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.
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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!