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Tantra on a canvas

Artist Biren De once spoke of his ‘neo-Tantric’ style as “exploratory”. Orbs and crescents, strongly reminiscent of Tantric symbolism, play a vital role in his art, on view at Jhaveri Contemporary, as part of its latest show Thinking Tantra.

Goutam Ghosh's Gems & Stone (2015)
Goutam Ghosh's Gems & Stone (2015)

Curated by Rebecca Heald, the exhibition ropes in 16 artists, with names like Tom Chamberlain, Prem Sahib and Prabhakar Barwe, to explore each artist’s relationship with Tantra. Did all these artists practise Tantra? Heald recommends Sanskrit scholar Francesca Fremantle’s observation: there are those who have ‘a Tantric attitude to life’.

Heald found a long-time wish come true when gallerist Amrita Jhaveri invited her to curate a show on Tantra. “We are poised for a surge in popular interest about Tantra. For example, Tantric drawings were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2014. Some of this coincides with the Dalai Lama saying that if Buddhism does not open up and reveal its secrets, it risks dying out,” she says. Could this surge also have to do with the West’s stereotype of a mystical India? “There is a stereotype, yes, but in the case of the non-Indian artists in this exhibition, I feel they are mostly responding to formal innovations in Tantric drawings rather than the spiritual and mystical side,” says Heald.

Conventionally, Tantric art is made anonymously by people, who would not call themselves artists. Thinking Tantra emphasises on the geometry and the bright colours of the form, which has instinctive links to Western abstract art. But Heald points out to a major difference: Tantra is about the collective; abstract art in the West is often aimed at the individual. Will the twain ever meet? Perhaps Thinking Tantra will provide some answers.

Where: 58, Walkeshwar Road, Raj Bhavan, Malabar Hill
When: Till March 5, 11 AM – 6 PM
CALL: 23693639
FREE

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