Artists from throughout time and all over the world have used the mandala shape and style for their artwork, and for good reason. Mandalas have a long history of use in meditative and contemplative practices, and can represent themes from musing on one’s place in the world, to honoring a chosen deity.
Infusing creative ideas with symbolic meaning derived from ancient traditional use of the mandala, these artists are some of the best examples of how this traditional form has been combined with fine art.
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
While Jung’s use of mandalas in psychoanalytic therapy influenced the development of fields like art therapy, he didn’t just have his patients draw – he did as well. The Red Book is Jung’s incredible masterpiece of self-exploration, and includes his artwork and ideas, all in one monumental volume. It has plenty of examples of Jungian mandalas, and shows how in many ways Eastern and Western traditions were fused within his practice. Jung’s exploration of the unconscious through the mandala art form is fundamentally related to the ancient practice of using mandalas to meditate on enlightenment and the role of the self in the universe. While Jung created the work between the years of 1914-1930, it was finally compiled and released to the public in 2009.
Gade (b. 1971)
A Tibetan artist, Gade fuses contemporary and traditional ideas in his Himalayan-inspired pieces that feature characters from Western pop culture. While traditional mandalas were used to meditate on deities, Gade replaces these figures with the modern “gods” of pop culture. He does so to show how influential these pop figures are – anecdotally, he tells of finding kids with Mickey Mouse backpacks in a tiny Himalayan village. One of his most popular series of paintings uses the traditional “Five Buddhas” mandala style, only with pop figures like Batman, Ronald McDonald, and Mickey Mouse in the symbolic place and position of the Buddha. He also uses cultural objects to create the geometric shapes that surround the central forms.
Arthur-Louis Ignoré (ALI)
Ignoré is a contemporary French street artist with a unique take on mandala paintings. His graphic designs that are representative of Buddhist lotus-mandalas show up everywhere from sidewalks to abandoned buildings, transforming urban spaces with geometric imagery. Ignoré’s process embraces its temporal nature, like the sand art mandalas of Tibetan monks. Since his canvas is public places, his creations can be washed away in an instant, remembered only through photographs and memory.
Alex Hamilton (b.1969)
Hamilton is another contemporary artist who blurs the line between traditional imagery and pop art. Based in South Africa, his practice is based on the idea of “obsession” – and his mandala paintings are representations of his meditations on both historical and current cultural obsession with the concept of celebrity.
Richard LaLonde (b.1950)
LaLonde uses the mandala as the conceptual and design basis for his glass sculptures. Based in Seattle, Washington, LaLonde calls his series “mandalas” because they integrate classic Buddhist imagery and style with modern compositions using contemporary glass blowing techniques, which includes painstakingly hand-painting the complex designs. LaLonde creates mandalas that stand alone, function as bowls, and even as glass pieces to hang on the wall.
Charles Gilchrist (b. 1940)
Gilchrist is both an artist and sacred geometry specialist, and a lot of his pieces blend geometric and ancient principles with modern or representational elements of his surrounding environment in New Mexico. Gilchrist’s use of mandalas is influenced in many ways by both Buddhist and Native American traditions. His work is also an excellent opportunity for affordable mandala wall art, as he reproduces some of his paintings in editions.
A list of mandala artists wouldn’t be complete without honoring the many anonymous creators who have practiced the art form from centuries past to today. While the creation of mandalas is a fundamental practice of Buddhist and Hindu traditions, it is the process of making them that is more important than the final object, which is why the creators of most ancient examples of the work are unknown. Examples of mandala artworks with unknown artists include:
- Tibetan Sand Art, in which an elaborate mandala is built from grains of sand and destroyed after completion as a meditation on impermanence.
- Many Buddhist and Hindu temples, such as the 9th century Borobudur in Indonesia were created from floor plans designed as mandalas.
- Modern anonymous Tantric paintings from parts of northern India, such as Rajasthan.