Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends, People, and Ideas

Tag: art (Page 1 of 2)

Cultural Repatriation of Buddhist Artifacts: A Job for Cool Heads

Amitabha raigo at the Guimet. From BD Dipananda

Instinctively, my politics is anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist. However, I also appreciate the complexity inherent in human affairs and recognize that nuance of thought is required even in—perhaps especially for—matters as emotionally charged as the repatriation of cultural and artistic relics.

Today my fellow writer and blogger BD Dipananda has published an article looking back on his visit to the Guimet Museum in Paris, which houses some of the most beautiful Buddhist art in France. My political sensibilities inform my belief that the ideal place of a Buddhist artifact should be in a museum or temple in its home country. Yet many of the most beautiful historical items of the Buddhist world are scattered across the world, in New York, Saint Petersburg, London, Paris, and many more.

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Love in the Cave of the Buddhas

Yungang Grottoes. From Travel Blog

The cave roof was high enough to tower
Over the trees in the forest that had
Grown around these medieval refuges.

We were two ghosts – wandering in abandoned
Land, apparitions from the future.
For we were dying. They, languid and still,
The buddhas, gazed down at us, their eyes
Gentle, free of judgement, seeing us, bodies in
Parts, hair, down, nails, teeth, skin, clay pots with
Hot air, bobbing on a river surface.
You ourselves all of us  and our love, like
Morning sunrays shining into the caves
To disappear traceless at dusk leaving
The buddhas holding their stone lotuses
Languid and still.

Meaning-crafting: An Emerging Discourse of Contemporary Buddhist Art

Pond 2007 © Andrea Traber

There is a fascinating group of people shaping contemporary artistic culture in the Buddhist world. Some of them are regular contributors to this website, including Sarah Beasley, Tilly Campbell-Allen, or Tiffani Gyatso, whilst others have been interviewed about their craft (sometimes by our aforementioned artist writers). These individuals include contemporary creators like painter Andrea Traber, calligrapher Alok Hsu Kwang-Han, Taiwan-born Lee Ming-wei, and sculptor Sukhi Barber, as well as artists who more overtly blend traditional items like thangkas or brocades and other tactile crafts for contemporary needs, like Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo (who specializes in Tibetan applique) and Helene Rein (similarly, a stitcher of Tibetan textiles).

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Milarepa’s Exhibition 2017

From Paola Di Maio

Bodhgaya is a special place of power, in particular when it fills with the energy generated by practices and blessings.

Earlier this year, during the Kalachakra 2017, walking from the hotel to the Kalachakra grounds, a leaflet on a market stall caught my attention.

It advertised an exhibition being held at the Mahayana Hotel, on the road to the main temple, entitled “Milarepa” 1 Jan to 20 Feb 2017, with an entrance fee of 150 rupees.

An exhibition about Jetsun himself, a first of its kind.

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Buddhism is Bhutan’s Key to Working with the Great Buddhist Powers

India and China are right now locked in a dispute over a plateau (known as Doklam in India and Donglang in China) that lies at a junction between China, the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, and Bhutan. My focus today is not on the technicalities of the border dispute (this analysis by Wangcha Sangey, a retired civil servant and former managing director of Bhutan Times, lays out the situation far better than I can), but rather how Bhutan could play its cards over the long term through the piety of its Buddhist people and its Buddhist royal family.

HRH Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck with Bhikkhu Sanghasena

In an age where landlocked Bhutan’s behemoth neighbors, China and India, are going all in with Buddhist diplomacy (not to mention regional neighbors like Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka), the Himalayan country’s Buddhist heritage grants it a unique and priceless asset. This is because the idea of “Buddhist kingship” or chakravartin-hood is embodied in its monarchy. I venture to propose that without Buddhism, the moral authority of the royal house of Wangchuk would be diminished whilst one of the country’s key soft power exports (such as its concept of Gross National Happiness) would be compromised. Nowhere else, except perhaps in Thailand, is there a monarchy invested with such a Buddhist mandate.

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Ways of Seeing Life

Grace Ko

Chinese artist Cheng Ran’s video art “ Circadian rhythm.”

The esteemed British art critic and author John Berger once said: “Art is one of the noblest achievements of man”. He advocated that the art critic must not only look at art from his personal point of view, but also from that of other artists, the conscious and unconscious mind of the spectator, the general public, and even future generations, if possible. Berger’s underlying meaning was that art and human life are inseparable, and when we view a 
work of art, we may find ourselves through its aesthetic. That is why some of the best works of art 
resonate throughout our lives and leave lasting impressions that unfold with new meaning repeatedly.

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A Meditation on Mind, Body and Place – Ho Siu Kee

Wilson Chik

An ancient Banyan tree: a giant in its own rite, towering. Thousand green leaves shimmering air, each leaf, a moment in life. Nested inside, in the intersection of two gnarly branches, stands Dr. Ho Siu-kee (known as Kee to friends) in all white. Though human, Kee is scaled tiny in this instance, comparatively. Nevertheless man and tree paired, inseparable.

This is how Kee chooses to open, and this is also how Kee chooses to close his recent talk: with a photograph of himself in the midst of a towering Banyan tree. Perhaps, this visual imprint comes to signify a deeper still-motion in progress, a quest of coming full circle not only in his myriad of creations such as this photograph (even though to Kee this is a thought recorded), but in the long line of life-work-art thoughts that purposefully places his body in synthesis among geometries, both personal and spiritual, thus far. We, as the viewers, are placed too in an immediate relationship with him, intimately. Unknowingly we fall into place, so to speak, drawn in by aesthetics and a precision that can only besiege us. For example, Kee standing in the Banyan tree.

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The Language of Flowers: Flower Artist Masao Mizukami

Grace Ko

Mizukami’s flower arrangement at Hong Kong Flower Show 2017. Image courtesy of Sally Tsui

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand; and a Heaven in a Wild Flower; hold Infinity in the palm of your hand; and Eternity in an hour,” said English poet William Blake. Japanese flower arranging emphasizes interaction with the natural world to reach enlightenment. Japanese flower artist Masao Mizukami finds this spiritual and creative language in flowers and nature.

Flowers are emissaries of nature, inspiring us to see and appreciate beauty in the world. Masao Mizukami is a master of Japanese flower arranging and he finds a creative language in the arrangement of flowers with natural settings.

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Ju Ming: Finding what has been thrown away

Grace Ko

Ju Ming, Tai Chi Series: Strike with Fists 1984 Bronze

“Hell is in the living world, but the living world also has a paradise. Which way would you go? It’s your choice entirely.” The eminent Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming wrote these thoughts about life at his first solo exhibition in Hong Kong in 2014. His artworks are inspiring and the path in his artistic career has run parallel with his Buddhist education.

As with most successful people, Ju Ming experienced a tough period and invested effort and hard work into building himself up as an internationally recognized artist. He was an ambitious craftsman and ran his own flourishing carving business before the age of thirty. But his success didn’t last long, failing because of the over-expansion of his business. This blow to his career made him rethink his life but he decided to be an artist. He worked as an apprentice under a renowned Taiwanese sculptor Yuyu Yang. After an eight-year apprenticeship, his teacher Yang taught him the “throwing away” principal: throw away skills and styles in the mind; discard forms; banish reality; and preserve the spirit.

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Art and the Language of Change

Grace Ko

Simone Boon, “Promising Red,” 2010, Photography

What kind of language is art? Every time I read the gatha in Diamond Sutra, “Thus shall you think of this fleeting world: a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream; a flash of lightning in a summer cloud; a flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream,” I think of Dutch artist Simone Boon’s photography. Her unearthly images seem to visually express this gatha.

Viewing art is like opening up another sensory channel that hones an artist’s view of the world. Everyone’s sensory channel and how we interpret the world is different. A few years ago, when I saw Boon’s first series of photographic stills. I found the work stunning, but also eerie. The figures in these photographs of females who move into the abstract blurs look like spirits.

For Boon, she was trying to explore other types of photography to present the idea that, “form is only a snapshot view of transition,” — a statement from French philosopher’s Henri Bergson. Her aim is to capture human essence that forms in relation to patterns in a flow of becoming. The flowing essence of humans can be attuned to the changing rhythms of reality. It is not in the everyday images we see.

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