History of Mandala Painting
Mandalas are essential to the practice of Buddhism, and have been found in parts of Asia dating back to as early as the 4th century. Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings are some of the most majestic examples of how the creation of a mandala combines artwork and meditation. Monks spend a significant amount of time placing tiny grains of sand into the form of a geometric mandala. After completion, the sand is recollected and dispersed, as a reminder of the nature of life.
However, mandalas have been found in cultures all around the world. In Hinduism mandalas are used to represent the realms of the deities, and many of the stained glass windows found in Christian churches encapsulate figures in a geometrically colored sphere. Native Americans in both North and South America use the circular symbol in both ritual and physical form.
In the early 20th century early practitioners of the modern form of psychotherapy began to use mandala forms derived from ancient practices as a way to help patients focus on grounding themselves and finding a peaceful meditative force.
Mandala Painting in Contemporary Art
Many contemporary Buddhist practitioners continue to make forms of mandala art today. These are typically created through the same process and routine that was followed centuries ago, and are primarily meant as a form of focus and meditation, as opposed to an aesthetic piece of artwork. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in art of this style, with some brilliant examples of anonymous Tantric paintings being shown at some of the world’s biggest art events, now available for collectors.
Perhaps inspired by this beauty, there are many contemporary artists who have used the geometry and spiritualism of the mandala in forms of art that are meant to be displayed to a viewer. Anish Kapoor is a well-known contemporary Indian artist, and he often connects with his heritage by creating abstract installations that reference traditional mandalas. Often made of a reflective surface, Kapoor’s mandalas allow the viewer to connect with the artwork on multiple levels.