TAASA Review Issues

March 2003

Vol: 12 Issue: 1
Tibet
Editors: Sandra Forbes & David Templeman

Cover Photo
Detail from a contemporary Tibetan thangka depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha, painted in 1990 by Shawo Tshering of Rebkong, whose work is discussed by Mark Stevenson on pp. 11-13 of this issue. While all the monasteries of Rebkong suffered closure if not destruction during the two decades after 1958, some liberalisation since 1978 has enabled painters such as Shawo Tshering to contribute to the revival of traditional Buddhist art in Tibet.

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Editorial

Editorial Comment: David Templeman, Guest Editor

Working with curators and collectors of Tibetan and Himalayan art is always a pleasure. There seems to be an especially strong relationship between owners and their pieces, and a willingness to do considerable research to discover more about them. This became evident to me when acting as a co-curator for the exhibition Buddha: Radiant Awakening at the Art Gallery of New South Wales two years ago. No matter where the pieces were located, they elicited a special sort of devotion from their owners. This of course has made my task as guest editor of this issue of TAASA Review extremely easy. The contributors have done most of the work already.

In putting together such a focus edition the major difficulty has been in selecting which articles to include. Initially there were three times as many offers of articles than TAASA Review could publish. This of course bodes well for the state of Tibetan and Himalayan art in Australia.

Readers will find the articles in this issue to be of a wide and challenging range. We are privileged in Dr Di Castro’s highly original article to discover something of the development of Licchavi art from Nepal, a topic seldom written about. Dr Mark Stevenson distills his many years spent in Amdo into a wonderful evocation of the renaissance of Tibetan painting in Rebkong. Gerry Virtue discusses his love for the Tibetan tsakali paintings, in which a whole world is encompassed in miniature, while Carol Cains analyses the much larger-scale scroll painting of Yama in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Art connoisseur Suzy Lebasi’s article takes us into the twilight world of the Tantric consort the Dakini, focussing on an early wooden piece to exemplify her points. My own article looks at what might be some of the earliest Tibetan art pieces.

The Australian love of travel to often obscure places has meant that we have been collecting ‘curios’ for well over a century now. An apparently endless number of Himalayan pieces continue to emerge from private collections, as heirlooms from dusty trunks or as long ignored souvenirs from the mantelpiece. In their turn they too will become ‘known’ pieces, and as the devotion and ability of the writers for this special issue make it clear they may in their turn be written on in a future TAASA Review. One can only hope so.

Editorial Notes: Sandra Forbes, Editor

Legend says that before the Buddha Sakyarnuni departed from the earth, he called all the animals to him to bid him farewell. Only 12 came, and as a reward he named a year after each one, in the order in which they arrived. The animal ruling this current Chinese Lunar Year is the Goat, so 2003 is the Year of the Goat. People born under this sign are said to be elegant, charming and artistic – so clearly many members of TAASA were born in the Year of the Goat, and we wish all of you who are Goats a particularly Happy Chinese New Year.

The exhibition of Buddhist sculptures from Qingzhou discussed by Edmund Capon in this issue of TAASA Review contained no images of Buddha calling the animals, but it certainly contained some absolutely breathtaking works. Earlier than any of the Tibetan works discussed in this issue, with their simplicity and calm they provide a complete contrast in style. So too do the Islamic works of art reviewed by Ahmad Shboul on p. 24.

It is always a great pleasure to work with a guest editor. I am sure all readers of TAASA Review will find this issue – our first ever to focus on Tibet – illuminating and absorbing, and that it will stimulate further interest in the Tibetan arts among members. Our next issue (June) will be a general one, to be followed in September by an issue focusing on public collections of Asian art in Australia and in particular celebrating the long-awaited reopening of the National Gallery of Victoria and the opening of the new Asian Galleries at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

But don’t forget: you do need to pay your subscription for 2003, due on 1 January, if you wish to receive those issues! And if you can come, we’d be pleased to see you at TAASA’s AGM, which will be held in Sydney late in March: date, time and venue to be advised.

Table of contents

THE BEGINNINGS OF TIBETAN ART – David Templeman

ANCIENT NEPALESE SCULPTURES –  Angelo Andrea Di Castro

11  SHAWO TSHERING AND THE TIBETAN PAINTERS OF REBKONG – Mark Stevenson

14  TSAKALI: THE MINIATURE PAINTINGS OF TIBET – Gerry Virtue

16  IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: KING OF THE HELLS – Carol Cains

18  BEAUTIFUL, TERRIBLE SKYWALKERS – Suzy Lebasi

20  RETURN OF THE BUDDHA THE QINGZHOU DISCOVERIES AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY, LONDON – Edmund Capon

23  BOOK REVIEW THREE TREASURES – David Templeman

24  EXHIBITION REVIEW UNITY IN DIVERSITY – Ahmad Shboul

25  FILM REVIEW SHANGRI-LA WITH SEX – Freda Freiberg

26  EXHIBITION REVIEW THE PURSUIT OF HARMONY – Ann MacArthur

27  WHAT’S ON Compiled by Melanie Eastburn 

27  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY MARCH – JUNE 2003

27  WHEN TAASA WALKED WITH DRAGONS – Report by Sabrina Snow

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