PUNE, INDIA — It has been some time now that I have been reading and looking at pictures of abstract Tantric paintings coming from Rajasthan, India. I have seen a couple of artists referring to them in their video interviews while elaborating on the topic of non-objective art, and then there was the first edition of Frank Andre Jammes’ book, Tantra Songs from Siglio Press, which sold out in just a few weeks.
Minimal Tantric art seems to be in the spotlight more than ever.
These paintings are pretty amazing and I was impressed when I saw these “modern art” looking works, created obscurely by unknown Tantric ritual practitioners from Rajasthan, the north-western region of India. One reason, I think, was that the paintings looked very different from the familiar motifs and imagery of ancient Hindu and Buddhist religions that are commonly seen here in India. The images are stunningly minimal and metaphorically contemporary looking. In addition these are created on found papers probably with available natural pigments. All these factors make the paintings an unusual phenomenon. But after having said this, there is another aspect of these paintings which makes me feel a bit uneasy. Let me explain why.
First of all I do not disrespect the fact that people are painstakingly collecting these paintings, researching and writing about them. But if we want to analyze them from art’s point of view, we will have to keep the excitement, romanticism and spiritual curiosity aside for a while. It is uncanny to see the “resemblance” these paintings have with many of the modern art works, but this does not mean that these paintings are a result of a conscious art practice from ancient Tantrism. These are instead the outcome of ritualistic processes. When art serves as a component of ritualism, the questioning stops and so does its evolution.
Art evolution is a process where “questioning” is recognized as one of the core essentials. Questioning could be about the elements, process or even technique; it could be a public thing or a personal practice. We would not have seen the change in art during the Renaissance if artists, despite predominantly serving religion, had not challenged themselves. Masaccio, Mantegna, Da Vinci, Raphael or El Greco, would have created the same imagery again and again.
I have my doubts as to whether the people who are creating these works have ever asked themselves why something is represented as an oval or a triangle, or why a certain color has been used. They understand it ritualistically and follow it from generation to generation. I am certainly very curious about how these paintings got initiated centuries ago, during a period when most of the sculptural and painterly elements in India were ornately depicted. But I am not ready to associate this isolated practice with today’s Indian understanding of non-representation. Modern Indian artistic understanding predominantly stands on Western artistic thought process deeply rooted here now for over a century. The Tantric paintings can be called outsider art, in line with the broadened scope of classification of outside art over years. But as artists, we have to be careful while analyzing these works despite their resemblance with modern western art. As for poets, cultural historians, collectors or spiritual tourists, I think they should be free to accept them in whichever way they see fit.
The Roman-era burial ground is located in Anazarbus (modern Anavarza) in the country’s southern Adana province.
Those with a Didion-shaped hole in their hearts can also bid for portraits of the author, her books, and other personal items.
The Brooklyn organization is now accepting new project inquiries for its fee-based fabrication services in printmaking, ceramics, and large-scale public art.
The union seeks a minimum wage of $20 by the end of 2024; the museum offered only $16.
Blurred Boundaries invites the viewer to recognize the ways in which queer art is not separate or other, but is actually always all around us.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
Francis De Erdely had an intuitive grasp of the inner worlds of people who were coping with a sense of displacement in their daily lives, which he conveyed in his art.
Curator Amber-Dawn Bear Robe brings together historic and contemporary Native clothing designs at Santa Fe Indian Market.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
As the Uru-eu-wau-wau people face continued incursion by Brazilian farmers, they take an active role in this documentary about them.
Arriving amid increased anti-Asian racism and continuing discourse about the inhumanity of its prison system, this documentary is a strong historical gut punch.
A “show within a show” at the Whitney Biennial pays homage to the visual and literary art of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, whose life was cut short through an act of brutal violence.