Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An artist’s journey from Radi to Amsterdam

Rooted in Buddhist philosophy, colours, wisdom and symbolism, Passang Tobgay’s art will take you to the colours and content of the east and the west, and many shades in between, as a Bhutanese painter struggles and journeys from a small village in Trashigang, Radi, inspired to paint ever since he was seven years old. The artist’s destiny and art and the willingness to learn and exercise his skill and promote contemporary Bhutanese art at home and in the west would take him to one of the craziest and maddeningly beautiful artistic and inspiringly so- the European city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Passang who is twenty eight years old today studies fine art while engaging himself every minute in an artistic endeavour of either painting, sculpting or making installation art. He pays his tuition by what he earns from the sales of his art.

Though art cannot really be defined in words but art analysts say art is content and form. Form means: the elements of art, the principles of design and the actual physical materials that the artist used. Content is idea based and means: what the artist meant to portray, what the artist did actually portray and how we react as individual and actual masses. There is always room for intentional and affective fallacies, like in any other form of art. Content also includes ways in which a work was influenced by religion, politics or society in general, at the time the work of art was created. Of course art is always open to interpretation and the best way to experience art is to surrender and “feel.”

Bhutanese art not until a decade and half or so was very much based on the strict religious iconographic rules and details of traditional art where an error in painting equaled a sin, and where artists did not sign their names. Contemporary Bhutanese art has evolved a long way since especially with establishment of VAST but is there a difference between contemporary art in Bhutan for Bhutanese and tourists who visit Bhutan and being an artist outside Bhutan catering mostly to a western crowd? It is for you to judge the journey of a traditional painter who made his way to abstract art and performance art, yet with values very much rooted in principles and colours of Buddhist philosophy.

Passang studied traditional art in Zorig Chusum for six years, worked in VAST for two and is now based in Amsterdam. Passang’s exhibition is going on in the Ayala gallery, Tarayana centre and the event was graced by HRH Ashi Sonam Dechan Wangchuck on the 6th of July. The exhibition is free and open to all and the paintings will be showcased for a month. Passang will also exhibit his work of art, paintings and installation art in London sometime this year.

Kuenga Wangmo, who will receive her Doctorate this fall from the University of Cambridge, a Bill Gates scholar and a current post doctoral fellow at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, an Archaeologist by profession, is helping support and exhibit Passang’s art. She feels that a human society’s growth is often characterized by its art and its prominence and wishes to help and work with all upcoming artists to explore the global market.

Passang is inspired by traditional Bhutanese artists, Azha Karma, Ugyen, and western artists Rembrandt, Van Gogh, contemporary Tibetan artists and Chinese artist Ai Weiwie.

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