Curators Arjun Sawhney and Tania Lefebvre in collaboration with unrivalled master Buddhist artist, Zeiko, are exhibiting Whispered Wisdom, a riveting showcase of Bhutanese Thangka artwork that pays homage to the leading female deity of Buddhism, as much as it focuses on Buddha himself. The exhibition will be spread over a period of four (4) days, at Bikaner House, New Delhi from 14th April to 17th April 2023.
If you are in or around Delhi, and have a general appreciation for art, culture and mystics - this show is the one that is not to be missed. An intriguing showcase of select Thangka comes to life here - connecting you deeper with yourself. The repertoire of artwork on display span the artists’ most recent creations, each one bearing Bhutanese Thangka in their true forms, in formats that the artist has explored over his extensive journey that involved ten years of practice and learning in an effort to present a homage to the leading female deity of Buddhism - "Tara". Tārā is a tantric meditation deity it is believed to originate as a form of the goddess Durga who today, is worshipped both in Buddhism and in Shaktism as one of the ten Mahavidyas. Thangkas serve as important teaching tools, visually unfolding the life of the Buddha, and other deities and bodhisattvas. The art of Bhutanese Thangkas exemplifies legends, stories and deities from Mahayana Buddhism.
The canvases exhibited are created under the strict guidelines of Buddhist scriptures as the work encompasses symbolism and allusion, and is explicitly religious. Each Thangka is created with various elements mixed meticulously and involves earthly pigments and minerals such as 24-karat gold and other natural colours.
Whispered Wisdom explores the teachings and rituals of faith followed
unwaveringly by a country almost in its entirety, a culture based on the guidance of
spiritual learnings, passed down over aeons, exploring the wisdom that has breathed
life into an art form.
For centuries, the outside world had no name for Bhutan, a land whose lofty
frontiers shrouded it in a cloak of mystery. Tibetan chroniclers of the 18th century
referred to it by many names, including ‘Hidden Holy Land’, or the ‘Lotus Garden of
the Gods’; however, the Bhutanese have always had a name for their own country for
centuries, the land of Druk Yul, translating into ‘The Kingdom of the Thunder
In these lands, Buddhism was first introduced by the revered religious leader Guru
Padma Sambhava, who came from across the border. Also known also as Guru
Rimpoche, this remarkable man -- almost as highly esteemed as Buddha himself in
Bhutan, the Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century, took
hold of this tiny country and shaped its development. Buddhism practised in
Bhutan yet differs significantly in its rituals, liturgy, and monastic organization from
the followers of the faith across country lines.
Buddhism can credit its spread to Tangkhas, pieces of explicitly religious art that
were used as teaching aids, pictorial wisdom, for students and monks. A lama would
travel, giving talks on Buddha's life, teachings, describe important historical events
and illustrate myths associated with important deities. He would carry with him
these densely illustrative, and painstakingly detailed painted scrolls, to convey
spiritually significant events. Thangkas overflow with interwoven symbolism and
allusions that must be in accordance with strict guidelines laid out in Buddhist
scripture. Devotional images act as a focus during rituals and ceremonies and are
often used as mediums through which prayers are offered. Most importantly,
Tangka art is a valuable meditation tool offering a visually and mentally stimulating
manifestation of the divine, since they depict physical manifestations and the
distinctive qualities of Buddha. A Mandala usually showcases the two-dimensional
form of the three-dimensional space that is inhabited by deities and also outlines the
meditative path that a practitioner should take in order to connect with the deity.
The properly trained artist must contain a thorough knowledge of Buddhist
scriptures to be able to create an accurate and appropriate thangka - the stylised
geometric series is a feature essential for all these centuries to establish the correct
transmission and continuity of the figures. Painting these overlapping grids takes
many weeks, even months to complete.
This show is an examination of the intersection of fine art and deep spiritual faith;
the paintings serve as a striking centerpiece that can be appreciated by all admirers
of Asian art.
The artists who create thangka art at the very outset, need to have practiced and perfected
the way of traditional art for a decade, investing time into not just learning, but mastering
different techniques. Before the creation of the thangka, the artists need to be extremely
well-versed in all realms of the faith. To complete a single thangka, which could be either a
spiritual biography, or take instructions from a Buddhist master, an artist needs to execute
and present their art flawlessly, with no mistakes in his or her depiction of the subject.
The canvas upon which an artist works is required to be perfect - smoothed by a stone
rubbing process. Next, the figure, including all surrounding objects of blessings and worship
associated with the deity, need be drawn according to exact scale and grid lines, to create a
perfectly balanced drawing. After the outline sketch, artists have to extract colors from varied
substances to commence painting the thangka.
It typically takes an artist weeks to complete a small size depiction of a thangka, the intricate
painting process is arduous, requiring both energy and passion to make the art come alive.
All the artwork showcased at Whispered Wisdom has been created by under the guidance of
revered master artist Zeiko, a renowned artist of Bhutan, highly learned and skilled in
traditional arts, and a team of five artists under him.