Local responses to the art of Tibetan Buddhism of the Diamond Way in Lambeth
This, perhaps the most unique exhibition of Tibetan Buddhist Art of the Diamond Way in Lambeth – and indeed anywhere in London and the UK – uniquely juxtaposes the modern and the traditional.
Contemporary pieces are shown in a space also devoted to traditional Tibetan art to evoke dialogue and observe the transformation of ideas and views on basic human values. One of the main reasons behind making this particular Tibetan statue collection accessible to the communities of Kennington and Lambeth was to show the timeless ideals and principles of the Diamond Way level of Tibetan Buddhism. The statues displayed are quite unique not only because of their artistic value but also because all of them have always been used as support for meditation. Here we have both – art and spirituality expressed by these unusual and breathtaking examples, where beauty, meaning and power meet in timeless and geometrically perfected forms. If one wishes to translate the concept of spirituality in Diamond Way Buddhism into more modern language, it would simply mean an active interest in mind. The main aim of meditation is to bring out our qualities and discover one’s potential. Meditation on these various forms brings calmness and clarity of mind.
The contemporary part of the exhibition, staged at the Spring Project, contains comments and responses of modern artists, expressing their interest in mind. Here the dialogue between old and new art begins. We notice artwork of more established artists from the collection of the British Council combined with the artwork of the most talented artists from Lambeth art communities and studios surrounding the exhibition venue. The collection consists of various objects, paintings, drawings, photographs and video media.
The British Council artwork varies from mundane objects such as a silvered light bulb expressing the idea of light as energy and potential (Luminescence III) to a compass (The idea of North), which leads us to imaginary places, bringing us into a dialogue between dreamlike and precise locations. Further on we can find more sophisticated installations (Skirmish) commenting on the absurdity of everyday encounters. In the collection we can also discover an idea of space and relationships made visible in a beautiful engraved crystal (www) or the impermanence of objects, shapes or mental events shown in an abstract, pure white video installation (Blind Date). The collection challenges us both conceptually and visually. We experience movement, colour, the play of light and the surfaces of various objects. We can admire beauty in space combined with play of words (Poem), always involving joke and humour (The Cambridge Atlas of Stars pulped).
Interestingly, the contemporary artists selected from art studios located in Lambeth seem to be less conceptual. Their work is much more poetic, where the main concern circulates around inner experiences.
For example, the work of Govinda, who explores clouds, really translates as his search of the polarities of outer/inner, light/darkness. His paintings help his experiences to connect inner self with outer reality, and bring echoes of his homeland Nepal in the high Himalaya to the heart of the multicultural community of Lambeth.
Emotional responses and experiences are also visible in the artwork of Eleanore Pironneau in her magnificent series Mysteries of Space and Life Forms. They are visual translations of what one can feel and witness during prolonged hours of meditation. Here ‘the Space is warm and fiery and the Forms endless’. Similarly, Carolina Khouri describes her painting as ‘a free play of space’ of any possibility, appearing as event or experience. The emerging event in Buddhism for Barbara Tong is sound itself. Her piece ‘makes no sound but has a sound’ and is an abstract structure made of sand and wax, which one can sit beside and listen to.
Further on, in the artwork of Xiao Yu, we are exploring well-known concepts in Buddhism like karma, emptiness and meditation. Especially meditation seems to be essential for an artist in achieving inner freedom and some realization.
Looking at the work of Chiara Dolma Andreuzza we discover exploration of traditional Buddhist iconography. An artist is showing a dancing circus of devas, which are dakinis – celestial beings who inspire and help Buddhist practitioners. One is discovering the beauty of embroidery dancing in space. Similarly Katiushka Borges is inspired by the power of female Buddhas: through her art and Buddhist practice she discovers that intuition and wisdom are the qualities of the feminine, which we can develop through the practice of meditation.
Space and light is a major topic in work of Eszter Szicso, who perceives both as increasing experience of richness. She depicts people bathing in streams of light who always seem to walk away from the spectator. This feeling of transient presence takes us to the concept of impermanence, which is so well illustrated in the work of Barbara Bianchi.
Finally we discover significance and meaning of conceptual understanding. Henry Mulhall tells the story of how understanding is classification, which on the other hand becomes ‘empty’ without our projections of significance and meaning. The artwork inspired by Buddhist concepts can also be unique and intricate.
Contemporary artists cover all spectrums of inner emotions, experiences and life attitudes. Most of them have practiced some form of meditation. We can strongly feel their wish to attain understanding and accomplishment of the timeless values represented by Tibetan art, which expresses realization of mind’s potential and comprehension of human condition. We are privileged to observe how people’s minds and way of expression keep changing, evolving and creating new ideas and forms.
Exhibiting artists’ studios:
Stockwell Road Studio,