Either | Or
30. 11. 2017 – 30. 01. 18
Art Represent is proud to present a solo exhibition by photographer
London holds a special place for the development of Contemporary Tibetan Art. The founding of the Sweet Tea House and the Rossi Rossi Gallery has brought modern Tibetan artists (predominantly male) into the international arena. Yet, other than traditional artefacts shown in museums and political forums, there are very few public events that cast focus on the art and life of the Tibetan people currently living in the relatively enclosed region.
The mystique that shrouds Tibet both in the West and in the People’s Republic China has long been forged and promulgated by stereotypes presented by the media and in popular culture. Tibet has been viewed as an ideal spiritual society, and the Tibetan people to be naive and untainted by the materialized world. These clichés are harmless if not insulting, whilst others can be dangerous in casting the Tibetan people as in need of "civilizing". More than ever, Tibet has also become synonymous with anti-China.
It is therefore incredibly exciting to be presenting a photography show, for the first time ever, that looks at the life and contemplations of young people living in Tibet. Either | Or is a show curated by a millennial Tibetan, with a body of work by a Gen Z artist, both of whom happen to be women.
The artist, Nyema Droma, examines familiar themes of identity and globalisation as well as new explorations of self-representation and the cultural influence of fashion. Her works are sharp and bold, without abstraction, she points her lens directly at the intersection between the mythical and the digital. The artist is not afraid to express her confusion about balancing the paradox of new and traditional cultures in modern Tibet. Through her photographs, Nyema Droma does not force profound contemplation, but rather a direct and spontaneous capture of the current Tibetan society.
What makes Nyema Droma so unique is not only her position a witness as well as a participant of the millennial lifestyle inside Tibet, but also her artistic departure from what can be seen as the pioneers of contemporary art.
From the whimsical sticker arts of Gonkar Gyatso, to the impacting installations of Nortse, and the humorous deity paintings of Tsering Sharpa, their profound reflection on the modern Tibetan culture is brutally honest, insightful and thought-provoking. Since their breakthrough, their works have been regarded as a guide for artists thereafter, combined with the limited informational exposure inside Tibet, many have simply reworked the same styles and techniques birthed by the pioneering artists.
The exhibition title “Either | Or”, may appear to be a statement or a fact. However, upon closer comparison, we find that the two sets of photographs seemingly from two different worlds are not contrasting, but parallel.
Nyema's subjects include internet celebrities, actors, models and rapper, shot in a carefully stylized manner, breaking most preconceived notions of what Tibetans do, how they look, and what they pursue. The artist juxtaposes these portraits with photographs of Tibetan nuns and monks from the Dolma Ling Institute. These students of Buddhism have been captured by Nyema with a sense of spontaneity and individuality that breaks the mould of the traditional austere setting of religious institutions.
To many people, even for the Tibetans themselves, there seems to be a clear separation between these two groups: one reclusive, mysterious and highly spiritual; and the other, embedded in mainstream culture fashion, and connected to the external world. The artist straddles both worlds like many of her fellow millennials and Gen Z contemporaries, and she asks the audience to question if with time Either | Or will become a statement or remain a question.