Even though he is barely heard of in Nepal, artist Tenzin Norbu is well known throughout creative circles in Europe. At the age of 33, this Dolpo painter's work can be found in museums around Europe as well as in many private collections across the world.
Coming from five generations of thankga painters, Norbu got bored with the rigidity of this traditional scroll painting style at an early age. He began experimenting and this lead to a mixture between the traditional style and his own vivid expressionism. Rather than having a central focus, like in normal thangkas, Norbu's paintings come together to tell an epic.
"To me, a painting should be about movement," says Norbu. "A painting or even a sketch is just another medium to tell a story and capture the imagination. That is one reason why I don't like still art. I prefer paintings that convey motion and energy." These traits are clearly seen in Norbu's portrayal of the scenery and lifestyles of his native Dolpo region in an exhibition of his latest work at the Shangi-La Hotel this week.
Concerned that the art was dying out, Norbu took it on himself to teach and educate a new generation of painters. There are not many economic opportunities available to people from his region, and this not only provides them with work, but also ensures that the culture survives. Not many people were interested in learning painting back then, but he did manage to recruit several youths. "They were more interested in 'modern' things like computers and motorbikes," he says. "Now that they have seen you can actually make good money from painting, many more are taking up brushes."
The exhibition in Kathmandu this week includes a series that continue the story from Eric Valli's Himalaya, in which Norbu's paintings had featured. Part of the proceeds from the exhibition sales will go to the Kula Primary School in Dolpa. (Milan Wagle)
Dolpo Lives paintings by Tenzin Norbu, daily 10AM-4PM till 20 March at Shangri-la Hotel, Lazimpat