Rossi & Rossi and The Sweet Tea House Present Nine Hundred Years of Tibetan Painting

From Classic to Contemporary: Visions from Tibet is presented jointly by Rossi & Rossi at 13 Old Bond Street, London W1, and The Sweet Tea House, a gallery specialising in contemporary Tibetan art, at 264 Globe Road, London E2, from Thursday 3 November 2005 to Friday 20 January 2006.  Comprising some 50 Tibetan paintings spanning 900 years, the exhibition will be a significant contribution to the eighth annual staging of Asian Art in London that takes place from 3 to 12 November 2005.  This highly successful enterprise draws on the unparalleled expertise in the field offered by dealers, auction houses, museums and other institutions in London that attract collectors and scholars to the city from around the world.

Gallery Highlights

From Classic to Contemporary: Visions from Tibet

+ Vajravarahi

Central Tibet, c. late 12th /early 13th century Distemper on cloth
81 x 60 cm

+ Manjushri

Central Tibet, 13th century Distemper on cloth,
55.9 x 40.6 cm

+ Buddha, 2005

Dedron (b. 1976)
Mixed media, 57 x 48 cm

+ Birth of Buddha, 2004
Jhamsang (b. 1971)
Mixed media on canvas
100 x 100 cm

+ Balloon no. 3, 2005
Tsering Nyandak (b. 1974)
Oil on canvas, 120 x 90 cm

+ Untitled, 2003

Tsewang Tashi (b. 1963)
Oil on canvas
180 x 145 cm

For more than a thousand years, Tibetan artists have played a key role in the cultural life of Tibet.  From designs for painted furniture to elaborate murals in religious buildings, their efforts have permeated virtually every facet of life on the Tibetan plateau and defined a visual style which is distinctly Tibetan.  The vast majority of surviving artworks created before the mid-20th century are dedicated to the depiction of religious subjects and are imbued with tradition both in terms of technique, for the most part being distemper on cloth or murals, and subject matter drawn from the rich panoply of religious texts. They were commissioned by religious establishments or by pious individuals for use within the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and, despite the existence of flourishing workshops, the artists were largely anonymous.  These works not only document key philosophical and spiritual concepts but also demonstrate the vitality of Tibetan aesthetics over the centuries in terms of the development of particular schools and the cross-fertilisation of stylistic influences from other countries such as China, Nepal and India.  

One of the earliest paintings to be exhibited dates from the late 12th/early 13th century and depicts Vajravarahi, the Adamantine Sow and symbol of freedom from ignorance.  Painted with distemper on cloth, the wide-eyed goddess is depicted on the saffron yellow centre of a lotus trampling a supine male.  A red curtain of flames provides a backdrop against which eight members of her entourage dance while other figures frame the central scene indicating that the painting represents a mandala or sacred assembly associated with the goddess.  Against a dark blue ground behind the goddess are eight cremation grounds bordered by streams, sites that are associated with Indian medieval cremation grounds where yogis and yoginis would convene for meditation and Tantric rites.

Another early thangka painted on cloth dates from the 13th century and depicts Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, seated within a shrine with multiple roofs and a crowning shrine containing a standing Buddha.  The bodhisattva's golden body bends gracefully as he makes the giving gesture with his right hand that holds the stem of a blue lotus - symbolising the teachings of the Buddha.  An attendant bodhisattva stands in a shrine each side of Manjushri, two small forms of the god float above and five further forms are aligned along the bottom of the picture.  Along the top are the seven Manushi Buddhas of the past and Maitreya, Buddha of the Future.  The configuration of this thangka is unusual and it is one of the relatively few surviving thangkas of Manjushri of this early date.

There will be 14 contemporary Tibetan artists represented.  Among them will be the established artist Ang Sang who was born in Lhasa in 1962 and graduated in thangka painting in 1988 from Tibet University.  His work has been widely exhibited in Tibet and China, winning several prizes.  He says of his work: "It is the art language of the spirituality of our nationality, I am trying to find out the common point between the ancient Tibetan traditional art and Western avant-garde art".

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