"An Egoless Practice" : Tantric Art

When I first saw the Tanric Drawings in French Poet Franck Jame's collection they were gathered into a group exhibit titled Thinking Tantra at the Drawing Room. Thinking Tantra spanned centuries of Indian art beginning with anonymous Tantric Drawings dating all the way back to the second half of the nineteenth century.

  BIKANER, 2002, 14

BIKANER, 2002, 14

  JAIPUR, 1995, 12 5/8

JAIPUR, 1995, 12 5/8

 

The paintings were strikingly contemporary. The colors both bright and rich, chalky and matte. The Parchment was perhaps the only clue dating them, though even that could be accounted for by some ambitious young art student who treated their pristine canvas with coffee. Altogether he collection's affinity to a western 20th Century abstract art seemed to predict what art looks like when the spirit begins to explore its interiors rather than its exterior. 

Franck describes the Tantra as an Egoless Practice, one where the art is a means to reach divinity, the completion of which signals a time for meditation. Something worth bearing mind mind as we look at the simplicity of these works. 

Of course, these people don’t consider themselves to be artists. It is a kind of traditional activity in the family. At a very young age, they learn to do meditation and other related exercises, one of which is to paint. Sometimes these pieces are made as gifts for someone else in the family, who can then worship it. They are now being collected in the West, but in India people have collected this art for centuries, because it is very simple and beautiful.
— Franck André Jamme
 
  NEAR UDAIPUR, 2008, 15 1/8

NEAR UDAIPUR, 2008, 15 1/8

It wasn't until many years later, in light of the collection's recent publication with Siglio Press, that The Paris Review featured interview with the French Poet and collector responsible for their surfacing. 

For nearly three decades, the renowned French poet Franck André Jamme collected these visual communiqués, even surviving a near-fatal bus accident while traveling to visit Hindu tantrikas in Jaipur. In his book Tantra SongJamme assembles some of the most pulsating works he’s acquired, while unpacking his experiential knowledge of Tantra’s cosmology.

Read Lauren O'Neill-Butler's Interview with Jamme discussing these anonymously made paintings, the altered states they induce and their timeless aesthetic Here. 

Read Jamme's Discussion with Rob Leeming in PORT Magazine Here

It is striking how much these paintings recall artists like Daniel Buren and Agnes Martin.

Yes, which could mean that our notion of progress—past, present, and future—is not correct. And it could also mean that abstract art is not necessarily a Western, nineteenth-century art-historical development. It dates back to Native American, Tibetan, and Australian Aboriginal sand painting, for sure.
— - Lauren O'Neill-Butler and FRANCK ANDRÉ JAMME

  SAGANUR, 2001, 9 1/4

SAGANUR, 2001, 9 1/4

sophie sagar