Review: Impermanence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 10:49am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 June, 2014, 10:49am

Rossi & Rossi Gallery
Until August 24

Kesang Lamdark's iridescent Pink Tara (below) welcomes visitors and dominates the entrance to this excellent group exhibition of contemporary Tibetan art.

A Tara is a female bodhisattva or Buddha, whose form - identified by its colour - can represent a Buddhist virtue. For example, a white Tara denotes compassion and serenity.

A pink Tara is unknown in Tibetan iconography, but this garish version constructed with chicken wire covered in dripped plastic with pink fluorescent lighting could be imagined to represent the less virtuous behaviour of paid sex. Kesang's brazen sculpture hints at the serious and divergent political and social pressures confronting modern Tibet. "Impermanence" is a loosely themed show comprising 16 artists from the wide Tibetan diaspora.

Using the constant flux of the Buddhist view of the world as an understandable starting point, the artists tackle unrest towards Chinese hegemony on the Tibetan plateau, and the loss of Tibetan language, social and religious freedom and the onslaught from Western culture, media and social behaviour.

These pressures are best seen in Gade's My White Papers, a set of 10 "books" arranged in a lined sequence giving a fantastic tableau of real and imagined stories, creatures and unlikely landscapes of Lhasa, inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, which Gade, on reading, thought was actually describing Lhasa.

Tulku Jamyang's untitled piece is a sobering, disturbing, simple installation. From a distance, the mauve and saffron of a monk's robes appear whole and contented, hanging as if waiting for their owner to return. But, on closer inspection, the artist has painstakingly burned small, evenly spaced holes with sticks of incense into the entire robe. The slow morbidity of his action replicates self-immolation as protest in Tibet.

The struggle to maintain culture and identity is a strong theme for artist and poet Tenzing Rigdol. His collages and mixed media works are a powerful synthesis of opposing cultural sentiments for this young New York-based, Nepal-born Tibetan. Far from home, he laments: "On my way to Jackson Heights (New York)/ A homeless jingled his cup of coins/ I fed a dollar/ And then wondered … / Who is more pathetic?"

John Batten