Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tibetan Art at the Art Gallery of Victoria

Sacred Arts of Tibet

Sand Mandala by Monks of Gaden Jangste monastery of Mundgod, India
(c) Tony Bounsoil Photo Design

August 14, 2009 to December 6, 2009
The art of Tibet is almost exclusively devoted to the service of Buddhism and is almost never practiced for art’s sake. Tibetan art is representative of the existential character of Mahayana Buddhism known as Tantrayana or Vajrayana (the diamond path or vehicle), which considers its art to be very sacred. Although Tibetan art is religious in nature, it is also rich in artistic or aesthetic value. Tibetan art is evocative and the portraiture, although often rigidly stereotyped, shows a great variety of styles rendered in a powerful and realistic manner, particularly in the treatment of facial features, costumes, appendages and backgrounds.

The making of religious art in Tibet serves several functions. Its actual commission and production are acts for which one received merit, the more images made, the greater the merit. The painted or sculpted image serves to inspire the faithful to reach a higher level of consciousness. This exhibition will feature the Gallery’s extensive collection of painted thankas, sculpted images and sacred or ritual objects. As part of the exhibition, the Gallery is looking to host a group of Tibetan monks to construct a sand mandala. A mandala, which is considered a magical and sacred realm, is a visual prayer and a means of representing the entire sacred universe. It is an all-inclusive symbol and is thought to represent both the mind and body of the Buddha. The basic configuration of a mandala, which is deceptively simple in appearance, is a ring or circle enclosing a symmetrical walled palace with a gateway in each wall facing one of the four cardinal points of the compass. Each detail of its construction has symbolic meaning.

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