1 of 4 framed limited edition prints of artist in differing environments posing as an artist. In this image Gyatso has created a Tibetan space in My identity s 1. He wears the clothes and adornments of a Tibetan aristocrat, seated in front of a traditional Tibetan mediatational painting, a thankga, behind him, there are covered thankga on the wall and potted flowers, a staple of any Tibetan home and much commented on by visited colonial officers in the 1920s and 1930s.
My Identity s was the first of his photographic works to gain widespread recognition. Replicating the pose captured by a colonial officer’s camera in the 1930s portrait of the 13th Dalai Lama’s chief thangka painter, Gyatso responds to the varying modalities of his practice and his identity as an artist, questioning his status as a transnational artist in exile. The colonial photograph used by Gyatso as inspiration for this work is one of thousands taken by colonial officers that now form an important part of NML’s Tibet collections. Although these photographs now poignantly capture an image of Tibet that for the most part is no longer there, this work by Gyatso reveals how contemporary artists are connecting with their cultural heritage on many levels and are moving beyond the constraints imposed by the western understanding of Tibetan painting and indeed the Tibetan artist. The one constant in each of the four pieces is the artist's paint box, while al else changes around him, his identity as an artist remains constant.