Tibet: Made by Tibetans

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Tibet

In the West, Tibet is a symbolic place in the search for “elsewhere”.  In a present where, despite globalization and scientific development, there is still a thirst for mystery, the Roof of the World tops most other legends. Perhaps only the legend of Atlantis has aroused more interest over the centuries. But Atlantis is still, in fact, a legend, while Tibet is a tangible reality, even though today it is an autonomous region of China, with a government in exile in Dharamsala in India and a great cultural and religious diaspora, well represented by the smiling face of the Dalai Lama. Imago Mundi wanted to penetrate the complex condition of Tibetan contemporary art, suspended between tradition and modernity, through a collection of 143 works in the small 10x12 cm format that characterizes every collection in the project.

Jamyang Nyima – Untitled (2013)

To jog our memories of Tibet and to satisfy our imagination deficit, we can’t fail to mention the magic of Shangri-La, the name of the fictional town in the heart of the Himalayas, inhabited by perfect men in Lost Horizon, the James Hilton novel written in 1933, which took inspiration from the mythical kingdom of Shambhala. Since then, following similar lines, we have been treated to a myriad of films (the first, back in the thirties, by Frank Capra), books, music, names given to resorts, restaurants, cultural centers and so on and so forth.

Shawu Drukla - Untitled (2013)

And all this, of course, contributes to fueling our desire for knowledge about the country of the people of the snow. “What is certain – comments Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - is that the Tibet of the collective imagination, spirituality and philosophical legend, transcends any geographical boundary of this autonomous region of China that covers more than 1.2 million square kilometers. It is the highest and most extensive plateau on Earth, with an average altitude of between 4,000 and 5,000 meters, surrounded by the mountains of the Karakoram and the Himalayas to the west and south, the Kunlun and Altun Mountains to the north.
To assemble this collection of works we had to overcome the challenging mountainous routes of the region, and the project, unprecedented in quality and quantity, brings together the works of artists living in as many as eight different countries.”

Sonam Tsering - Untitled (2013)


And all this, of course, contributes to fueling our desire for knowledge about the country of the people of the snow. “What is certain – comments Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - is that the Tibet of the collective imagination, spirituality and philosophical legend, transcends any geographical boundary of this autonomous region of China that covers more than 1.2 million square kilometers. It is the highest and most extensive plateau on Earth, with an average altitude of between 4,000 and 5,000 meters, surrounded by the mountains of the Karakoram and the Himalayas to the west and south, the Kunlun and Altun Mountains to the north.
To assemble this collection of works we had to overcome the challenging mountainous routes of the region, and the project, unprecedented in quality and quantity, brings together the works of artists living in as many as eight different countries.”

Jamyang Dorjee Chakrishar - The Root of the Tantra is Samaya (2013)

“Many of the artists - explains Leigh Miller, a scholar of Tibetan contemporary art - play with icons of modernity: Mickey Mouse, Marilyn Monroe, the U.S. dollar sign. Dedron creates a portrait that merges the physical posture of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, with the blue-and-white-striped complexion of the heroine from the movie Avatar, and the dress and environmental motifs of the Tibetan Plateau. The sides of Wandrak’s Rubik’s Cube show the mismatched faces of a Buddhist wrathful deity.”

Gade - Little Red Book (2013)

Ang Sang - Dialogue (2013)

Jamba Tenzin - Untitled (2013)

Dedron - Untitled (2013)

Wandrak - Entertainment and Culture (2013)


“Folk and religious traditions – adds Miller - are referenced alongside contemporary entertainment: hybridity plays with the riddle of how to be Tibetan today. One possibility certainly includes a sense of pride: Sherab Dorji inserts a Tibetan horse-mounted stuntman as the heroic action figure in a scene from the video game Counter-Strike, and Namdrol Gyaltsen’s Spiderman hoists a Tibetan dzi bead, believed to possess protective powers, in his palm, as if to ward off evil.”

Tsering Gyatso Chuteng - Black Dance (2013)

Benpa Chundak (Benchung) - Meditator (2013)

Sherab Dorji - “CS” (2013)

Namdrol Gyaltsen - Dzi and Superman (2013)

Many artists in the collection employ styles and materials that are both new and, at the same time, rooted in traditional practice, from the colors to the fabrics. And some symbols and motifs become stylistic elements: in addition to Buddhas and the deities, we find clouds, mountains and waterfalls, snow lions, skeletons, representations of the three poisons in the form of the rooster, snake and pig, the windhorse, the reliquary stupa, mantra, the hand and footprints of lamas.

Nyima Dhondup - Mind of Love (2013)

Dhukar Tsering - Untitled (2013)

Tenzin Norbu - Hope (2013)

Dorjie Wangdu - Homeland (2013)

Sherab Gyaltsen - Root Mandala (2013)

There are also styles and materials without indigenous roots, discovered by Tibetans in recent decades. For example - notes Miller – “Tserang Dhundrup and Kelsang Tsering contributed impressionistic oil paintings; some artists created multimedia works including three-dimensional materials, collage, photography“.

Tserang Dhundrup - Splendor (2013)

Kelsang Tsering - Man and Woman (2013)

“It is the intention of this collection - summarizes Paola Vanzo - to show the vitality, the staggering array of styles, the vastness of the current artistic landscape.” The curator also wanted share with everyone one more canvas. During the realization of the collection, Paola was pregnant with her daughter Anastasia and when it was time for her to go to hospital for the birth, she placed the last, still blank, canvas into her bag - number 144. “On Lhabab Düchen, November 24, 2013, one of the most auspicious days in the Tibetan calendar, the day honoring the Buddha Shakyamuni’s descent from the heavenly realms to earth – she tells us – my husband and I welcomed our baby girl to the world. On that same day, I asked my husband to give the little white canvas to the nurse to make the first imprint of her little feet. I think of her footprint as a new auspicious symbol, a sign for the new place of Tibetan art and Tibetan people, in the world.”

Akasang Pemba Tsering - Danger (2013)

An ambition that is shared by Luciano Benetton. “In the collection we also find nature and poetry, souls of many lives, beauty that wins over all things. But also political vision, aspiration for freedom. Today, when he raises his head, the Tibetan artist sees more than mountains, clouds and gods.”

Rinchen Gyatso - Tibetan Yak (2013)

Tashi - Untitled (2013)

Deten Dolma - Untitled (2013)

Dawa - Save the Planet (2013)


http://imagomundiart.com/collections/tibet-made-tibetans

Credits: Story

Project management
Paola Vanzo

Organization
Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Texts
Luciano Benetton
Paola Vanzo
Leigh Miller

Editing and translation
Emma Cole
Sarah Cuminetti
Tenzin Gelek
Kunsang Gya
Kalsang Nyima
Pietro Valdatta
Johnathan Wilber
Demetrio De Stefano

Special Thanks to
All of the artists that have partecipated in this project

Art direction
Namyoung An

Photography
Marco Zanin

Production
Marco Pavan

Cover
Pagmo Tsering (Pagtse) - Compassion

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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