Tsherin Sherpa’s Contemporary Twist On Tibetan Thangka Paintings

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Tsherin Sherpa, born in Kathmandu Nepal, originally trained as a traditional Tibetan thangka painter with his father Master Urgen Dorje. From the age of twelve, he underwent six years of intensive training before travelling to Taiwan to study Mandarin and computer science. Since then he has returned to thangka painting but has added a contemporary twist to the traditional paintings leaving behind the traditional confines of the age old practice. His work now mixes the techniques and imagery of thangka with contemporary subject matter.

When asked about breaking from tradition Sherpa states:

“Sometimes if one gets too obsessed with the rules, there’s a danger of getting entangled in that very obsession.  We then become more concerned about not breaking the rule. Because of that, from the traditional art’s point of view, the contemporary work with Buddhist imagery may even get categorized as sacriligious. I am working with some of the images that are viewed as the ultimate portrayal of certain deity. And to manipulate it, is obviously taboo.

However, if we scratch the layer a little deeper, and analyze these Buddhist images, one will find that they are a means to develop a practitioner’s (Buddhist) goal towards enlightenment, which means that the images are not the ultimate goal but rather a vehicle. A representation of a Buddha in 2- or 3-dimensional form is not the actual Buddha. It is a mere representation. And to fall into the trap of perceiving them to be the ultimate, is actually getting oneself entangled with the rules.”

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