“Bitter Sweet”: An Exhibition in Lhasa By Tibetan Artist Traye Donne

Traye in his studio

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a piece about Tibetan artist Traye Donne (བཀྲ་ཡེ་དོན་ནེ་ bKraye donne, 泽郎夺理 ) and his debut exhibition in Lhasa that was originally published on the “Melong Art” WeChat channel on July 12, 2018.

The debut exhibition by 28 year old Traye Donne from Ngaba in eastern Tibet was curated by Kalsang Yangla, founder of Melong Art, and held in Lhasa last summer at the Scorching Sun Art Lab. Regular readers will know that the Scorching Sun Art Lab was set up by established Tibetan contemporary artists Nortse and Gade to provide a platform for Tibetan art.

In a 2016 interview, Gade said: “Scorching Sun doesn’t only provide a space for members to exhibit their works, it is also open to young artists; we accept all good pieces, provide a space and help them become popular.” If you are on Instagram be sure to follow Scorching Sun for regular updates: https://www.instagram.com/scorchingsun.art/

Traye Donne: An Exhibition in Lhasa
By Melong Art

Traye Donne is an artist who doesn’t really like to talk too much

In April, we ate hotpot together on Chunxi Road in Chengdu. I asked him what he thought about putting on an exhibition in Lhasa in the summer. OK, he said simply and emptied his glass.

His paintings seem a lot more lively than he is as a person. The children, birds, the moon, the flowers and clouds that we find in his works all seem to have many stories to tell. I showed them to some of my friends. “Wow, these paintings are lovely,” some said, while others felt that “it’s like smashing something on your skull, you feel dizzy immediately.” Again others said, “they go straight to the heart, they make you happy.”

A few days ago, I was in front of a classroom of a school in Lhasa, waiting for the van to deliver the paintings for the exhibition. Two primary school pupils came out, stopped and started discussing the artwork in front of them.

“Why are the eyes of the people in this painting so far apart?”

“I don’t know, I think he looks a bit sad.”

Traye’s collection of works

When looking at Traye’s paintings with artist Nortse, he remembered some of the works he produced on paper when he was young: “I would take a pen and follow the wrinkles on the paper; the result has many similarities with some of his (Traye’s) smaller paintings.” Nortse really appreciated the free and unconstrained character of Traye’s works.

This then also reminded me of an interview I did with Traye in which he said that he preferred to paint without any particular goal in mind. This “aimless” character, according to another artist, Pei Zhuangxin, made Traye’s works differ from the identity crisis in mainstream images and models:

“This complete dissociation with the mainstream actually reveals some very exciting and very profound individual character and inspiration.”

A sketch of Traye’s work

I don’t remember which teacher said the following: Exhibiting art is, in fact, a process of substituting and handing yourself over. Appreciating a painting is entirely subjective behaviour: depending on how much you are engulfed by it, you can feel its empathy, understand it and possess it.

In the past, when I walked along the narrow alleys, with the tall buildings on either side obstructing the sunlight, when stepping onto the geometric shadows, I also felt like one of those plump children on Traye’s paintings. He embraces the mountain and the river; the snow covered mountain top and the faint blue that floats along the waves of the river.

What is most interesting when curating an exhibition is that I am very certain that many people will come and look at one and the same painting, but the memory they take away will be so very different. This exchange of energy between people and paintings and between people and people is simply fascinating.

I have already long given up the belief that a painting (or several paintings) or an exhibition (or several exhibitions) can challenge or change this rotten world or its currently rotting parts.

But as long as “art” can bring something magnificent to the eyes of different people or ignite a light in an otherwise frozen world, well, I think it is really worth it.

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Traye Donne’s Debut Exhibition
“Bitter Sweet”
Opening Friday, July 20, 2018, at 19:00
Scorching Sun Art Lab in Lhasa

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This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)