Buddhist and Hindu Kathmandu art in Robert Beer's Visions of the Divine at October Gallery

By Ben Miller | 17 April 2012
An image of an illustration of Hindu deities
Amrit Dangol, Death of King Dharmaketu (2004). Gouache on cotton© Collection Robert Beer, courtesy October Gallery, London
Exhibition: Robert Beer: Visions of the Divine, October Gallery, London, April 19 – May 26 2012

Experts on the Buddhist and Hindu art the October Gallery devotes a spring show to are rarely as oracular as Robert Beer.

The author and illustrator of The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs has spent a lifetime studying art from the sky-shadowed plateau. Since 1997, he’s worked with artists in the Kathmandu Valley, nurturing their skills to craft the most extensive collection of contemporary art from the region.

An image of an illustration of Hindu deities
Bardo Mandala of the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities' Painting by Dorje Tamang (2006). Gouache on cotton© Collection Robert Beer, courtesy October Gallery, London
It’s a journey through the Life of the Buddha, universal cosmology, joy, woe and deities, running a gamut between high spirits and sheer wrath.

“Even though I have been involved in this seemingly obscure and academic research for the past 40 years, I have always tended to view it as a vehicle for my own self-realisation,” he reflects, having originally been inspired by a vivid spirit communication from his sister, shortly after her death when he was a Cardiff teenager.

“It is a by-product of the same spiritual process of introspection and analysis that began for me at the age of 14. It defines what I do, but not who I am.

“Throughout my life I have had many different mystical and spiritual experiences – some prolonged and blissful, other spontaneous and image-shattering. They are part of the imaginative and spiritual landscape that I have chosen to explore and inhabit.”

This display, which is of such detail that visitors will be given magnifying glasses to scrutinize the finer details, is both a follow-up to a previous exhibition of work – 2003’s Radiant Transmission – and exposure for a renaissance of the modern art movement in Kathmandu.

An image of a circular blue illustration of Hindu deities against a yellow-coloured parchment
Sunlal Ratna Tamang, Element Mandala from the Kalachakra Tantra (2005).  Gouache on cotton© Collection Robert Beer, courtesy October Gallery, London
Photo-realism, chiaroscuro techniques and a sense of innovation saturate the oil, acrylic and water-based pigments, accompanied by Beer’s own brush-and-ink drawings of symbols, as well as a Synaesthesia section dedicated to the mandala paintings of John FB Miles, the mentor who Beer calls “the most powerful visionary artist of his generation.”

A series of copper statues, cast in “lost-wax” and then carved to unleash the deities within them, oversee the journey to a land whose art seems as complex and captivating as its spiritualism.

  • Open 12.30pm-5.30pm Tuesday-Saturday. Admission free.

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