‘Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical’ imparts positive messages of love and compassion

Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical tells four stories through song and dance in imparting universal life lessons on love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical tells four stories through song and dance in imparting universal life lessons on love, compassion, joy and equanimity.

The Star Online
Sunday January 11, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM

In this musical, it’s entirely possible for pink lotus flowers to stretch on for all eternity in high definition, if the producer so desires – thanks to an impressive virtual reality stage set-up.

Painstakingly created by the folks at the Shanghai Virtual Performing Art Lab at the Shanghai Theatre Academy in China, this production integrates artistic content with scientific and digital technology, presenting a virtual reality stage in breathtaking 3D magnificence.

“Having a virtual reality stage really enhances the experience of watching the musical,” says Datuk Tan Swee Lai, producer of Guan Yin Pu Sa: A Musical, during a chat ahead of the musical’s opening.

“With these beautiful 3D effects, it feels like you are actually part of the scene. It feels very interactive. It is a big difference compared to when you utilise just props and conventional multimedia as we did in our previous productions,” she explains. Continue reading

Harmonising tourism with heritage conservation

Times of India
Rani Sarma,TNN | Feb 15, 2015, 10.13 AM IST

How often does one get to stand face to face with a world heritage monument, blown away by its beauty and majesty? At such rare moments, one is so caught up with the mystique of the site that all thoughts desert you. Yet, there I was, standing in front of the so called ‘Pharoah’s Treasury’ at Petra, Jordan, part of me lost in the atmospherics of the moment but the other, heavy with regret.

It was early in the day and heavy clouds hovered dangerously in the sky threatening our expedition. We had already walked more than two km on the uneven footpath, trying to avoid the cobbled stones gone slippery with use for more than 2000 years. Man and beast had walked on them, now to trade, now to war. Water channels hewn in the bedrock ran along the narrow winding path that led to the main township built by the Nabataeans in the third century before Christ. When the brooding and ominously dark rock formations parted in a tantalizing fissure to afford a glimpse of the architectural marvels within, all one could do was to gasp and stare.

As we walked, we stopped frequently to read the history, liberally posted at regular intervals. We needed no guides. When I read the part about the cobbled stones being 2000 years old, I could not help remember the fight we had to put up to save the 1000-year-old floor slabs of Simhachalam temple carrying the donors’ names. Needless to say they went ahead and replaced the originals with modern granite slabs!

Petra is one of the most visited tourist monuments in the world and in spite of a freak snow storm (in a desert!) it was teeming with international tourists. People generally walked or rode on ponies. There was no trace of cement concrete or any modern permanent structures inside the ancient township. What was very visible, however, was plenty of bathrooms and gun-toting security personnel. There was a site museum, a visitor’s centre and a restaurant away from the monuments. The locals, the Bedouins, were both the stakeholders and caretakers.

Also present was a big contingent of international archaeologists in their makeshift tents. One wondered how they could work there, given the harsh weather, the rudimentary facilities and the vast silence that envelops the ghost city once the tourists leave at sundown; it must be very eerie. Continue reading

Samsara Is a Movie

Photos and film stills by Pawo Choyning Dorji

Photos and film stills by Pawo Choyning Dorji

June 9, 2014
by Amie Barrodale

When he was in film school, Khyentse Norbu wore pants. He liked to befriend people who didn’t believe in Buddhism. He liked to argue with them. He also liked that they didn’t treat him with any respect.

It was 1994, and Norbu was in his early 30s, attending the New York Film Academy. The course was an intensive one: three weeks to learn to use a 16-millimeter camera and edit. Classes started early and ended late. The pants he was wearing, khakis, replaced his traditional crimson monk’s robes. A non-Buddhist friend who resembled Wallace Shawn came to see him every day, as soon as class got out. Sometimes “Wally” came over before Norbu got back from class, and just hung around the condo Norbu was borrowing, a pied-à-terre owned by one of Norbu’s Buddhist students. So Norbu would be in school all day, and then he’d come back, and Wally would come around to argue.

In addition, a public defender from Louisiana was traveling with Norbu—yet another student of his. She slept on the couch. She wrote his papers for him sometimes. Mostly what she did was watch TV all day and smoke cigarettes and chew Nicorette gum. And I was there. I was 18. At this time, though I had been raised as a Buddhist, I had decided I was not one. I had come up to look at colleges, and I’d asked if I could sleep on the couch. It was one of those long sectionals, so Norbu said fine.

So here was this famous Bhutanese lama, in pants, in film school, and it was around 6 PM. He had Wally the Skeptic, Public Defender the TV Watcher, and me. I had just gone and cut off all my long hair for $400 at a salon I’d read about in Vogue. I’d been given a short, conservative haircut when what I’d wanted was Christy Turlington’s shaved head. The public defender and Wally—for reasons I can’t remember—were at each other’s throats. It was one of the craziest arguments I have ever witnessed. “You’re just an old fat woman,” Wally said, and the public defender snapped back, “You’re a short, bald man!” It was loud and ongoing, back and forth, and fast like that, and for some reason I—with my 40-year-old woman’s glossed hair—had climbed onto the windowsill and started crying. Norbu came home to this scene.

He started laughing. He ran to get his tape recorder and raced back and forth to catch everything that his furious, shouting students said, laughing joyfully. Continue reading

The old informs the new

In Victory over Mara, Panya Vijinthanasarn fills the torso of a bodhisattva with an image of the World Trade Centre and other symbols of difficult times.

In Victory over Mara, Panya Vijinthanasarn fills the torso of a bodhisattva with an image of the World Trade Centre and other symbols of difficult times.

Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
The Sunday Nation
February 15, 2015 1:00 am

The triumph of Thai neo-traditional art lies in reviving classical themes with modern context

“THAI NEOTRADITIONAL ART” is the new group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, but, with his booming voice, feisty personality and irrepressible humour, Chalermchai Kositpipat couldn’t help being the centre of attention at the opening last week. His fellow artists readily forgive his brashness, though, because he’s done so much to bring art to a wider public, and particularly Buddhist art.

His works are on view along with pieces by Panya Vijinthanasarn, Sompop Budtarad, Rearngsak Boonyavanishkul, Thongchai Srisukprasert and Alongkorn Lauwatthana. Panya and Sompop are the guiding lights behind this Thai “neo-traditional” movement that emerged in the late 1970s, making aesthetic practices of the past relevant to the present.

Most of the 50 paintings and sculptures in the exhibition are from the collection of the museum’s founder, Boonchai Bencharongkul, who just-published third book on the museum’s art covers these six artists. They were among the 30-odd Thai artists who created the murals at Wat Buddhapadipa in London in the mid-1980s.

“Obviously the Wat Buddhapadipa mural project was pivotal, but the real milestone for the movement was the founding of the Department of Thai Art in 1976 as part of the Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts at Silpakorn University,” says Chalermchai, one of its first two graduates.

“Ajarn Chalood Nimsamer wanted to pass on the traditionally employed techniques, but he allowed the range of motifs and styles to be expanded, with broader media and materials, beyond the confines of traditional temple art.”

The murals at the temple in London’s Wimbledon neighbourhood illustrate the usual religious scenes not with tempera but with acrylic and spray-paint. Artistic licence extends to depictions of Britain’s then-prime minister Margaret Thatcher and the Eiffel Tower in Chalermchai’s rendering of Three Worlds. Panya found room for America’s Ronald Reagan and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi – the latter sporting two heads. Continue reading

Experience Buddhist Folklore at the Overbrook Gallery

Nagas-1The Bay Window (Muskegon Community College)
February 14, 2015
by Gary Simmons

The art exhibit that I went to was the “NAGAS An Exhibition of 3-D Prints”, which has 3-D printed sculptures by Thai artist Saritdikhun Somasa. His artwork mainly focuses on Buddhism, and the themes that surround the religion. The characters depicted in these artworks are all from Buddhist mythology, and are scenes from various stories.

All of the art displayed here are 3-D printed sculptures, with several computer graphic printouts hanging on the walls. The sculptures depict a story about a mythological creature known as a “naga”, which is a being that takes the form of a snake. The sculptures are paired with several inkjet images.

All of the artworks displayed here are blue, and these sculptures have a blocky, triangular texture that hints at a digital origin of the sculptures. The sculptures also have a very bright color scheme that contrasts strongly with the lights in the room, so that the shadows that the sculptures cast would be very dark compared to the sculptures themselves. This gives the sculptures a very “computer-generated” look, as if they are digital models somehow brought into the real world. Continue reading

Exhibition showcases Tibetan artistic heritage


Exhibits on display at the Holy Images of the Ineffable Realm Thangka exhibition in Shanghai Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Guanen Art

Exhibits on display at the Holy Images of the Ineffable Realm Thangka exhibition in Shanghai Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Guanen Art

Global Times
2015-2-15 17:28:01

The moment you step into the Holy Images of the Ineffable Realm Thangka exhibition at Yuyuan Art Gallery, you embark on a rich artistic journey that brings you face-to-face with this distinctive Buddhist art form involving religious images on cotton and silk, as embroideries, block prints and paintings.

“Thang” means “infinite space,” and “ka” means “magic.” Combined, Thangka means “creating one to one million Buddha images on a piece of canvas.” It is also known as scroll painting.

Thangka depicts the doctrines, deities and Buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism. And the art form is a major part of Tibetan culture.

Their production involves an extremely strict procedure. This starts with the performance of rites in preparation for embarking on a work, producing the canvas, drafting the composition of the pictures, and consecrating the piece.

Works from three famous Thangka artists have been chosen for this exhibition. Chigyub is one of the first batch of inheritors officially designated under the National Intangible Cultural Heritage program.

5ce8327b-f953-4e4d-b6c2-e530d7e20dceThe other two are Lubtsang Tanpa and Tseten. All of them learned Thangka painting from previous consummate masters.

Rich colors

With a width of 155 centimeters and a height of 110 centimeters, Tseten’s Amitabha Buddha in Sukhavati (pictured below) was made with mineral pigments and gold on canvas. Continue reading

Buddhist art of Myanmar review: a subtle, sculptural nirvana

 Parinibbana, from the Kubyauknge Temple, Myinkaba village, circa 1198. Photograph: Sean Dungan/Bagan Archaeological Museum

Parinibbana, from the Kubyauknge Temple, Myinkaba village, circa 1198. Photograph: Sean Dungan/Bagan Archaeological Museum

The Guardian

Opening up of Burma has resulted in a beautiful and fascinating exhibition of paintings, weavings and manuscripts – but it’s the sculpture that really shines

Jason Farago
Friday 13 February 2015 13.54 EST

“Beauty is meaningless until it is shared,” wrote George Orwell in Burmese Days – his coruscating first novel of life in south-east Asia during the last days of the Raj. It was truer than Orwell could have realized. For five decades after 1962, when a military dictatorship took power in Burma, the country’s rich cultural legacy was essentially put on ice. (After the widespread protests in 1988 and the emergence of Aung San Suu Kyi, the junta changed the country’s name to Myanmar – a decision that still grates. The Guardian prefers to call the country Burma.)

Museums languished, starved of modern conservation science or even electricity. Looting, already a problem in the colonial era, continued under the kleptocratic military regime. International loans were unthinkable. Tourism was essentially nonexistent. Censorship was standard.

Buddha, Pyu period, eighth-ninth century Facebook Twitter Pinterest Buddha, Pyu period, eighth-ninth century. Photograph: Sean Dungan/Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza

Buddha, Pyu period, eighth-ninth century Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Buddha, Pyu period, eighth-ninth century. Photograph: Sean Dungan/Sri Ksetra Archaeological Museum, Hmawza

Yet four years ago, the military junta was officially dissolved, and Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. The military still exerts great control – but Burma is opening up. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented Lost Kingdoms, a landmark exhibition of early south-east Asian art that included unprecedented loans from Burmese museums. Now comes Buddhist Art of Myanmar, a new exhibition at Asia Society: the first museum show in the United States to look solely at the art of south-east Asia’s least understood nation. Much of the art here has never left Burma.

It’s a bogglingly diverse nation, and its population of 50 million includes dozens of different ethnic groups, though this show looks only at Buddhist cultural traditions. (Theravada Buddhists make up about 90% of today’s Burma, and running conflicts with Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities formed part of the pretext for the junta’s long rule.) Religious, linguistic, and stylistic diversity has been a constant in Burmese history since the establishment of Buddhism by Indian monks around 500 AD. A worn, enigmatic two-sided stele from that era, loaned from the National Museum of Myanmar in Rangoon (it was also included in Lost Kingdoms last year), shows a warrior toting a huge club in both hands, attended by a deputies holding staffs with symbols of Vishnu. But on the back is a throne reminiscent of Buddhist kingship, and earlier documentation suggests that a Buddhist dharmachakra, or wheel of law, once hovered above the scene, as prominent as the Hindu symbols.

Burmese art grew in sophistication as Buddhism took root, especially during the Pagan period of the 11th to 13th centuries, which saw the Burmese language spread across the kingdom. Religious architecture proliferated – its capital, now called Bagan, is studded with soaring, gilded pagodas – and the life of the Buddha provided fertile material for both religious veneration and artistic experiments. There’s a sandstone sculpture here, 900 years old, in which the Buddha sits cross-legged, eyes shut, with a sword in his right hand. He’s taking the blade to his own hair, chopping off his topknot. The long path to enlightenment under the tree in Bodhgaya begins here: the prince turns into a monk, mortality gives way to divinity.

The show features manuscripts, weavings, furniture, and more than a few paintings – including an exquisite illustrated folding book, painted on mulberry paper, that depicts the grand procession of Myanmar’s last king en route to a white pagoda, borne by an elephant. But sculpture is where the Buddhist art of Burma really shines, and its beauty and intensity reflect not only monarchical power but everyday faith. In Burma, devout Theravada Buddhists evince a deep commitment to merit-making – the accrual of karma through acts of charity and self-sacrifice – and donations of up to a quarter of one’s income are not uncommon. A bell whose holding ring is fringed with lions, from the late 19th century, is inscribed on the circumference with the Burmese equivalent of an art donor thank-you: a mother and daughter, “with a clear, detached mind full of good intentions”, donated the bell with the express purpose of attaining nirvana.

Mara’s Demons, Shwegugyi Temple, Pegu, c. 1479 Photograph: Sean Dungan/Bagan Archaeological Museum

Mara’s Demons, Shwegugyi Temple, Pegu, c. 1479 Photograph: Sean Dungan/Bagan Archaeological Museum

Asia Society has been working on this show since 2011, when the Obama administration relaxed sanctions against Burma as the country began reforms. It took years to convince officials to agree to loan the dozens of works on view here, and the resultant show isn’t a blockbuster. It is a quieter, subtler effort, a showcase of diplomacy as much as art history. There are better reasons to hope for political reform in Burma – and the possible ascent of Suu Kyi at this year’s critical elections – than the mere possibility of western art loans. But beauty is meaningless unless it is shared. It would be wonderful to see shows like this more frequently, and even to start sending our Pollocks and Warhols to the galleries of Rangoon.