'Tantric Painting From Rajasthan': Abstract 17th-Century Indian Art
Tantra Song: Tantric Painting From Rajasthan is a striking collection of rare, abstract Tantric paintings based on 17th-century illustrations from Indian religious texts that bridge Eastern spirituality with Western 20th-century art in their haunting reminiscence of the likes of Paul Klee, Agnes Martin, and Daniel Buren.
This collection of rare, abstract Tantra drawings was conceived when the French poet Franck André Jamme stumbled on a small catalogue of Tantric art at a Paris bookseller's stall.
The volume included writings by Octavio Paz and Henri Michaux, and Jamme became fascinated by the images' affinity with modern art and poetry. He read voraciously and became so transfixed by these esoteric artworks that in the 1980s, he traveled to India to find their origins. In 1985, his quest nearly killed him in a bus accident whilst on the Tantric trail across the deserts of Rajasthan. He suffered a series of comas, and was sent back to a french hospital bed for three weeks and after, six months at home in a hospital bed. Jamme found his mind as broken as his body, unable to live with the memory of what he considered a painful failure.
When he returned a few years later, he met a soothsayer who proclaimed that Jamme had now paid sufficient tribute to the goddess Shakti and required him to take a vow: he must visit the tantrikas alone or only in the company of a loved one. Since then, Jamme has gained extraordinary access to very private communities of adepts and their intensely beautiful works.
These contemporary, anonymous drawings from Rajasthan are unlike the more familiar strands of Tantric art--the geometric yantras, or erotic illustrations of the Kama Sutra. The progeny of seventeenth-century illustrated religious treatises, these drawings have evolved into a distinct visual lexicon designed to awaken heightened states of consciousness and are imbued with specific spiritual meanings (e.g. spirals and arrows for energy, an inverted triangle for Shakti). A revelatory volume on this occluded genre of Indian art, Tantra Song is a convergence of east and west, the spiritual and the aesthetic, the ancient and the modern.
Read an Interview with Poet Frank André Jamme from the Paris review here