Page 23 - Studio International - July/August 1967
P. 23

Correspondence                           flake and many combinations of all of them. With the   itself, there are three omissions that I think par-
                                                     development of these paints came the influence of   ticularly unfortunate; there is no hint that the book
            Criticism of the R.A.                    Custom Painting on young American artists. Now   is limited to Hindu tantra, and that there exists
                                                     there seems to be a reverse of that influence, young   another, and probably an older Buddhist tantra, and
            Dear Sir,
             Ian Dunlop's article 'The Royal Academy-What can   American and English artists seem to be influencing   that where the Hindu seeks spiritual power through
                                                     Custom Painting or auto body decoration.   union with the active shakti or female aspect of
            be done?' [June issue] raises questions Which are
                                                                             Sincerely,        divinity, the Buddhist seeks wisdom through union
            constantly in the minds of those responsible for                       Greg Card
            organizing the Summer Exhibition.        Granada Hills, Calif.,                    with the passive cosmic mother. Secondly there is
             Mr Dunlop says that 'The Academy seems to believe                                 little indication about the history and antecedents of
                                                     U.S.A.                                    the tantra: the tantra as an accepted system dates
            than an art exhibition should be a kind of treasure
            trail with a few good works scattered among the in-                                from c. 500 A.D., its antecedents go back to at least
                                                                                               300 A.D., one of its great periods of developments was
            different, so that the visitor can find them for himself.'   Tantrism and Tantric sense
            Would the good exist without the indifferent? A   The following letter from Dom Sylvester Houédard   under the Bengal Pala dynasty 750-1150 A.D.: of the
            pearl would have little value if every oyster produced   arises out of a review by F. N. Souza of Ajit Mooker-  dated plates in this book two are eleventh century;
            one.                                     jee's Tantra Art-published  by Ravi Kumar, 42 ave.   two are twelfth century; one is thirteenth; one is
             In recent years, professional criticism has grown   du Président-Kennedy, Paris 16e.-and subsequent   sixteenth; seventeen are seventeenth century;
            incresingly acute towards the Summer Exhibition;   correspondence published in the pages of this   thirty-nine are eighteenth century; eight are nine-
                                                                                              teenth century; and six are 'contemporary expressions
            however, public interest has been generally main-  journal.
            tained, and actual sales have increased from a pre-                               of ageless forms': why? What happened to encourage
            war average of about 250, to figures between 600 and   Dear Sir,                  the Hindu tantra in the seventeenth and eighteenth
                                                      I should very much like to support what Dr Eng has   centuries? Thirdly, the surprising and immediately
            750. As Mr Dunlop rightly points out, this in no way
                                                     said in his letter you published in the April number.   acceptable thing about these plates is their relevance
            benefits the Academy, but the £30,000 to £40,000
                                                     A large number of people have, like him, been   to art forms of today, but the details supplied are
            which changes hands is a major benefit to practising
                                                     interested for the last ten years or more in the Tantric   nearly always insufficient to satisfy legitimate curio-
            artists, many of whom are dependant on this outlet   traditions of India and Tibet-an interest that has   sity: what size are they? are they intended for use or
            for the exhibition and sale of their work.
                                                     seemed a perfectly natural complement to earlier   instruction? or are they models to be copied daily,
             Mr Dunlop also complains about the 'dreadful over-
                                                     concerns With Zen. Having at last been able to borrow   and if so what medium? sand or the imagination?
            crowding', but it has to be remembered that it is
            already much reduced from the scale of the last   a copy of Tantra Art perhaps you will let me add a few   Obviously I am less appalled that Dr Eng at the views
                                                     comments of my own.                      of Mr Souza, partly because the book itself fails to
            century, when well over 2,000 works was the general
                                                      The reactions of Mr Souza and Dr Eng are typical of   supply material for an art critic of the European tradi-
            rule, and further reduction would, undoubtedly, be a
                                                     a polarity I find easy to accept and which deserves   tion, and partly because we still have this situation
            serious deprivation to many artists.
                                                     careful study as it reflects certain basic indecisions   where an art journal is not the normally accepted
             It is quite clear that large mixed exhibitions are out
                                                     we now live with concerning the function of art and   place to open a discussion on the technicalities of
            of favour with the majority of professional critics, who
                                                     the extent to which psychology and aesthetics can be   contemplation, comparative Tantrism and the authen-
            prefer to have the cards dealt to them in separate
                                                     considered distinct criteria in evaluating creative   ticity of apophatic methods and experience. Yet
            suits. It is an obligation on the part of the Academy
                                                     worth. If the professor of fine art at Harvard proves to   without these, only superficial comparisons can be
            that they should play with the full pack. If some of the
                                                     have been the last major critic to employ moral in-  made between Tantra art and art in the West, whether
            top' cards have been witheld, at least some are still in
                                                     dignation as an appropriate expression of his be-  before or after the decisive change that can be dated
            play.                                    wilderment when faced with Tantric art ('dominated
             The organization of an Annual Exhibition is one of                               from the Renaissance and (more significantly) the
                                                     by magic-obscene rites-unintelligible spells-with   devotio moderna, since this change was decisive
            the obligations laid down in the Academy's original   vicious doctrine of devotion to the female energy-
            Testament of Foundation. It was also laid down that                               precisely because it initiated the breach between
                                                     sorcery and mysticism based on terror and sexualism'   Tantra and art that Tantra art is logically unable to
            the Exhibition should be 'open to all artists of distin-  -The Art and Architecture of India  by Benjamin
            guished merit'. Time alone will tell who these may be                             presuppose. If, as the fact would certainly appear to
            -meanwhile, the doorsof the Royal Academy are still   Rowland, Pelican, 1953) this will be due in part to the   be, artists and poets now are more able and willing to
                                                     way our knowledge of Tantric spirituality has in-  appreciate Tantra art and themselves intuit art as
            open in this way.                        creased since the time of Arthur Avalon (Sir John   tantric creativity, criticism and society must also
                               Yours faithfully,     Woodroffe) and Evans-Wentz, as a result of the   change, and this I would suggest, must very largely
                                    Tom Monnington,   meticulous work of the lama Govinda, Agehananda
                                            President   Bharati, Mircea Eliade and Dr Snellgrove, as well as   be in directions that Dr Laing has been indicating.
                                                                                              If a date were demanded for the origin of this change,

            The Royal Academy,  	                    Tucci and Guenther. It will also be due to the fact that   aside from the invention of the permanent photo-
            Burlington House,  	                     the West vis-à-vis the East is reaching a point that is   graphy, Napoleon III's Salon des Refusés and the
            London, W.1
                                                     critical for the development of a global (post E-v-W)   impacts of Italian primitives and Japanese woodcuts,
                                                     culture.                                 I would suggest the collective satori Europe experi-
                                                      In spite of the work done by scholars, the percentage   enced through the Dadaists. The admission by men of
            Custom painting
                                                     of Tantric texts translated or even studied is still   the principle of nothingness has been fundamental
            Dear Sir,                                minute, fundamental ,problems relevant to Tantric   in re-sacralizing the arts of sound, shape and move-
             In the comment entitled 'Design as an Attitude' by   art in history and psychology have still to be solved,   ment-as in the silence pauses gaps of Cage,
            Jasia Reichardt [April issue] there seemed to be   and practically the entire field of formal Tantric   Lamonte Young, Phillips and Tilbury-the zones of
            some doubt as to the whereabouts of the beginnings   aesthetics remains unexplored aside from the work of   pure possibility of Nul, Zero, Nart and DIAS-the
            of the decoration of automobile bodies. I would there-  Coomaraswamy and Alice Boner (I haven't seen the   totalart of Benvautier and Fluxus-the total environ-
            fore like to put forth the following information:   articles published 1956-61 by P. B. Mukharji on the   ment of Mark Boyle-the heatwave art even of total
             The fact of the matter is, that the decoration of   metaphysics of Form, Sound and Light). There is   revolution-as well as the cool McLuhan media in
            automobile bodies or 'Custom Painting' as it is called   certainly no general familiarity with Tantric back-  poetry of eye, ear and Kinkon and Chopin phonetics.
            here in the U.S. did indeed begin here. It was started   grounds in the English sofabook public or among   The inner identity of mantra, yantra and mudra is
            in southern California, in the late forties, on motor-  intelligent readers whose interest in contemplation   recaptured in the borderblur between arts first ob-
            cycles by a man named Van Dutch Holland. By the   is visual rather than mystical, that is in art rather than   served by Kandinsky when he told Petronio at the
            early fifties this type of painting found its way to car   tantra. Can they even be separated? My impression   Bauhaus that no art could be autonomous. If Tantra
            bodies, mainly through the efforts of Van Dutch and a   is that Mookerjee would have done well to explain   is the art of becoming the word mind and body of the
            few followers. As the years went by the number of   basic things at greater length, and to provide a   tattagaha (or realizing one is that in inner space),
            custom painters grew so large that I could not begin   glossary of technical terms that (like all scholars   Tantra art is a machine for achieving that-for becom-
            to name all that were involved. Not only did the   involved in interpreting East to West) he has realized   ing the cosmic mandala-the painting is only the
            painters become abundant, but also the styles of   must be preserved.             brush-the painter is the objet d'art-and this painting
            painting. There was also the development of new   Apart from the absence of a glossary and the   or machine is no less external to and distinct from the
            paint formulas, translucent lacquers, pearls, metal-   lack of an adequate explanation of the term 'tantra'   painter when it is produced mentally.
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