“Around the Point; the reverse triangle is called ‘Sive-Yuboti.’ It is Her first image. Again, the lotus is Her face, the red hibiscus Her Bosom, and the blue citoria Her female organ. This representation is called the floral Yantra.
“Between Siva-Yuboti and the floral Yantra, are displayed Her countless forms. Whatever the container, yantra and mantra, She is there, simultaneously immanent and transcendent.”
I have quoted these lines from my introduction to a book of drawings I made, based on several of Ram Prasad’s devotional songs, and where I noted further: “But here, She is particularly the other side of the blood-stained sacrificial post, ‘Terrible Beauty’ - that with the Displayed Golden Tongue.”
Yet this unique expression of Sakti Siddha cannot be taken as real Tantra Art unlike Shankaracharya’s “Ananda Lahari”; in the same way, Paul Claudels’ lyrical poems, as a Christian’s expression, cannot be considered as real Christian Art, unlike Dante’s “Divine Comedy”.
Any art related to a true tradition, a doctrine has to be architectonical. Thus the Hindu temple, the Middle-Ages cathedral, are not but beautiful buildings or prayer-houses. They have been conceived, constructed and decorated according to a definite will and plan to reproduce the cosmos, hiding under this outward profuse decoration the principle which is their origin, the unique point “where God is”. Also to be related to this are the Hindu conception of bhangi - which is the mobile extension of the still point which is its very cause - and pradakshin or circumambulation.
Similarly, “Ananda Lahari” and the “Divine Comedy”, follow a definite mathematical construction, not only to satisfy the literary norms to lead gradually, after crossing necessary and unavoidable stages, there where Ultimate Beauty is, “Where God is”.
We can also refer o A. Coomaraswamy: “All traditional art can be reduced to theology, or is, in other words, a dispositive to a reception of truth, by original intention. Its symbolism in the phrase of Emile Male ‘a calculus’ is the technical language of a quest.”
Again, the Tantra images of worship and vocal symbols are in the same way not arbitrary but have been conceived with a precise end in view.
Nowadays, we can see how the abuse of Tantra Art and the use motifs without any reference, have led in painting to neurotic and gruesome images. Painters, devoid of any true spiritual urge or the minimum comprehension of the doctrine, struggle to have their works labelled with this epithet.
To try and find the reason behind this situation, we may remember that Kandinsky himself admitted that without the image he saw a frightful void. What was then to replace the object? Colour, shape of course, but how was he to avoid their becoming ornamental in painting? We are aware that occasionally it has been forcibly complemented by a so-called spirituality, which in truth is nothing but instinctiveness decoration.
In the language of F. Elgar, “Stripped off to both intention and reflection, instinctive art represents a pure existential act. It should also be added that painting, once it has abandoned all restraint, is particularly vulnerable to the turmoils of organic impulsions and the play of tropisms, such as confused potentialities, vague aspirations and fleeting attractions, which all express the individual ego in the most immediate manner. To some extent, this facility explains the rapid success of lyrical abstractions and its many converts.”
On the other hand, it is all very well when one is bizarre to be original; but to be bizarre so as to prove real is somehow inconceivable. Truly speaking, both categories fall into the realm of the infrarational.
Now, as regards Shakti Tantra, we must bear in mind that the Vedanta Panchakush Vivek, Patanjal conceptions of Astanga practice, Anupubha Bihara of Buddhists, and Tantra Chakraveda, are the same except for their external differences.
In Tantra, what is called Sri Chakravidya, or Chandrakalavidya, or Hata Yoga, represent the primordial duality which is also named “Purusha and Prakriti”, in the West “Act and Potentiality”, and in the terms of Aristotle “Essence and substance”.
Sri Chakra is also expressed by the visual and sonorous symbols. The significance of this expression has been stressed by a great metaphysician of our days:
Among the sensible faculties, sight has a direct link with space, and hearing with time. The elements of the visual symbols are expressed simultaneously, those of the sonorous symbols successively. This sort of inversion shows the complementarism of the conditions of existence. The sedentary people who work for time are established in space, the nomads who err in space are continually modified by time or those who live according to time, changing and destructive element settle and preserve; those who are living according to space, fixed and permanent element, scatter and change unceasingly. The sedentary peoples create plastic arts (architecture, sculpture, painting), i.e. arts that develop in space. The nomads create sonorous symbols, compatible with their state of continual migration; they create phonetic arts: music poetry, i.e. arts that develop in time.
It must be so in order that the existence of both be possible by the equilibrium established between two contrary and complementary, comprehensive and extensive tendencies.
This implies the notions of Bija-akshara Samay-samaya, the conception of Samharakram and Sristikram, and hence the relation of Vyakta and Avyakta, Spanda and Nispanda.
Elsewhere I have stated that there must be a point of assignation to allow a reference to the intemporal. In fact, we have to keep in mind that a painting must first be homogenous: from all directions, space and time should merge with the content to create a crystallized moment.
It follows that the mere use of Tantra symbols as decorative motifs or to “fill the blanks” i.e. symbols devoid in this case of any assignation and reality, cannot be regarded as Tantra art, which implies this reciprocal relationship. For, to say the least, no symbolism can be explained without ascertaining notions like, for instance, location, direction, measure, movement - sometimes centrifugal and centripetal, as in the double spiral (Nadi), as related to Trikala, Triloka, and the three Gunas. And it must not be forgotten that the root “Tan”, from which is derived “Tantra”, means “to spread out”.
For a pictorial art, the problem lies in how to realize the metaphysical construction of Tantra on a two-dimensional plane.
For the last twenty years. I have tried to find solutions, maintaining as far as possible the symbolism of colours according to the gunas, time, etc., in my paintings, conceiving my works be series, each of the picture in a series being a temporal image related to the point marking its centre, from which thewholepicturegenerates and to which the figures, developing first in the form of a lotus will ultimately return.
This central point is not only the pivot of each composition. Passing from one to the other, it is sutra-atma, the thread which holds the pearls of the necklace.
Also, this central point does not necessarily correspond to the geometrical centre of the canvas, but according to the development of the theme of the series it will be placed to allow the figures to rotate around it in a pradakshin manner.
Other solutions could certainly be found, thanks to the plurality of senses included in a symbol. It must be stressed again that this plurality does not imply contradiction or exclusion, as it would seem if superficially considered. On the contrary, the Tantra symbols, just like the others, refer always to a unique principle, though at different levels.
Thus symbolism is much vaster than our common and limited languages, and it alone can help in speaking of the informulable.
Published in Lalit Kala Contemporary, 1971