DECEMBER 3, 2015 - JANUARY 2, 2016
Cavin-Morris is pleased to present an exhibition of tantric and tantrically influenced art works from India ranging from the sacred to the irreverent.
This exhibition presents the Tantra paintings of Acharya Vyakul (1930 – 2000, Jaipur and Rajasthan, India), several anonymous artists, and some contemporary miniaturists who wish to remain anonymous.
The creator of the small Yantra, or mystical diagrams was also trained as a copyist of traditional Indian miniatures. The artist chooses to remain anonymous in the spiritual act of making the paintings. The materials used include vintage paper, and hand-ground colors including minerals, mother-of-pearl, coral, tree resin mixed with metals, and vegetal pastes. These small paintings come from a tradition in Tantric Hinduism, which began in the fifth or sixth century C.E. After painting one, a devotee is to meditate on an image in order to manifest the divinity. It is a practice that involves a separation from one’s ego. In Sanskrit tantra means “loom” or “weave,” but also “treatise.” The hand-written Tantra treatises date back at least to the seventeenth century, as do the paintings. The Tantra treatises and paintings have been copied over many generations. The accompanying symbolic paintings evolved with the treatises. Now many of them have been separated from the original treatises.
The Tantric philosophy does not separate spiritual, ascetic practices from the mundane experiences of daily life. A Tantrika, or practitioner of Tantra, is not expected to live a hermetic existence away from the pleasure and pain of the world. The continuum of ordinary life can provide true and ever-lasting fulfillment only when all the threads are woven according to the pattern designated by Nature. When we are born, life naturally forms itself around that pattern. But as we grow, our ignorance, desire, attachment, fear, and false images of others and ourselves tangle and tear the threads, disfiguring the fabric. Tantra practice reweaves the fabric, and restores the grace of the original pattern.
The next group of drawings is by Acharya Vyakul, who is known for his eccentric variations on traditional Tantric drawings. In the context of the tantric pictorial tradition, codified by unchanging archetypes, the work of Vyakul distinguishes itself by its freedom of execution, its aspect of free improvisation, a spontaneity fed by a secular tradition. Vyakul considered himself a modern painter working in the abstract tradition. Unlike 99.9 percent of painters of yantra, Vyakul signed his name. His paintings were brought to Western awareness by French poet Andre Jamme, who lent some to the groundbreaking exhibition, Magiciens de la Terre, organized by Jean-Hubert Martin, at Centre Georges Pompidou in 1989.
The third group are artists who have been given bookplates by Raj-NY Photo Colors Studio and then choose which areas on the bookplates to paint in miniature style. These artists also wish to remain anonymous. The results are astonishing as they transform some iconic Western imagery through the visual expression of Indian culture. The results are less of a culture clash than culture fusion as can be seen in the famous photograph of Marilyn Monroe standing on the breezy grate. In this version, her white dress becomes a colorful textile decorated with Indian motifs, and the grate below her an elaborate Indian rug. All the other elements in the image have been left alone. The result is a complete retelling of a classic story.