“Art is something about the spirit.. If you want to make something that has a spirit, and speaks to the spirit of other people in the world, you have to touch it, you have to physically address it. if you don’t, if you just farm it out, it becomes a product” – Shary Boyle
Anybody who has truly experienced this cite for real, would completely believe in an art that is close to a persons mind and soul. I believe that the thangka art is one such form that is deeply considered to be bridging a spiritual connection among the deities finding their way to enlightenment. A tad different from the form of oil paint and the mediums I use, the Thanka is a traditional art form with exhaustive flux of colors and symbols based on Buddhist manuscripts and is no means easy medium for a common man, perhaps a reason artists need to have a thorough religious knowledge and guidelines to produce a perfect thangka. Inspecting loosely, I watch the young monks paint the thangka art with absolute concentration which was tested when i happen to convey my broad smile to them but I doubt if they noticed even that.
A thin brush is dipped into the paint liquid and swirled through the cloth canvas. Frankly, I did not budge for awhile intimidated by the intriguing feature of this beautiful art and the level of religious realm that it possesses.
The LAMA Thanka painting school is located at the inner roads of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu Valley . Most often than not, many tourists happen to miss this locality , The school is named after Lama because the thanka was developed by the Lamas of the Northern Himalayas. The art creates an history since the 11th century A.D. ,perhaps it gave a superiority influence and a source to express and preserve the stories and routine of the deities, lama and the Buddha of the time .
The thanka is painted either on cloth or silk and can be rolled and carried .While I wonder the similarity quotient in all of the thanka paintings, the manager of the school continues his explication on the history of thanka. If you closely observe to interpret the art, you will find evidences that the Chinese and the Tibetans have a strong influence on the Nepalese paintings. On that thought, thanka is quite a peculiar art with meager of all the Asian gander; the costumes, ornaments and linings used for the painting has a touch of Indian style,the gold and other stones in these paintings almost reminds me of the Indian Tanjore paintings. I could not help but notice that the most common image from all the thangkas are the ones with white and green Tara in the center surrounded by small divinities. They say Tara meaning ‘one who saves’ , is a female Buddhist goddess of compassion, who protects beings from suffering.
I was startled when told that there are many tourists from all parts of the world who come by and stay for months to take courses on learning the techniques of Tangka.
The school also has a section that sells the thangka paintings nonetheless we looked around to choose one to carry home, the prices seem extremely expensive and why wouldn’t it be when that’s one wfay to bring forth justice to the efforts and time invested by the talented artisans. Its the thanka paintings that we see in the Buddhist monasteries with only the monks having the painting skills for it. One of my favorite piece was the sand mandala that gives a 3D effect.
I presume that this art has become popular in the minds of the curious learners since the setting up of tanka schools and workshops in cities like Gangtok(India),Singapore, Lhasa(Tibet) and others. Thanka art has certainly topped my ‘things to learn’ list for the amount I have been enticed by the creativity that an art form can produce.
Although learning Thanka takes a commitment of ten years and more, it for sure is batting a thousand