My identity s 3



1 of 4 framed limited edition prints of artist in differing environments posing as an artist. Here Gyatso has created a refugee space, a reflection on his time in Dharamsala, India following his escape from Tibet. In Tibet he felt his practice was being far too restricted by the Chinese authorities, but having arrived in Dharamsala his practice was also resisted here, as it was too different from the traditional styles, being promoted by the Tibetan government in exile. He dons the monks robes and replacing the pot paints is a portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama, something that is banned in Tibet, all of which makes a comment on the image sustained and created by the Tibetan government in exile, so a spiritual and peaceful people. 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.