BILAN LIAO (廖碧籣畫舘) Artist / Author/ Educator / Speaker   
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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
colors In 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?  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, 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.
Sisters, 18 in x 24 in, Oil on Canvas
Conversation  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, w
ith 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 twelve paintings by BiLan Liao         

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About BiLan       BiLan's Art Work     
BiLan in Tibet 1992
BiLan in Tibet 1992
BiLan in Tibet 1994
BiLan in Tibet 1994
BiLan in Tibet 1985