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Digital Images on Sutra Paper

01-05-2012 15:34 BJT

BEIJING, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Jin Ping is not obsessed with technology. He does not cling to innovation, and does not care about being crowned with eternal glory in history of Chinese photography. But his Tibetan paper methods have significance for the Chinese photographic community.

Unlike the legions of documentary photographers in China, who try to parse today's most urgent questions about truth and reality, Jin has long been charmed with exploring new methods of image presentation.

Integrating a talent for aesthetics, the visual arts, and printing technology, the Chengdu-based documentary photographer Jin Ping has developed a distinctive representation method, a hybrid process using modern inkjet technology and an age-old Tibetan paper, thus making the image appear a music-like charm, mix of originality and modernity.

Conceptually, one of the most intriguing pieces Jin Ping has created in this medium was a recreation of a plate of 24 commemorative stamps issued in 1959 to mark the 10th anniversary of the inauguration of the People's Republic of China.

The original monochrome woodcut stamp shows Mao in a dark green uniform, standing on the gate tower of the Tiananmen Square as he proclaims the founding of the new China. The image frames an important historical moment when Mao held sway over China.

One of the first plates of the stamp was bought by a stamp collector named Yang Shaoming, the son of Yang Shangkun, who then held a senior position in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Shaoming had Mao autograph the plate of the stamps --- the three Chinese characters "Mao Ze Dong" were signed vertically across the plate, turning an otherwise ordinary plate of stamps into a piece of conceptual art.

In Jin Ping's representation, the powerful Mao looks warm and graceful. The fiber of the Tibetan paper underlying the digital image creates a special surface texture with complex characteristics that subdue the sharpness of Mao. The paper's rough grain makes the simple color relationships look rich without looking exaggerated.

This conceptual work deeply impressed the British stamp community, and they invited Jin Ping to create them two similar pieces. One is a reproduction of a plate of 12 Penny Black stamps, the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public system. The other is a recreation of the Penny Black's sister stamp, a plate of the 18 Penny Red stamps.

Printed on Tibetan paper, the work lends a Far Eastern flavor to the august Queen Victoria's relief profile image.

Previous to Jin Ping's 2006 incorporation in his art, the over 1,300-year-old Tibetan paper of high quality was used solely for the printing of Buddhist classics.

In 2006 Jin Ping went to shoot Dege Sutra Printing House in Ganze Tibetan Nationality Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China' s Sichuan Province.

In the printing house, one of the things that Jin discovered was that the techniques of writing, carving, and block printing remain the same as they were in the 13th century. And the tradition of Tibetan papermaking has been passed down undisturbed through those centuries. It is a priceless living example of folk craftsmanship.

Jin Ping who has more than 10 years of experience in printing industry is very sensible of papers. He recalls, "Tibetan paper makes an image look like it has been mysteriously illuminated. I realized that this age old medium would be able to create an unexpected visual effect for digital images."

Tibetan paper is made of the root-hair of the Stellera Chamaejasme plant, a medicinal herb locally referred to as "Agyiaorugyiao". Tibetan paper is noted for being antiseptic, mothproof and moisture-proof, and possessing a long shelf life.

The paper made of the inner layer of the root-hair is the best with color and fine texture, which is for important sutras. Whereas the paper made of the outer layer is thick and coarse, mostly for the printing of prayer flags, and Buddhist pamphlets.

Agyiaorugyiao is used in Tibetan medicinal practice. The plant, which grows in the Henguan Mountains about 3,000 to 4,000 meters above sea level on the Qinghai- Tibet Plateau, is slightly toxic, germicidal, and antiviral. Paper made from its root-hairs is poisonous to rats and bugs. Tibetan Buddhists (Vajrayana Buddhism) use it to print classic sutras, which can stay intact in perfect condition for hundreds of years.

Additionally, Jin Ping noted that Tibetan paper is extremely strong, very soft, and absorbent. The latter makes it particularly useful for printing. "As it's fully handmade, each sheet is unique, making it an ideal medium for contemporary art creation," says Jin Ping.

 


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