In-Between: 21st Century Tibetan Artists Respond to 12th – 15th Century Tibetan Manuscript Covers

London31 Oct – 07 Dec 2013
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  • Rossi & Rossi
    16 Clifford Street
    London W1S 3RG

    To coincide with this autumn’s Asian Art in London, Rossi & Rossi is hosting In-Between, an exhibition featuring a choice group of Tibetan carved manuscript covers dating from the 12th – 15th centuries. Assembled over several decades by private European collectors the covers will be shown alongside nearly thirty contemporary Tibetan sculptures and paintings which have been created as a direct response to, and a commentary on these remarkable survivors. The show, curated by Tenzing Rigdol, features works by Benchung, Marie-Dolma Chophel, Gade, Tulku Jamyang, Kesang Lamdark, Tashi Norbu, Nortse, Nyandak, Penpa, Tenzin Phakmo, Tenzing Rigdol, Tsering Sherpa, Sodhon, TaNor, Chungpo Tsering, Rabkar Wangchuk and Palden Weinreb.

    It is difficult to underestimate the importance to Tibet and the Buddhist faith of these types of classical manuscript covers. As objects that once acted as the entrance to, and enabled the protection of, sacred Buddhist texts, they are regarded as part of the Dharma (The Teaching), one of the Triratna (The Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha – meaning the community) and as such to be revered as greatly as one would the Buddha. They would have been specifically commissioned by monasteries or wealthy families to protect the sacred texts of the Buddhist canon, and fashioned from hardwood, a material difficult to obtain in Central Tibet, no expense was spared in their construction: often intricately carved, sumptuously painted and gilded, they are the products of the finest early Tibetan craftsmanship and artistry.

    Before the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1951, it was said that there were between 3,000 and 5,000 monasteries in the region, all of which would have aspired to have the complete Buddhist canon in their libraries. During the Cultural Revolution myriad aspects of traditional Buddhist culture such as Tibetan manuscripts were declared forces of evil (niuguisheshen 牛鬼蛇神) and destroyed. Some, however, escaped destruction when they were taken by Tibetans fleeing their country, in the wake of the invasion, but the desirable and rare hardwood material of the covers meant that some were re-fashioned and re-used; as washing boards, chopping boards and pastry moulds. Many of the early manuscript covers that can be found today survive without their scriptures and, now devoid of their initial function, these striking carved works serve as reminders of the reverence for sacred texts in Tibetan culture, as well as symbols of the conflict, known all too well in Tibet, between survival and loss.

    It is this rich and varied history that the contemporary artists have reacted to and departed from; attempting to replace what has been lost with a new reality, an interpretation of themselves and their ‘Tibetan-ness’. The aim is to create a coherent dialogue between past and present, preservation and development, tradition and modernity and between national and individual identity.

    All of the living artists have approached the covers and their layered meanings, as a springboard for ideas concerning, amongst others, the history of Tibet, loss and displacement, their own and their families’ histories. Sometimes, the focus is on the covers’ cultural aspect and their power as objects; sometimes the artists see them stripped of meaning and reverence. However, regardless of the approach and personal aesthetics, hovering invisibly over all of them, is the smoky, acrid cloud of protest and self-immolation, that most terrifying manifestation of a people stripped of nationhood, identity and meaning, and feeling powerless.

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    • Gade
      Black Scripture

      2013
      Tibet
      Cloisonné, textile and foam board
      16.5 x 75 x 20 cm (6 ½ x 29 ½ x 8 in)

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    • Portrait

      2013
      Found wooden manuscript cover
      21 x 66 x 3 cm (8 ¼ x 26 x 1 ¼ in)

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    • Lower Manuscript Cover with Lions and Foliage

      Tibet
      Carved, painted and gilded wood
      26 x 74.5 cm (10 x 29 ½ in)
      13th century

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    • Manuscript Cover with the Gods of the Five Sciences

      Tibet
      Carved wood with traces of pigment and gilding
      27.3 x 68.6 x 3 cm (10 ¾ x 27 x 1 in)
      13th century

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    • Manuscript cover with Three Buddhas

      Tibet
      Carved and painted wood
      26.5 x 73 x 2.5 cm (10 ½ x 28 ¾ x 1 in)
      13th century

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    • Manuscript Cover with Three Images of Achala

      Tibet
      Carved wood with traces of pigment and gilding
      29 x 73 x 4 cm (11 ½ x 28 ¾ x 1 ½ in)
      13th-14th century

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    • Manuscript cover with Prajnaparamita, Vairochana and Shakyamuni

      Tibet
      Carved wood with traces of pigment and gilding
      30.5 x 73.5 x 3.2 cm (12 x 29 x 1 ¼ in)
      13th-14th century

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    • Manuscript cover with Shakyamuni, Vajrapani and Green Tara

      Tibet
      Carved wood with traces of pigment and gilding
      23 x 73.5 x 2.5 cm (9 x 29 x 1 in)
      14th century

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    • Manuscript cover with images of Jambhala and Vasudhara

      Tibet
      Carved wood
      23 x 66.5 x 2 cm (9 x 26 ¼ x ¾ in)
      13th century

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    • Manuscript cover with Prajnaparamita, Shakyamuni and Vairochana

      Tibet
      Carved wood
      26 x 70.5 x 2 cm (10 ¼ x 27 ¾ x ¾ in)
      13th century

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    • Manuscript cover with Prajnaparamita and Deities

      Tibet
      Carved, painted and gilded wood
      21.5 x 69 x 2 cm (8 ½ x 27 x ¾ in)
      13th century

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    • Gade
      Green Scripture

      2013
      Tibet
      Cloisonné, textile and foam board
      16.5 x 75 x 20 cm (6 ½ x 29 ½ x 8 in)

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    • Gade
      Red Scripture

      2013
      Tibet
      Cloisonné, textile and foam board
      16.5 x 75 x 20 cm (6 ½ x 29 ½ x 8 in)

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    • Kesang Lamdark
      Lower manuscript cover with Lions and Foliage / Manuscript cover with Five Buddhas (Combined Study)

      2013
      Switzerland
      Pierced aluminium can
      11.4 x 19 x 6.3 cm (4 ½ x 7 ½ x 2 ½ in)

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    • Kesang Lamdark
      Manuscript cover with the Buddha of the Three Times (study)

      2013
      Switzerland
      Pierced aluminium beer can
      each 20.3 x 8.2 cm (8 x 3 ¼ in)

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    • Kesang Lamdark
      Manuscript cover with Five Buddhas (study)

      2013
      Switzerland
      Pierced aluminium can
      17.8 x 11.4 x 6.3 cm (7 x 4 ½ x 2 ½ in)

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    • Kesang Lamdark
      Manuscript cover with images of Jambhala and Vasudhara (study)

      2013
      Switzerland
      Pierced aluminium can
      11.4 x 19 x 6.3 cm (4 ½ x 7 ½ x 2 ½ in)

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    • Kesang Lamdark
      Manuscript cover with scenes from the life of the Buddha (study)

      2013
      Switzerland
      Pierced aluminium can
      10 x 16 x 4.5 cm (4 x 6 ¼ x 1 ¾ in)

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    • Kesang Lamdark
      Manuscript cover with Three Images of Achala (study)

      2013
      Switzerland
      Pierced aluminium can
      15.8 x 6.3 cm (6 ¼ x 2 ½ in)

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    • Tsherin Sherpa
      Lost in Transition (Red)

      2013
      s3306
      Gold leaf, acrylic and ink on paper
      21.6 x 71.1 cm (8 ½ x 28 in)

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    • Tsherin Sherpa
      Lost in Transition (White)

      2013
      s3307
      Gold leaf, acrylic and ink on paper
      21.6 x 71.1 cm (8 ½ x 28 in)

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    • Tsherin Sherpa
      Lost in Translation (Blue)

      2013
      s3308
      Gold leaf, acrylic and ink on paper
      21.6 x 71.1 cm (8 ½ x 28 in)

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    • Palden Weinreb
      Untitled (Manuscript)

      2013
      USA
      Wood, wax and LEDs
      7.6 x 55.8 x 12.7 cm (3 x 22 x 5 in)

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    • Chongpo Tsering
      Lullaby

      2013
      s3314
      Charcoal and red pastel on paper
      104.5 x 72.5 cm (41 ¼ x 28 ½ in)

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    • Penpa
      iPhone

      2013
      s3315
      Mixed Media
      100 x 45 cm (39 ½ x 5 ¾ in)

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    • Tashi Norbu
      Adventure of My life

      2013
      Netherlands
      Tibetan scriptures, magazines, acrylic, enamel and oil paint on
      120 x 240 cm (46 x 94 ½ in)

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    • TaNor
      Typeface

      2013
      s3319
      Acrylic on canvas
      30 works, each: 39 x 32 cm (15 ¼ x 12 ½ in)

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    • Nortse
      Alienation

      2013
      Tibet
      14 carved wood panels, burned, washed, polished and sprayed with acrylic paint and gold
      100 x 280 cm (39 ½ x 110 ¼ in)

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    • My Chinese Painting on 120
      Holes

      2013
      Tibet
      Mixed media
      174 x 59 cm (68 ½ x 23 ¼ in)

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    • Tenzing Rigdol
      Tenzing Rigdol In Between

      2013
      USA
      Pastel and scripture on paper
      26.7 x 76 cm (10 ½ x 30 in)

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    • Tenzing Rigdol
      Transit

      2013
      s3304
      Pastel and scripture on paper
      28 x 74 cm (11 x 29 in)

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    • Tenzing Rigdol
      Half and Half

      2013
      s3305
      Pastel and scripture on paper
      27 x 77 cm (10 ½ x 30 ¼ in)

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    • Sodhon
      Journey

      2013
      s3310
      Acrylic on canvas
      76.2 x 61 cm (30 x 24 in)

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    • Marie-Dolma Chophel
      Voices

      2013
      s3311
      Ink and paint marker on paper
      45.7 x 139.7 cm (18 x 55 in)

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    • Rabkar Wangchuk
      A state of Mind

      2013
      Tibet
      Acrylic on Canvas
      50.8 x 50.8 cm (20 x 20 in)

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    • Tenzin Phakmo
      My Land? Series 10

      2013
      USA
      Oil on Canvas
      76.2 x 137.16 cm (30 x 54 in)

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    • Tulku Jamyang
      Untitled

      2013
      s3318
      Acrylic on paper overlaid with incense-burned rice paper
      each 25.4 x 50.8 cm (10 x 20 in)

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    • Manuscript cover with Five Tathagatas

      s3164
      Carved wood with traces of pigment and gilding
      28 x 70.5 x 4 cm (11 x 27 ¾ x 1 ½ in)
      Tibet, 13th century

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    • Manuscript cover with Prajnaparamita flanked by Two Buddhas

      s3168
      Carved and gilded wood with traces of pigment
      28.5 x 70.5 x 4 cm (11 ¼ x 27 ¾ x 1 ½ in)
      Tibet, 14th century

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