For this paper, I have chosen the paintings that captivated my attention the most when I went to the Rubin Museum of Art. Frankly, I was not expecting much from Himalayan-Tibetian art. Nevertheless, when I saw Guhyasmaja Akshobhyavjra with Consort and Shri Devi, I completely changed my opinion and perspective. There was no doubt that I would choose these paintings for my homework assignment. In order to understand them, one needs to know a little bit about Tibetan culture which emerged from different Buddhist practices, namely Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana.
They both utilize different techniques that fuse a variety of visualizations during meditation; therefore, most of Tibetan art may be seen as aids to these visualizations. Tantric dieties also play a key role in the esoteric religious practices in the Himalayas. These deities personify many human qualities and may appear either peaceful or wrathful. Undoubtedly, the influence of these tantric deities is clearly shown on my paintings Guhyasmaja Akshobhyavjra with Consort and Shri Devi.
The composition of these Tibetan paintings is very extraordinary and differs from what most of us expects to see in the work of art due to strong religious components and references incorporated in the creation of these paintings. One may notice the rigid hierarchy among the figures that ultimately affects the whole composition. In Buddhism, there are various gods and goddesses who can be divided into several categories depending on their main purposes, like the protectors and the wisdom kings. On the paintings one may find some very fearsome deities aiming to scare away demons and evil spirits.
For example, in Shri Devi Dorje Rabtenma, the central deity is a human-like creature that rides a horse and swings his sword. It is surrounded by dozens of other figures. On the very top, one can see Buddhists devotees who pray with their heads titled forward. On the bottom and the sides, there are diffident kinds of demons hiding in the bushes or reaching out their hands to the central deity. On the other hand, in Guhyasmaja Akshobhyavjra with Consort, the central deity is not frightening; it is rather peaceful in appearance and resembles a Hindu god, Vishnu.
Just like that of the first panning, the composition of Guhyasmaja Akshobhyavjra with Consort is filed with the main, central deity and then many other secondary figures on different sides of the painting. By the color palette, one may easily identify the origins of these paintings. It is very vibrant and colorful. The materials (Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton) used are also very common for that region at the time. The skin of the deities both fearsome and peaceful is colored in black which presumably emphasizes their importance in the eyes of the viewer, and one can tell right away what figure(s) he or she sees on the paintings.
It is worth mentioning that secondary figures are often (not always) colored differently. They might have different skin tones and colors from yellow to blue. They are absolutely magical and mysterious creatures, primarily demons and evil spirits, which may take a great variety of forms and shapes, and their appearance is only limited by the imagination of the artist. Additionally, the painting are ornamented with floral patterns all over the place.
The artists attempted to fill in the blank space in order to create an illusion of the unified scenes; although, the secondary figures do not seem to interact with each other much on both paintings. For a not Himalayan-born person, these paintings may seem a little bit too hard to fully understand. At first glance, one notices the huge difference between European and Asian art. However, as one continues to analyze the composition, color palette and so on, he or she may come to the conclusion that there are certain features that tie together European and Asian cultures.
Just like the works of Renaissance artists, these paintings carry a strong religious message to the viewer. They also attempt to overwhelm him or her with the vibrant color palette and the scale of the paintings. However, there are numerous unique differences that drastically differ European and Asian art, such as artistic techniques and styles, texture and space properties, and so on. All in all, the artists did a great job conveying their message to the viewer by highlighting the importance of the characters and their religious objectives.