program in Mainland China. So few people know the modern art of Tibet. It is like a strange creature, grown and developing without preparation or influence. It has just happened as a mingling of the red and blue neon lights of the nightclubs and the butter lamps and the Potala palace with the plastic evergreen coconut trees at its foot.
Modern art in Tibet has grown in such a fantastic ecosystem and environment. It's like an underage person without preparation and experience who is facing a life-and-death crisis, at the same time facing the bars and fetters of his own ancient culture and the stereotypes of outsiders, hampered by a lack of information and communication with the external world.
The development of Tibetan modern art is difficult from the very beginning, but it is good from another point of view, because artists can closely examine themselves and hold to their own interests in an age of information explosion. Perhaps what the artists are thinking about modern art in Tibet is just in their imagination - or maybe there is no modern art in Tibet. But what is important is that artists are recording the transmigration of a civilization and a disappearing myth."
The sense of cultural tension and excitement that is at the heart of life in Lhasa is reflected in the vibrant paintings created by the artists featured in the show.
The artists whose works are being shown represent a myriad of styles. The bold landscapes of Tsewang Tashi show the scenery of the Lhasa valley and environs in strong primary colors which seem to vibrate, and which cannot help but remind the viewer of our own sun-drenched Southwest. Another sense of landscape can be found in the undulating "alla prima" technique of Wangshiming, who bicycles daily to his favorite spots in a tiny village near the great monastery of Sera, where he creates his pulsating but peaceful oils of village life.
Tserang Dhandrup, a native of Amdo, the great Northeastern area of cultural Tibet, paints sensitive and highly detailed views of the ancient cultural centers of Tibet, such as his sensitive portrait of a young boy pausing to lean against a wall of the ancient monastery of Sakya. Tsering Dorje, one of the oldest of the Lhasa artists, uses vibrant colors to create abstract visions of ancient monastic centers.
Gade, one of the best known of the painters in the show, incorporates elements of Tibet's past with the icons of the modern world culture now flooding into the Tibetan consciousness to create sensitive and compelling portraits of a new and evolving Tibetan consciousness. Tsering Nyandak, a young painter who left Lhasa to be educated at the Tibetan Children's Village in Dharamsala and then returned to his family in Lhasa, paints large joyous, raucous canvases full of color and life and ironic comment on the contradictions of life in Tibet.
Those who see the paintings in this show cannot help but feel the vibrancy of this new life being born in what is one our planet's great spiritual heartlands. They will surely be impressed with the liveliness of the works on display and the sincerity and earnestness of the feelings these artists bring to their work. These artists express the hope and determination of the young people of Lhasa and the young people of Tibet. Their hope is for a future they can only imagine, and their determination is to do their best to help create a new world there that will preserve all the best of the past with a future whose shape and direction they feel is partly in their own hands.