Gade


3rd December 2008 – 16th January 2009

Gade was born in 1971 in Lhasa to a Chinese father and Tibetan mother and graduated from the School of Fine Arts, Tibet University in Lhasa, where he is now a lecturer, with a degree in Traditional Chinese Realistic Painting. Having grown up in Lhasa, Gade says that when he visited his father's home in Hunan province the place felt very foreign to him. He has always been entranced by ancient Tibetan painting, especially old wall paintings that have survived for several hundred years, the originally pure, strong colours of which have become mottled with age. "Their surfaces glow with a kind of richness that gives testimony to profound experience. I seek to evoke the same kind of aura in my own works", he says. At the same time Gade's art perfectly embodies the changing experience of Tibet and its capital and is often full of humour.

Gade points out "In most people's minds, Tibet is an ancient, mysterious and exotic place. The notion of 'Tibet' is a conundrum. When outsiders actually visit Tibet, especially Lhasa, they get culture shock when they see all the pop culture, fast food, rock music, Coke and beer, brand name clothing, Hollywood movies, the nightlife scene, etc. I think Lhasa ought to be renamed Lhasa Vegas."

Paintings from his 'New Buddha Series' and his 'Diamond Series' reflect this culture shock with images of such American iconic pop figures as Mickey Mouse, Spiderman and the Hulk appearing in the centre of traditional-looking works. Gade points out that these figures show up in every corner of the earth. "When I visited a tiny village called Pazi at the base of Mount Xishabangma (8,102 metres) in the Himalayas, the kids there had backpacks with Mickey Mouse on them, and were drinking Coca Cola. That made me realise the incredible power of those ubiquitous emblems of Western culture and Western values."

Although Gade's work deals with consumerism, which he finds fascinating, he says "I sincerely want my work to be part of the continuity of Tibetan art, to belong to a 'Tibetanised' context, rather than to a Western or Chinese language system". His new 'Mandala Series' takes the Buddhist mandala, which represents an entire world or state of mind, and puts in monsters, tools and objects or, as in Five new Buddhas, Mickey Mouse and Batman as two of the 'new Buddhas'. A Buddhist himself, Gade does not believe that such works are blasphemous as "The Buddhist gods are wise: they know precisely why I do what I do. … The responsibility of the artist goes beyond creating beautiful things. I just say what I believe."

Gade is a founding member of the Gedun Choephel Artists' Guild. His works have won various prizes in Chinese exhibitions and been widely exhibited in both East and West. His most recent solo show Mushroom Cloud took place earlier this year in Hong Kong, and he participated in 55 days in Valencia. Chinese Art Meeting, at the Museum of Modern Art, Valencia, Spain. In 2003 he was Artist in Residence at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Centre in Scotland.