The Origin of Ideas – Jasper’s Dream – What if?

A Tibetan Flag sculpture & painting by the contemporary fine artist Lee Gascoyne 2010 made with pine, acrylic, plexiglass & fabric

Click on the image to see more of this artwork – Lee Gascoyne 2010

The American painter Jasper Johns, when questioned about the origin of his iconic painting Flag (1954-55) said, “One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag, and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it” (Tejada-Flores, 1989, from the video Jasper Johns: Ideas In Paint). The repercussions of such simple beginnings turned out to be greatly significant. In particular it marked the start of Johns mature output as an artist, raised issues surrounding the reproduction of the American flag and launched Johns use of encaustic in his paintings.

My idea to make Jasper’s Dream originated from the above sources alongside the plight of the Tibetan people seeking independence from China. In the 1950s Tibet was going through a period of extreme unrest due to The Incorporation of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China that culminated in the Tibetan uprising of 1959, where the Dalai Lama was exiled and the Tibetan Government dissolved. Tibet is now known as the Tibet Autonomous Region and is heavily controlled by China.

I wondered what would have happened if Jasper Johns had dreamed of the Tibetan flag? If he had gone out the next day and painted the Tibetan flag instead of the American flag? Johns painted Flag during a time when the Tibetan people still had hope that they could negotiate against China’s increasing pressure to ‘liberate’ them, to keep their cultural heritage in tact and maintain their right to independence. Could a painting of the Tibetan flag, arising in the exploding art scene of 1950s New York have gone any way to raising global awareness of the issues surrounding the plight of the Tibetan people?

Jasper’s Dream is both sculptural and painterly. It is my interpretation and illustration of Johns painting technique fused with the geometry and iconography of the Tibetan flag, extrapolated as a piece of sculpture and painting. I’m also asking the questions what if, and is it too late?

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