Tibetan and Newar Tantric Art – The Robert Beer Online Galleries

Posted on July 30, 2010

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I just stumbled upon the fantastic new website: “Tibetan and Newar Tantric Art – The Robert Beer Online Galleries“.

Ratnasambhava - Newar style

Ratnasambhava - Newar style

It belongs to the British artist and author Robert Beer, who has studied and practiced Tibetan Art for the past forty years and is now recognized as one of the foremost scholars in this field. Robert Beer is the author and illustrator of the “Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs“, and the “Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols“. His famous illustrations of the Indian Mahasiddhas are featured in the book “Buddhist Masters of Enchantment.” Over the past fifteen years he has been working closely with the finest Newar artists and Tibetan thangka painters of the Kathmandu Valley to create the most comprehensive collection of contemporary Newar Buddhist and Hindu tantric art.

Vajravarahi

Vajravarahi

The main purpose of the site is to reveal the sublime skills of the artists by making many of their original paintings available in the form of fine-art Giclee Prints. All of these compositions are completely accurate in their iconographic detail and rendition, and each Giclee Print comes with a detailed description written by Robert Beer, who is working in association with Wisdom Books to produce these archival prints. The beautiful images featured on Robert’s website are now available to order. Among the categories of thangkas are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Goddesses, Refuge Trees and Assemblies, Yidam and Wrathful Deities, Mandalas and Diagrams. The Giclee prints are all produced to the highest possible standard, for not only are the original Tibetan and Newar paintings they are derived from of the finest quality and accuracy, but so are the prints themselves. The images are as close to an exact facsimile of the original painting as possible.

I’m pleased to see with this website that Robert Beer has started his own blog, and yesterday posted his first entry. The website also holds an excellent glossary of terms and a selection of articles including interviews with Robert. Here are a couple of excerpts from the article in Namarupa magazine which I found particularly inspiring. The first concerns how Robert became involved in painting Buddhist art:

“…when I was twenty-two I flipped out on acid, and that’s when I left for India and really became deeply involved with Tibetan art and Indian music, because I was quite honestly no longer able to function on any other level. The vehicle of Tibetan art and its imagery became a way for me to identify strongly with my own internal process. It was an aboriginal or primeval instinct, rather than an intellectual impetus, that actually propelled me into this world. Its reality resonated very deeply, and in time I began to find a valid sense of understanding through the drawing and painting of Buddhist deities. The imagery resonated with what was taking place inside of my psyche; some kind of transmission was taking place. That’s basically how I started on this path.”

This second excerpt concerns Robert’s individual experience of Buddhist art:

Robert Beer

Robert Beer

RS: When you look at a piece of art what do you see?

RB: I actually see it. I see what’s really there; certainly in terms of the art I’m familiar with. But I wouldn’t say this about abstract art, because like most people, I can’t often see its point. I don’t think you can see something in it until somebody explains what you’re supposed to see, which may be conceptual or conjectural.

You remember Richard Buhler? When I visited him in Las Vegas a couple of years ago he showed me a Tibetan painting he had bought, and he wanted me to tell him what it was about. So I explained it to him and he said, “My god, it’s like you are reading hieroglyphics! You read it as though you are reading some strange language.”

And I said, “Yes, that’s what its like. My kind of visual awareness is basically like I have learned an ancient language.” I’ve learned a language of line and I’ve learned a language of symbols, but these are very specific. I have a very good understanding of Tibetan art, and if I look at a thangka I can usually explain or understand everything in it. I may not be able to identify historical characters, but as regards most of the deities, I understand what they are holding, why they are holding them, why they are this, why they are that, it’s all pretty clear on this level.

If you have more time, I recommend listening to this talk by Robert on his interest in Tibetan and Newar Art and its symbolism. And if you have a few pounds to invest in something of highest quality and deepest meaning, then support Robert by ordering a print from his website!

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