Over the last two decades Trace Foundation has been working with Tibetan communities on the plateau, supporting continuity and development of Tibetan culture, language, art and preservation of Tibetan heritage. After traveling in Tibet, and struck by the challenges faced by the local communities, Andrea E. Soros founded Trace Foundation to support Tibetan people and culture in Western China. Since it’s inception, Trace has touched thousands of lives on the plateau through its humanitarian, educational and development works.
Celebrating it’s 20th year Trace holds several landmark events including, Lens on Tibet, a film series held at MoMA featuring works of Tibetan filmmakers exclusively from inside Tibet. Many of the filmmakers featured in the program were former scholarship winners of Trace’s education program that enabled them to study film. Most notably, filmmaker Pema Tseden and Sonthar Gyal, who studied at the Beijing Film Academy under this program, has proven themselves as exceptional filmmakers and have exhibited their works in many important film festivals around the world.
So far Trace has provided about 5000 scholarships to support undergraduate and postgraduate training for young Tibetans from the plateau.
Ending April 12, Transcending Tibet: Celebrating Contemporary Tibetan Art, is a group show featuring specially commissioned works by 30 Tibetan and non Tibetan artists exploring Tibetan Identity today. Some of the featured artists from inside Tibet are Nortse, Benchung, Jamsang, Gade, Tsering Nyandak, and also featured are works by exile artists Gonkar Gyatso, Tenzing Rigdol, Trulku Jamyang, Tashi Norbu, Rabkar Wangchuk, Tenzin Phakmo, and many more.
Many of the works by the different artists follow a similar theme in Tibetan contemporary art focusing on the clash of modernity and tradition; Buddha and Mickey Mouse in one frame but nonetheless these are stunning and colorful pieces.
Some of these works have subtle yet more profound socio-political messages including this one by Benchung, Meditator Beware, a self-portrait of the artist tied from the knee to his back by a piece of cloth that looks like a monk’s robe. Scribbled on the wall behind, you see names of a few radical Tibetan writers from exile, Ai Wei Wei, Phayul, a website for Tibetan news from exile, Facebook, google, etc.
Although the exhibition has stayed clear of any outright political messaging in these commissioned works, it is hard not to notice the urge from the artists to make a point in many of these works. On one wall sits quietly, a piece by artist Tenzing Rigdol. A portrait of a faceless Buddha, the face covered in flames of fire, possibly hinting at the 140+ self-immolation protests that has taken place in TIbet in the recent years.
The show features many lesser-known artists too including some breathtaking calligraphy by Phuntsok Tsering, a Tibetan artist from Germany. In one collaboration, Jewellery designer Nathalie Jean with Rudy Prampolini has taken inspiration from Tsering’s artwork and created a silver necklace with the calligraphy titled “Light Offering”. For this show, 25 Internationally renowned designers including Italian brand, Costume National, have created fashion items inspired by some of the artworks. Some of these designer wears and artworks are on sale at their online auction here to support the foundation’s work.
The show runs from March 14 to April 12 2015 at the Rogue Space Chelsea 508 W 26th Street, 9E-F New York, NY 10001
More from Trace’s page: http://gaton.trace.org/
Last Friday night I went to an art opening at Tibet House in Union Square, featuring calligraphic paintings by the artist Tara Lobsang. This sort of thing is always happening to me. I mean to have a quiet weekend holed up in my apartment and before I know it, I have committed not only to a party but also an after party. (I might be a closeted introvert.) But it was a fun and festive opening night, not least because Tenzin Choegyal gave a typically fantastic musical performance.
Now Tibetan calligraphy is a very exacting art with quite rigid and empirical standards of beauty. When I was a child, my Tibetan language teacher spent our daily lessons making us trace his handwriting, which he considered the acme of calligraphic excellence, over and over again. Luckily I have an older brother who taught me that if you trace your Ka, Kha, Gha… really hard the first few times, you can fool your teacher and use the time instead for more important things, such as playing Tic Tac Toe with your desk mate. Older brothers are always full of foolish wisdom like this.
My point is, Tibetan calligraphy is a highly prescriptive art form. Lobsang’s work is a clear departure from this classical calligraphy, and his best pieces demonstrate a celebration of riotous spontaneity and an abundance of energy that is very much like the artist himself. (He happens to be the kind of person who when he looks for apartments in New York just walks off into the streets to look, like a nomad in search of the right tent to rent—and what’s more, he finds them this way.) The gallery calls his work calligraphic paintings but I also like the term abstract calligraphy, because it suggests a newish subgenre, at least in contemporary Tibetan art.
A Brush With Reality is Lobsang’s first solo exhibition. Two standouts from the solo show are Mandala of Milarepa and Milarepa, both featuring gorgeous calligraphic renderings of the legendary saint Milarepa. The myth of Milarepa, a historical figure who is said to have attained enlightenment in one lifetime, has endured in the Tibetan consciousness for the last thousand years. In the two calligraphic paintings, an apparently simple swish of the paintbrush produces the abstract yet instantly recognizable figure of the saint, his right hand held to his ear to evoke the hundred thousand songs of realization. He sits amid a mandala of colors, or on a blank white canvas, and the pieces are evocative, elegant and just really really cool.
Overall, the flight of calligraphic paintings looked beautiful adorning the walls of Tibet House. A Brush With Reality is a significant achievement for Tara Lobsang and a very exciting contribution to contemporary Tibetan art.
Click here for TIBET HOUSE
A Brush with Reality – Tara Lobsang March 13-May 12, 2015
Tibet House, 22 West 15th Street, NY, NY 10011
1. Tibet House Benefit Concert – Music Concert, NYC, USA, March 05
This year’s Annual Tibet House US Benefit Concert, celebrating Tibetan new year – Year of the Wood Sheep, and 25 years of Tibet House US, will feature a line-up of some of the world’s most impressive musicians and artists. To be held at it’s usual venue, Carnegie Hall, Artistic-Director and composer Philip Glass will open one of New York’s most loved annual music events. Other performers include The Flaming Lips, Patti Smith and band with Jesse Paris Smith, Tenzin Choegyal, Artist Laurie Anderson and many more. Monks from the Drepung Monastery, some of whom were recently featured in House of Cards Season 3 will also present an invocation at the concert.
2. Bringing Tibet Home – Film Screening, Mexico City, Mexico, March 10
Award winning documentary film, Bringing Tibet Home will be screened at multiple locations in Mexico. The film opens at the Cinemex WTC in Mexico City on March 10 and will travel to other cities including Cuernavaca, Querétaro, Monterrey, Puebla and Morelia. The film tells the story of Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol and his 2011 art installation in Dharamsala, India, where he made possible, a symbolic re-union between Tibetan exiles and their land using 20 tones of smuggled soil from Tibet.
3. Night of Music and Resistance with Tenzin Choegyal – Music Performance, NYC, USA, March 10
Australia based renowned Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal will perform live at the Students for a Free Tibet office in New York City. This month he will also perform at the Carnegie Hall Tibet House Benefit Concert.
4. A Brush With Reality – Art Exhibition, NYC, USA, March 13
Tara Lobsang is a Tibetan artist and master calligrapher born and raised in Tibet, educated in India, and currently living in New York. In A Brush With Reality, Lobsang wields his sweeping brushstrokes and spiritual faith to delve into a range of human emotions, cosmological landscapes and metaphysical truths. Opening March 13.
5. Transcending Tibet – Art Exhibition, NYC, USA, March 18
Representing thirty emerging and established artists from the Tibetan Plateau and around the world, Transcending Tibet is a landmark exhibit of newly commissioned work. Mining the visual and material history of both Tibet and the modern world – re-appropriating iconography, playing boldly with everything from acrylic and oil to mirrors illuminated with LEDs – these artists offer a varied and nuanced look at Tibetan identity and culture today
6. Ottawa Tibet Film Festival, Ottawa, Canada March 21
The Ottawa Tibet Film Festival (OTFF) will be hosting its 3rd annual film festival March 21, 2015 at the St. Paul University Amphitheatre! The festival will be an opportunity for the Ottawa region to experience and learn more about the people, culture and land of Tibet through a series of feature-length movies and documentaries. Showcased films include, among others, Bringing Tibet Home, Old Dog, Tibet in Songs, Milarepa…
7. Watch Season 3 of HOUSE of CARDS, Netflix, March
In episode 7 of House of Cards, Season 3, Tibetan monks share the White House with the Underwoods. The monks spend a month inside the White House calmly building a Sand Mandala while the President and the First Lady attempts at amending their fragile relationship whilst also at the same time trying to stay at the top of their game. A unique yet beautiful episode ripe with symbolisms, the story shuffles back and forth in time. Nothing is forever. No major spoilers here!
Composer and musician Tenzin Choegyal is well known for his haunting melodies, soaring vocals and an addiction to experimentation. So when I took a seat last night in the Rubin Museum’s acoustic theater for a sold-out show by Choegyal alongside Laurie Anderson and Jesse Paris Smith, I expected to be surprised. But nothing could have prepared me for what was to come: an hour-long journey into the great unknown, filled with visualizations of death, rebirth and the great mystery of awakening.
Choegyal and friends performed a breathtaking and sublime musical adaptation of Bardo Thodrol (The Great Liberation Through Hearing), a Tibetan Buddhist text usually read for the dead or dying by a Tibetan lama. In the process of dying, Buddhists believe, a person’s consciousness goes through several different stages, where the dying person begins to see different kinds of colors, sharp lights, and terrifying images. The consciousness, blinded by the lights and terrified by the images of wrathful deities, is often lured into the more inviting paths of softer shades that lead to lower realms of rebirth. But if the dying person can face the blinding lights squarely, unafraid of the wrathful images and sounds, she can use this ‘moment of clear light’ to attain instantaneous enlightenment. The Bardo Thodrol, also known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is read to the dead with the intention of guiding them through this in-between state following one’s death and before entering rebirth.
With his trademark vocals accompanied by the unmistakable twang of his dranyen, Choegyal rendered the Bardo Thodrol, magically, into a multidimensional journey for the lay audience, an awe-inspiring rehearsal for the ultimate moment of clear light that awaits us all. Laurie Anderson’s intimate and powerful narration of the book was an artwork of the highest order, holding the audience enraptured, imprisoned, and eventually released. Jesse Paris Smith and her friends, with their panoply of futuristic instruments and the perfectly timed clanking of cymbals, created a cosmic soundtrack that was by turns apocalyptic, spellbinding and liberating.
At the end of the show, when Choegyal explained that this particular performance of Bardo Thodrol was dedicated to the more than 140 Tibetans who have self-immolated in the last four years for the cause of Tibetan freedom, the audience broke into a collective gasp, followed by rapturous and emotional applause. For many, it was as if the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle fell into its place, revealing a profound and devastating truth that had been brewing for an hour, in fact, for four years. No one left the concert hall without being moved – or transformed – by the unforgettable experience.
– by Tendor
Learn more about Tenzin Choegyal