Grosvenor Gallery is delighted to be showing for the first time in the UK, new paintings by Bhutanese artist, Zimbiri (b. 1991). The exhibition will take place during Asian Art in London’s East Asian Art week from 30th October and will extend till the 20th November 2020. There will be a late-night viewing on Sunday, 1st November from 6-9pm.
Zimbiri is a native of Thimphu, the capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Her works start with the traditional materials and techniques used in Bhutanese art: “sa-tschen” (earth paint) and “rhay-shing” (hand-woven canvas). These impart a ghostly presence to the images that she paints, communicating a sense of fragility, as if these traditions themselves might soon disappear. Many of her works also employ the technique of “tsapa,” this being the template of perforations which follow the lines of a drawing and enable it to be transferred on to a wall to be replicated and painted.
Although Zimbiri’s works start from this traditional Bhutanese foundation, her approach is informed by schools of Western art in the 20th century, namely Minimalism and Colour Field Painting. Her paintings are the perfect amalgamation of Post-Modern and Contemporary; combining the local with the global, and the current with the traditional.
The body of paintings that have been selected for the show are from Zimbiri’s ‘Tiger’ series. The tiger for her is a symbol with multiple connotations and mythic references. Not only does it exude strength and power, but fragility, and precariousness in the complex dynamics between man and nature. Zimbiri says she decided on the tiger because it is endangered as well as considered precious in Bhutanese mythic history. Most of the animals in their mythic tales belong to the past and the tiger, too, being an endangered species, will one day become a species of the past.
Since tigers are indigenous to the Himalayas, Zimbiri depicts them from the blending of realism as well as imagination, as brave and fierce spirits, which makes portrayals of them highly desirable. Her tigers tend to have different facial expressions and suggestions of temperaments as well. In her boxed series, you see the animal filling the entire frame almost squeezed into a confined space, much like the geographical nature of Bhutan which is nestled amongst Tibet (China) to the north, India and Nepal to the east and west and Bangladesh further south.
Her paintings draw attention to what man has done to nature. Globalisation is not limited to modern society but is a long-standing tradition. She points, unconsciously, to the truth that a tiger is a cultural and intellectually natural asset. Her works embody diverse traits from different Eastern cultures and tell us that tigers are a valuable heritage of our biodiversity.
Zimbiri brings alive William Blake’s ‘Tiger, tiger burning bright….’ in which he leaves us in awe at the complexity of the creation and the sheer magnitude of God’s power. The perspective in Blake’s poem involves a sophisticated acknowledgment of what is unexplainable in the universe, presenting evil as the prime example of something that cannot be denied but will not tolerate a simplistic explanation either. The open respect and amazement of the tiger brings us to the understanding and a belief in a benevolent universe.
Born and raised in Thimphu, Bhutan, Zimbiri finished her undergraduate studies from Wheaton College, MA, with a double major in Economics and Fine Arts. Her first exhibition, ‘Faces’ in 2015 was the first female solo exhibition in Bhutan. The paintings were variations of the three eyed ‘Mahayana Mask’, illustrating the metaphoric masks we wear and how we use them as a means of protection. She has worked on a series of paintings that are an exploration of traditional Bhutanese paint (saa-tshen) and imagery. These works were featured in her second exhibition ‘Found Icons’ and more recently in International art fairs: Serendipity Art Festival (2017), India Art Fair (2017), and Art Basel Hong Kong (2018).