Thinking Tantra has evolved through conversations with artists. The curator, Rebecca Heald, has selected artists who respond to Tantra drawings for different reasons: in response to their formal particularities; in more conceptual ways; or for their intellectual and cultural histories, the issues of ownership, and the place they hold in esoteric circles. As Heald says: ‘This multiplicity of relationships that people have with the drawings is compelling and provided a way to make sense of a diversity of material in terms of devising an exhibition’.
This panel continues the dialectical premise of the exhibition. Shezad Dawood has a long-standing commitment to the exploration of the esoteric. Often fusing symbols from different mystical, religious, and philosophical traditions, he is absorbed by what he describes as ‘the irrational and esoteric foundations of Modernism.’ In work over the past decade he has often referenced Tantric symbols and philosophies directly, as in YTR 1 (2010) which is included in Thinking Tantra. Originally from the UK, Nicola Durvasula lived in India for a decade. Though her method of working is different from Tantrikas (practitioners of Tantra), she has used Tantric drawing as a basis for her own work and some works shown here venture into the sonic realm of Tantra–Mantra, in which symbols found in traditional Tantric drawings provide a starting point for new graphic notations that can and have been activated by musicians and percussionists. Claudia Wieser’s practice has been described as one in which she instinctively ‘recuperates a mystical Modernism’. She herself makes a connection between Tantric drawings and exercises given to students at the Bauhaus, who were given set colours and shapes with which to make new combinations. There is another connection that might be made in relation to the Bauhaus’s ambition to collapse the distinctions between artists and craftspeople, notably that Tantric drawings are not usually made by artists or as part of an artistic practice.
Amrita Jhaveri has been working in the field of Modern and Contemporary Indian art since 1993. She established Christie’s presence in India in the early-1990s before moving to London in 2000. As an independent advisor, Jhaveri has created and managed private and corporate art collections; ambitious artist projects and large-scale commissions. In 2010, Jhaveri established Jhaveri Contemporary in Mumbai, where the gallery programme is both intergenerational and transnational. Jhaveri is the author of 101: A Guide to 101 Modern and Contemporary Indian Artists (India Book House, 2005).