This small painting documents a wonderful moment I had in Tibet. I was travelling alone but had been forced, due to travel regulations at the time, to group-up with some other tourists for one leg of my journey. We were not like-minded (they wanted modern Chinese accommodation/restaurants, I wanted Tibetan) and I was desperate to have some space. We were in the small town of Gyantse on a one-night layover with no time allocated to visit the monastery, so in the darkness of the morning I crept out of the guest house and climbed the hill up to the monastery in the bitter cold. I was not yet fully acclimatised to the Tibetan altitude and at 4000m the steep climb was gruelling. It was also pretty terrifying because when I got to it the monastery was deserted and eerie but I kept catching prayer flags and other materials out of the corner of my eye as they flapped in the darkness and the wind. Also I think officially I was trespassing so I was anxious about being caught. But as the sun came up I was rewarded with a spectacular 360 degree view of the Tibetan plateau. I stayed as long as I could in the sub-zero temperatures and then descended into the town where the (bemused) locals were starting to go about their business. The experience was overlaid with the wider political and cultural circumstances I found in Tibet, a place where I felt profoundly moved on many occasions, but where this memory is particularly deeply etched. I hope this small painting captures something of the intimacy and freedom of the experience.
There are a few other paintings in the series (all now in private collections - the first one is in the British Alpine Club Collection):
Looking down on Gyantse:
Quick sketch done on-site: