My works follow a theme that I like to refer to as ‘sex, death and rock and roll’. Sex and death do not carry the same stigma in Tibetan Buddhism as they do in the West. Instead, they are viewed as transitional states of mind (bardo), when life and the mind are suspended, and the spirit has the opportunity to progress or regress. My father is a Rimpoche, a reincarnated lama, so death and mortality have always been very present in my life and in my work. In terms of ‘rock and roll’, I like to draw references from pop culture. I grew up between the West and the East; it’s striking how differently people around the world interpret gestures, words and images.
To highlight these cultural differences, Dorje Drakden (2014) and Kiss (2014) both juxtapose the Tibetan Nechung Oracle, Dorje Drakden, and Gene Simmons, of Kiss fame, performing the same gesture. Images of Simmons—with his face painted and tongue sticking out, a Western sign of rebellion—are instantly recognisable. In Tibet, however, this same gesture is used to greet people, and is regarded as one of respect.