This small exhibition of work takes as its inspiration (for want of a better word) the disappearance in 1995 of the boy identified as the Panchen Lama and his family. It falls to the Dalai Lama to identify the latest incarnation of the Panchen Lama and on 14 May 1995 he announced that a boy in Tibet was the one. By 18 May that boy and his family were missing – presumed taken by the Chinese authorities – and whilst he has not been seen since in the meantime the Chinese have put forward their own Panchen Lama. Using a variety of media, Tavares Strachan explores notions of disappearance and what we can and cannot know.
The recurring image is the standard one of six year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima whom the Dalai Lama identified. His face is the starting point of an age progression sequence of bright, vivid ‘photographs’. It is also shown on a created MISSING poster and on two linked ink works (again based on age progression). These feature alongside a floating sculpture and two drawn works of an intriguing ‘child lama’ image. The poster itself is for sale in a limited edition with proceeds going to Tashilumpo Monastery, the traditional home of the Panchen Lama.
The very notion that a (in name at least) atheist regime can pronounce on Buddhist theology and then take such drastic steps to assert their authority as apparently happened in 1995 is disturbing enough. What this collection does is both humanise that tragedy through the repeated use of the image of a six year old and his smiling aged self – but also allow the loss to faith through the bringing in of the lama iconography. It packs a political, theological and human punch.
The Rossi & Rossi page has more here.