Tantric Art

Bikaner, 2002

Bikaner, 2002 Tantra Song: Tantric Painting from Rajasthan, selected and with writings by Franck André Jamme, Siglio, 2011

At first glance, you may think this is a piece of 20th century art.  But, it’s actually an ancient Tantric Hindu painting. The sense of scatteredness I sometimes feel after a major holiday draws me to this painting. An impulse to re-center. To reassemble myself for the ongoingness of life. Re-oiling the gears and coaxing back together the cogs and wheels of the soul machine. The ritual of Monday mornings.

Over the last thirty years, French poet  Frank André Jamme collected these spiritual paintings on his travels to Rajasthan, India. His work culminates in the published collection, Tantra Song.  The author explains some Western misconceptions about this practice.

In Sanskrit tantra means “loom” or “weave,” but also “treatise.” The paintings date back to the handwritten Tantra treatises that have been copied over many generations, at least until the seventeenth century. At some point they evolved into this complex symbolic cosmology of signs.

An anonymous Indian devotee created this work, not as a shrine to beauty or a bow to ego,  but with the intent purpose of meditation. If you concentrated on the painting long enough, the goddess (possibly Shiva herself) would appear.

When I look at it, the deep navy blue pool cools my soul. The ancient rises to meet the modern, speaking of serenity. The pink wash rises with an effortlessness from the blue oval form, contrasting and calling. Notice the faint section of writing, a ghosted Sanscrit possibly, smeared off from another text. Randomly pressed together and over time, transferred. An accidental ancient flaw– seeming so familiar.

It’s precisely that ideal forms—forms plumbed from the depths of the mind, of the soul—need to co-exist with randomness and the emptiness of chance. How is it that a symbol of god alone is so dull, but when juxtaposed with a smudge or a smear it comes alive?                           Lawrence Rinder from his introduction in  Tantra Song

Cheers to smears and Monday morning ramblings. . .


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