Mandala art has a long and fascinating history, from its origins in India to its modern use in adult coloring books. While mandalas often evoke a highly detailed geometric pattern utilizing a circular shape, there are actually quite a few different kinds of mandala, each with its own specialized meaning and importance.
History of Mandala Art
The mandala may be one of the most ubiquitous symbols in religions from all over the world. It is a hallmark in Buddhism and Hinduism and found in Christianity and Judaism. Islamic art is often full of dense geometric patterns and has many examples of mandalas.
The symbolism of the mandala’s central point and its outward radiating patterns have come to represent man’s connection with the spiritual. Hindu religious buildings were traditionally created using a mandala as template, and the vast rose windows of Gothic Cathedrals are some of the ultimate examples in Western cultures.
Mandalas have a history of use as meditation aids, and their creation is typically tied to their intention. For example, mandala sand art in Tibetan Buddhism is ritually created through a long and detailed process, and each piece is then destroyed to symbolize the interconnectivity of life.
Mandala Art in Psychology
In the 20th century, the birth of modern psychoanalysis also brought the mandala’s use into traditional forms of therapy. Carl Jung was perhaps the biggest advocate of mandalas, both as an archetype representing the human self and as a way to visually express this concept of self through drawing. Modern art therapy often uses mandalas both as diagnostic aids and as therapeutic interventions for conditions like anxiety and schizophrenia.
In a similar way to their aid in meditation, mandalas in a psychological sense are usually said to “center” a person; it is no wonder then why their central point is so essential to their meaning.
Mediums Used for Mandala Art
There are plenty of different styles of mandala, particularly for those tied to religious or other traditions.
- Sand art: Because of the ritual nature of the creation of these artworks (and the fact that they are not permanent), it is rare to see sand mandalas outside of Buddhist practice. That being said, there has been more interest in bringing monks to art institutions like museums to show these fascinating processes.
- Painting: Both historically and traditionally, painting has been a way of representing the divine, and particularly the mandala. Because painting such an intricate piece often requires significant levels of detail and focus, this in itself can be a meditative process.
- Drawing: For intricate pieces, drawing is often the preferred medium as it allows artists to control small patterns in greater detail.
- Tapestry art: Mandalas have become popular forms for large-scale tapestries that can be hung on walls. These are often printed from traditional geometric patterns.
While the ritual use of mandalas is well-discussed, what is mandala art in a contemporary context? The truth is, it is as varied in meaning and style as this art form has been through history. There are a number of contemporary artists who utilize the mandala form in their work, which can be an excellent way to explore the symbol in a modern sense.
- Alex Grey is perhaps the best known contemporary visionary artist, and his highly detailed drawings and paintings often use both the mandala form and Buddhist imagery.
- Sanford Biggers is a well-known contemporary artist who has adopted both the mandala and lotus forms for his work. He often utilizes these designs to comment on modern sociocultural issues in the United States, both in abstract paintings and in representational imagery.
- Pema Rinzin is a contemporary Tibetan artist, currently living in New York City, who explores the mandala form using traditional techniques, often with a modern twist.
- Saya Woolfolk is an emerging artist who uses the mandala as a template for her highly-detailed performance pieces. She uses both human bodies and intricately created backdrops to create “living” mandalas, drawing on her Japanese heritage.
- Stephen Meakin is an English artist who focuses on the highly recognizable circular geometric form, but in a way that aims to bring spiritual artwork into the homes of others. Both large and small-scale examples of his art are popular for home décor.
Finding Mandala Art for Sale
Not everyone has the budget to purchase mandala art for sale direct from the artist, but luckily this form translates wonderfully to prints. The great thing about purchasing prints is that there is a greater range of styles and artists available, including pieces from history.
Many of the above mandala artists have artwork available in print form, and many online poster shops carry both historical and contemporary works in affordable formats. Some retailers offer large tapestries that can be draped on walls while others have professionally-framed works that are ready to hang. For those looking for wall art, this can be a budget-friendly way to bring these unique pieces into the home.