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October 26, 2004

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Tibetan

From: Phayul - Tibet - Oct 26, 2004

Tibetan Review
[Tuesday, October 26, 2004 10:22]

By Bhuchung K. Tsering

This is the story of a young Tibetan artist, Tenzin Chopak. A recent viewing of some of his paintings make me feel that we have somebody here with strong potentials. Best of all, he is just in his early twenties. This month I thought I would talk about him and his paintings (

I knew Chopak as a young boy when his father, Kasur Dawa Tsering, was serving in Gangchen Kyishong. After coming to the United States in the mid 1990s, Chopak started going to the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York. When Kasur Dawa Tsering relinquished office as the Representative at the Office of Tibet in New York and moved to Washington, D.C. (where he joined Voice of America's Tibetan service) Chopak joined the Model Secondary School for the Deaf at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

Even as Chopak continued his formal education, he has been exercising his creative talent as an artist. His talent was recognized when in 2000 his school selected him to paint a mural on what is called the Eagle Center wall. The reaction by visitors to the mural, three fish shown swimming above the water level, seem to have been positive. The school magazine Odyssey reported, "As visitors react to Tenzin's mural, the pleasure and pride are evident on his face. Art has always been his passion." You can see a copy of the mural and the article on Chopak at the following link

Recently, I was at the family's residence when his mother showed me a series of paintings that Chopak had done. Although I did not dare mention to her then, I could not first believe that the "young boy" that I knew could have been behind such creativity. The paintings were essential surrealism.

As surrealist works are known to be, Chopak's paintings were confusing, depicting dreamlike fantasies. There was one painting, I learned later that it is titled "Underworld," showing a soldier-like figure lying below the close-up of a human's face. At the side are two insects (beetles?) crawling upward. I looked up his online gallery and found several more paintings by him. One was titled, "Thupten II" (could this have any connection to his elder brother whose name is Thupten?) showing two conjoined faces with their eyes closed. There was another titled, "Egyptian Slaver," being a head turned upward with the tongue stretched out (This reminded me of the images that we see on TV of famine-stricken children in some parts of Africa). There is a sort of cosmic mystery in his paintings, which are dark and in strong colours. I don't know much about paintings but from my amateurish eyes I could feel the juxtaposition of realism and the fantastic, including the placing together of strangely related subject materials.

In his gallery, Chopak says he uses airbrush, ink, pencil, pen as well as digital method to draw his paintings. As for his influences, he gives the name of the well known surrealist Salvador Dali as well as those of Swiss artist H.R. Giver, Polish artist Zdzislaw Beksinski and American artist Venosa.

I have seen the works of a few Tibetan modern artists who have achieved some recognition including those of the late Venerable Pema Losang Chogyen (Namgyal Monastery), Nyima Tsering (Tibet), Lobsang Gyatso (Colorado), and Gongkar Gyatso (London). Tenzin Chopak adds another dimension to the definition of modern Tibetan artists.

Copyright 2003