| BILAN LIAO (廖碧籣畫舘) Artist / Author/ Educator / Speaker
I have had a long time appreciation for Tibet, and I have spent much time there. When I began traveling to Tibet, it was a very difficult place to visit; however, it is more fantastic than can be
imagined. It is a land with a deeply religious people and immense contrast: snowy peaks and sand deserts, barren plateaus and forested mountains, empty expanses and crowded cities.
I am very interested in the people of Tibet, their religion, their distinctive culture, and their beautiful colors. It is very amazing to me that Tibetan people all have a commonality in culture and
religion, even though they live in very different environments in Tibet. Their clothes and style are similar; Tibetans love bright, colorful clothes and jewelry to decorate themselves. Usually,
one can see their social status from the quality of the clothes they wear.
Coming into Tibet celebrates the Tibetan people by depicting their religion, spirit, their daily lives, the rich colors and patterns of their clothing, and their architecture. The paintings are
based upon personal observations in Tibet with the support of my photography. They provide an introduction to Tibet and its people from my perspective.
The Coming into Tibet series of paintings combines impressionistic color with realistic forms distilled from observation.The realistic forms symbolize the hard lives of the Tibetan people, and
the impressionistic colors represent their religious spirit and rich culture. In this way, I combine realism, impressionism and naturalism to show colorful and lifelike scenes.
Hope and Prayer 30 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
Hope and Prayer is a part of the Coming into Tibet series of paintings depicting Tibetan subjects. Every
July, Tibet celebrates the Xuedeng festival in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, claimed
by the People's Republic of China. This ancient sprawling city, settle approximately 1,300 years ago, is
the region's political, economic, and cultural center, as well as the sacred place
of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also one of the highest cities in altitude in the world.
Tibetans and others come from near and far to Lhasa for religious purposes. The painting is about a
family who has come to Lhasa and dream to see God's heaven in the sky, where they pray for their
hopes. Huge silken portraits of Buddha cover the high mountainsides during the day. In this painting,
I realistically rendered each of the pious prayers, their eyes all focused, looking upward into the sky. I
was attempting to depict their deeper feelings and convictions about their own nature, philosophy, and
need for religious centering.
Boy with His Mother 30 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
The painting, Boy with His Mother, combines a family portrait set against the vast Tibetan
landscape. The mother has just taken a break from inscribing religious sculptures. They now
enjoy the moment together to eat some candy. This painting combines impressionistic color
and naturalistic form. The two figures are very naturally set in the beautiful landscape; the
colors are bright and colorful, the values are carefully arranged. The conception in this
painting is a representation of their natural life. They are consuming that which many people
might take for granted, finding great joy in the simplest of things. The two figures are
rendered in much more detail than the background. This painting contains many bright
colorsIn the and also renders an atmosphere for the landscape.
Contributions 36 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
Throughout Tibet, one can see young monks communing in small groups. Often, these young monks
are seen in cities, particularly close to a temple, where they are usually seated, collecting without
solicitation the generous donations of passersby. Such a scene is shown in the painting
Contributions, representing five young monks taking contributions for their temple, while they
contribute their lives to God. Much money is in a bag and on the ground, money given by people who
pass by. The woman on the left is shown helping the young monks organize their collection
of money. One young monk's face is portrayed as weary. They may have sat in this location all day to
obtain the contributions. These young monks have not the innocence and heartiness of young
children who often have some time within their day for play. These young monks instead are
burdened with long hours of heavy religious responsibilities. I used a realistic style to capture the
young monks complex of mental distractions and emotional faces. The warm red tone is used
to provide the effect of a religious environment in the painting.
Where Are You From? (sold) 40 in x 30 in Oil on Canvas
The painting Where Are You From? Is expressing an image of everyday Tibetan town life. This small
town is located in Dege County in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze. My artist friend Nyima
grew up in Dege County. He invited me and some other of my artist friends to visit the place, as we
wanted to experience authentic Tibetan culture and observe how some Tibetan people really live.
Many Tibetans live in tents in the mountains. They choose a place to live where the grass is good for
their sheep and their horses. Sometimes, they come to town to trade their food for other things they
need. The store is one of their most favorite places, to not only shop, but also a place to watch town
life, which seems to fascinate them.
In the painting Where Are you From?, two small boys with a girl sit on a counter in front of the store,
while two Tibetan women stand against the wall of the store. I tried to capture their emotive stares,
which I noticed as we walked into the town. All of their eyes gazed upon us, seeming to ask the
question, "Where are you from"? The postures of these figures are more naturally attractive, and I
tried to render Tibetan characteristics that I noticed not only in them, but in many other Tibetans as
well: simplicity, relaxation, peace, and unworldliness.
The store is surrounded by warm sunlight, and inside the store is shown a rich dark interior scene
behind the forms. I was careful to present the effect of each person in beautiful color of their faces
and hands and portray their inner emotions. Also their fascinating standing and sitting positions bring
an interesting composition. The rough wall has contrasts with the figures?texture. I represented their
colorful clothes, strong sunlight and shadow, and the reflection of light through the painting, as the
reflecting light on the right lady's hand and her ring to show the interesting texture of the ring. This
painting also follows the same techniques, methods, effects of light, and use of color as many of the
other paintings in the Coming into Tibet series in order to create a harmony within the series.
In Tibetan religious culture, the people do not like to have pictures taken of them, because they
believe the camera can take their soul out of their body. When I was in Tibet, I had to be a snapshot
photographer, to catch images of the people as a record for my future paintings.
Pilgrims (sold), 20 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
In Tibet, monks are often seen hurriedly walking through vast fields of grass. A representation
of such an image is seen in the painting Pilgrims. This painting depicts the monks in an
Impressionist style, the fleeting of the brush corresponding with the fleeting movement of the
subjects. The sharp contrast in hue between the figures and the landscape, in conjunction with
the sharpness of the figures superimposed against a background highly affected by
atmospheric perspective, brings the figures strongly to the fore.
While in Tibet, I learned that most Tibetan families have one person who becomes a monk.
They believe that this brings the family closer to God. They seem very devoted to and proud of
their religion. In most small villages, the people usually have their own temple, and each family
will provide food to support the temple. Religion is a very important part of Tibetan life. The
monks travel from village to village and city to city, teaching the people, but also themselves on
a pilgrimage to enlightenment.
18 in x 24 in,
Oil on Canvas
36 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
The painting Conversation is representative of a Tibetan way of living. The two cows almost seem to be having a good
conversation after their day of work, as the sunlight brings warmth to them. The wall of the house has a beautiful pattern in
the background, in which I used variety in the brushwork, and a repetition of forms and colors, to create continuation and
rhythm. Although many people outside Tibet may not know it, this pattern on the actual house wall comes from cow dung,
hand mixed with hay and dried in the Tibetan sun. The hand prints can be seen in this material that has been placed on the
wall. Once dried, it is taken from the wall throughout the year for use as a household fuel.
Inscribing Old Man with Jokhang Temple 18 in x
36 in, Oil on Canvas
The painting, Inscribing Old Man with Jokhang Temple, shows a Tibetan
inscribing God's words on a stone below the imposing structure of the
Jokhang Temple. The Jokhang Temple, close to Lhasa, was built many
hundreds of years ago. It is a gigantic architectural complex and a
spiritual center in Tibet. Many mythical stories surround the Jokhang
Temple. Pilgrims and other visitors come to the Jokhang Temple to look
for their dreams and make wishes for their future. Sometimes, these
wishes come true -- including mine. When I visited the Jokhang Temple, I
was attracted to the spectacle of this man inscribing his God's words on
the stone in front of the Jokhang Temple. Local people told me that he had
come to this place and had been inscribing for some thirty years. I wanted
to photograph him and the Jokhang Temple to use for my future painting.
However, although it was during the day, it was a cloudy day. After I had
been on this scene for a short time, I could see that a storm was brewing
in the sky. The ambiance of the place was a powerful influence upon me. I
so believed that if I fervently prayed to God, God would bring the sun to
me. So, I waited and waited throughout the afternoon. Within a very short
period of time, the sky went very dark, and then lightness showed through
the clouds. Suddenly a storm burst upon the landscape, with torrential
rain, and much lightning and thunder. As people ran away to look for
shelter from the rain, the old man continued to inscribe, and whether from
divine intervention or the most amazing coincidence, no rain fell on the
small place in which he was set. Then, almost instantly, the sky changed
to very blue and dark blue violet, then suddenly the sun appeared, shining
on the temple and the old man, and a colorful rainbow appeared, as if it
were a bridge from one of the buildings of the temple complex to the dark
sky. In this way, I was inspired to paint the scene.
In this painting, I realistically rendered the man's wrinkles in his face,
deep gray of his hair, and the concentration of the movement of his hand
to represent his hard life. I designed the composition in the form of a long
path: from the old man, using the Jokhang Temple as a bridge, to the sky,
where the rainbow in the dark blue sky carries his dream to God's
heaven. Further, I used the effects of light, and rich, warm colors on the
temple to show the Tibetan religious spirit and their rich culture.
| Coming into Tibet - A series of paintings by BiLan Liao