“I am mostly interested in calligraphy as an art form that explores the relation between the abstract and the symbolic. Typography and letters do not mean anything in and of themselves. We attach a particular symbol to a sound which then becomes a letter. We then write down a series of symbols (letters) in a specific order to signify a particular word. That particular word comes from a sound which we decided to associate with a particular object or idea.
Therefore, the idea or the object came first, then the sound we decided to signify that object and then came the written symbols. Written symbols are meaningless in and of themselves. We encounter this when we try to read something in a foreign script. I cannot read Arabic or Urdu or Mandarin. To me the words written in any of those, and many other scripts, are devoid of meaning; they are abstract. Of course, I know that the writer of those words had meant to express some thought. Maybe he had wanted to say “tree”. However, without an understanding of the symbols he had chosen to write down “tree”, the whole thing becomes unintelligible.
I am able to read and write in many of the different Tibetan scripts. However, my work mainly deals with the Horyig or the Phagspa seal script. I am drawn to this particular Tibetan script due to many reasons. Firstly, from a typographical and design point of view, I find the Horyig script – with its bold, blocky and geometrical typeface – very modern and evocative. Furthermore, the script is quite indecipherable even to many Tibetans. In designing the Horyig script, many letters of the Tibetan alphabet (as they were written in the much more popular U-chen and U-med scripts) were morphed or distilled (boiled down to their essence) to such a degree that the letters are more coherent and formal in terms of their visual forms.
Tibetan scripts in general – U-chen, U-med, Tsug-ma-khyug, Kham-dri, Khyug – are what I would call more poetic and free. There are flourishes of serifs, lines that become narrow and then widen in the same stroke (achieved by twirling the cut nib of the pen between the thumb and the index finger), and wide flowing curves that can be deemed “flowery”. The Horyig script does away with all that and in doing so brings about a visual dynamic that is more abstract and geometric. It is more basic and more refined at the same time.
In this series of works, I will be exploring words – English, Hindi and Mandarin – that have been incorporated into the colloquial Tibetan. Although words such as Baalti (bucket in Hindi) or the English word Station have been incorporated into the colloquial Tibetan (in India) with slightly different pronounciations (Instead of Baalti, we say Bating, and instead of Station, we say Tising.), these word have never been written down in the Tibetan script. There is no right or wrong way to spell these words in Tibetan because no governing body of Tibetan Linguists (like the Real Academia Española who are the official gatekeepers of the Spanish language.) have congregated to decide on whether to formally “allow” these adopted words the status of being Tibetan by formally according them with a specific and widely agreed spelling.
I believe that language and words, and by extension, culture, become richer when they adopt or borrow from each other. Many words that we believe to be originally Tibetan come from other languages. For example, the word for alcohol in Tibetan, Arag (Mostly used to denote high alcoholic spirits such as whisky and vodka and not wine or beer.) comes from Arabia. According to Wikipedia (I love Wikipedia.), the word arak comes from Arabic ′araq ﻋﺮﻕ, meaning “sweat” and its pronunciation varies depending on local varieties of Arabic.
I would like to write down many of these adopted words in the Horyig script and, maybe, lend them some credence and a place in the formal Tibetan language.”
[Dated : 6th December, 2012]
Jonas Dordje Reissinger
“Since this is a Tibet-related Art Blog, I’ll first explain my Tibetan experience and heritage.
I was born in Germany in 1986, to a German father and a Tibetan mother. My grandfather is a Khampa from Batang, who spent two decades in a maximum security prison near Beijing. My grandmother was a Tibetan Muslim from Lhasa who was killed in prison during the Cultural Revolution in Beijing. My mother and her siblings were also imprisoned for several years during that time. The Tibetan side of my family tree has had a lot of misfortune and is very complicated, which has quite an impact on my thinking and awareness of things around me.
I have been to Tibet four times.
I studied Economics and Development Studies in London and have lived in Beijing for two years and learned mandarin.
I have three siblings that I love very much. I like to believe that our atoms are other universes and that our universe is an atom in the body of yet another being in yet another universe.
Artistic creativity makes me happy. I make electronic music with my brother. I’ve been drawing all my life, but have had no art schooling. I like to capture subtle human emotions in my artwork. I wish for people to enjoy my artwork within an aesthetic and emotional framework with as little words as possible.”
[Dated : Feb 17 2012]
Kunsang Gyatso (Previous Artist)
“I see art in its creation-al aspect and the process; of something unadulterated that exists independently without any semblance to the mundane functions of the world, and the process in which ideas are manifested in different ways, onto a medium that can be easily felt or experienced by the audience. This is the very basic foundation and the propelling force of my artistic being.
Initially, I started off my art study with a more commercial focus in the fields of graphic design and illustration. A couple of semesters later, I took to photography out of curiosity. There was something in the quality of B&W photos and the whole process of shooting with film cameras and working in the darkroom that hit me with this new perspective on art. And, further understanding the art history on my own, I started developing stronger interest in fine art.
At present, I love doing painting and photography. I also do sketches and aimless doodles, and they help me a lot in conceiving ideas. As of where I stand now, I’m still experimenting with and discovering the different possibilities that I’m presented with. So, I don’t really have a fixed set of principle, a generalized theme or an evolved style that’s particular to me.
Concepts and ideas sometimes come to me quite naturally and it’s readily available for me to lay it down. Sometimes, a purposeless improvisation of a sketch or a doodle leads into an interesting revelation. I then try to materialize these gathered ideas and draw, paint or make a photograph out of it. And while in the process, my personal feelings and emotions take precedence and somehow, they are intertwined with my work.”