Saturday, May 29, 2010

Contemporary Tibetan Art - An Exhibition

I am certainly not knowledgeable nor particularly interested in Tibetan contemporary art but the Rubin Museum of Art in New York is mounting an exhibition that opens in June. An artist represented in this exhibition (with three large canvases) happens to be a very good friend of mine and I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to promote him and his art. I think his art is very, very, good.

I for one am quite tired of some contemporary Tibetan art where it is a simplistic tracing of a Buddha image or the overdone juxtaposition of the Buddha and Mao, and I understand that art has always been a vehicle for politics just as literature. However, sometimes I just want to see good art masterfully done, creative, interesting, refreshing and new that makes me smile and engages me visually. I want to see a work of art where the more I look at the piece the more I see, and the more time I spend with the piece, the more time I want to spend - like a visual feast. I want to feel it from the inside and if someone has to explain it to me - then I have obviously missed it, or maybe it wasn't there in the first place. For me, art that has to be explained in order to be understood and appreciated is not great art - it is only a visual-intellectual statement.

Another artist, more familiar with contemporary art than me, I think says it best, "WOW, Pema's painting you included is KILLER! as soon as I saw it (the second one) and started reading your article, I was hoping that it was one of his! A lot of contemporary art I've seen by Tibetan artists is so predictable and lame, if not cheap and exploitative. It's great to see Pema's work - beautiful, thoughtful, and sophisticated! It's so great to see a work of contemporary Tibetan art that doesn't make use of the tired silhouette of the buddha! In fact, there really isn't much in Pema's painting that relates to (or falls back on) his identity as a Tibetan or his Tibetan ancestry. It's refreshing to know there's at least one Tibetan contemporary artist who's moved beyond that! perhaps there's hope after all...." (Currently anonymous).

Pema Rinzin is one of the only Tibetan artists that I know who has trained in the traditional way of 'tangka' and mural painting and that has also successfully transitioned into contemporary painting while still creating and teaching the so-called 'traditional' art.

The first image above is a small detail of a large painting that will be on display at the Rubin Museum of Art. The second two images are from the Joshua Liner Gallery where Pema exhibited in the early spring of 2010. He exhibited three paintings in that Chelsea New York show and all three sold. The second image (above) - that painting sold the first night of the Joshua Liner show. Aside from the RMA exhibition opening in June, Pema has another group show coming up in August - again in Chelsea. There is also talk of a solo show in the near future. (See Artist Biography and New York Tibetan Art Studio. For more information on the RMA exhibition see the link below).

Tradition Transformed, June 11, 2010 - October 18, 2010.

"Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond marks the first exhibition of contemporary Tibetan art in a New York City museum. The nine Tibetan artists featured each explore contemporary issues--personal, political, and cultural--by integrating the centuries-old traditional imagery, techniques, and materials found in Tibetan Buddhist art with modern influences and media. (More info)."

Pema Rinzin was an artist in residence at the RMA for three years and produced a number of works during that time. The drawing of Himalayan 'Animals, Foliage and Landscape' was done in the gallery space during the highly successful 'Bon, The Magic Word' exhibition in 2007. The painting (below) of the Four Guardian Kings was the first painting that Pema completed while at the RMA. It was also first displayed in the RMA exhibition 'Big!' also in 2007, followed by the Trammell Crow museum in Dallas in 2008. I believe his three special skills that set him apart from the rest are [1] drawing, [2] composition and [3] colour balance.

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