Born in Dharamsala to Tibetan parents and raised in Switzerland, Kesang Lamdark has one foot in the East and the other in the West. Opening on 26 February 2022 at Rossi & Rossi Hollywood Road, Kesang Lamdark focusses on the artist’s practice, which reflects his ongoing negotiation with his Tibetan heritage in a multicultural environment.
Lamdark’s vast repertoire ranges from melted plastic, beer cans and light boxes to both recycled and upcycled readymades. The artist often utilises traditional images derived from Tibetan folklore and religion, reworking and blending them with icons from industrial and consumerist cultures. As writer Maxwell Heller argues in his 2011 essay for the artist’s solo exhibition Son of Rimpoche , ‘[F]or every measure of spiritual levity in his work, there is an equal amount of skepticism, materialistic obsessions, hedonism and pop-culture worship – and this is what holds our curiosity’
In Dorge Drakkten Kiss World (2012), for instance, Lamdark juxtaposes the Tibetan Nechung Oracle with Gene Simmons, both sticking out their tongues. Whilst this gesture is seen as a sign of rebellion in the Anglo-Saxon world, Tibetans use it to greet one another as a sign of respect. The work is a micro-pointillist light box – in which tiny holes are hammered directly into the image – a medium for which the artist has become known. He likens the repetitive sound of the hammering to ‘the drumbeat, the heartbeat –– similar to the sound of a monk making a sand mandala’, the artist remarked. He described the process making a light mandala, releasing with needles light to go through’.
Lhasa Beer Boxes (2018), on the other hand, consists of two empty beer cartons onto which the artist painted a chain link fence. ‘In Tibet, you can find all kinds of alcohol in a bar except for barley wine’ touts the lyrics of a popular rock song. With its booming tourism industry and the cultural imports that come with it, Tibet has seen its youth and disenfranchised fall victim to alcohol addiction. This work alludes to the separation of family and society, as well as the self-imprisonment associated with alcoholism. It also pays homage to Andy Warhol and his Brillo Boxes (1964) and further comments on the invasion of tin cans in Tibet.
Lamdark spends most of his time in Zurich. Seat Mask (2018) is the artist’s attempt to preserve the history of one of his favourite night clubs in the city, one that shut down some time ago. The series recreates recyclved seat covers from the club. He used chicken wire to mould the work’s form and then melted plastic with a heat gun over the wire to create what he calls a ‘3-D abstract painting’ before repainting their surfaces. ’People drink, drug, kiss, fuck and fall over drunk on these chairs’, Lamdark says. For him, these seats condense the club’s history on their surfaces.
Kesang Lamdark at Rossi & Rossi looks back at Lamdark’s oeuvre from the past decade. The presentation also highlights works that embody the artist’s approach to internalising his ancestry, along with its various cultural traditions, into an idiosyncratic, contemporary language that constantly evolves with the changing times.
Kesang Lamrdark, the titular monograph published by Skira in 2021, is the first monograph dedicated to a contemporary Tibetan artist. The publication, containing archival materials, photographs and texts by leading curators and art historians, will be available at the exhibition.