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
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 aintings 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.
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.
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.
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
Inscribing Old Man with Jokhang Temple 18 in x 36 in, Oil on
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 -- includin 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 twelve paintings by BiLan Liao
BiLan in Tibet 1992
BiLan in Tibet 1992
BiLan in Tibet 1994
BiLan in Tibet 1985