An ILLUMINARY ARTIST
Pema Namdol Thaye has won international acclaim as a master of traditional Tibetan arts. He is a painter, sculptor, 3-D mandala specialist, traditional Tibetan architect, art educator and author.
Pema Namdol's "extraordinary ability in his field of expertise," was recognized by the U.S. government in awarding him permanent residency in 2008. In the same year Pema Namdol founded Padma Studios™, a multidisciplinary fine art studio in Los Angeles, California.
Pema Namdol exhibits "the most remarkable originality, even genius, in his portrayal of the traditional themes and subjects of Tibetan icon painting," according to Professor Robert Thurman of Columbia University. Dr. John Listopad, former curator of the L.A. County Museum of Art, described him as a Renaissance man of the calibre of Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo.
a Unique apprenticeship
Only a handful of living artists can claim his depth of knowledge of this 1,200-year-old heritage, with its elaborate geometry, symbolism, and iconography.
Born in 1967 of Tibetan-Bhutanese heritage, Pema Namdol was a child prodigy who intuitively recognized his path in life. He spent the majority of his school days honing his skills on comic book design, developing his own unique characters and exploring the medium in every detail. At age thirteen he entered scholarly training under the holder of an impeccable artistic lineage – his own uncle, the Venerable Lama Tsarak Gonpo Tenzing Rinpoche.
Pema Namdol excelled in the rigorous curriculum and mastered the primary sacred arts representing the Buddha's body (painting and sculpture), speech (calligraphy), and mind (architecture). Upon this scholarly foundation Pema Namdol demonstrates remarkable talent as an artist, both in terms of technical skill and creativity. The Ven. Lama Tsarak Gonpo Rinpoche, Lama Dakdhen, and Ven. Professor Nae-jung Rinpoche have all recognized Pema Namdol as a tulku emanation of Vishvakarma, the divine architect.
With Tibetan Buddhist culture under the threat of extinction in its own homeland, Pema Namdol early on nourished a passion for conserving and disseminating the traditional Tibetan arts. At the youthful age of seventeen he was determined to fill the need for a guide to Buddhist icon measurement and began writing and illustrating his first book, Concise Tibetan Art Book (1987). To further preserve this precious heritage, Pema Namdol authored a second definitive guide, Tibetan Art: Portrayal of Mysticism (2000). Pema Namdol's third book, Celestial Portfolio (2015), is an unbound fine art book featuring his finest thanka paintings spanning more than twenty-five years. All three books have been acquired by academic and national libraries across the globe. Published by Shambhala Publications in 2016, Pema Namdol's fourth book, a graphic novel entitled A Guided Tour of Hell: A Graphic Memoir, with co-author Samuel Bercholz, introduces Pema's latest contemporary artwork.
Pema Namdol's highly innovative thanka paintings and 3-D mandalas – so detailed that it requires from months to years of intensive focus to complete them – have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the world, including the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Völkerkundemuseum (Zurich), Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), Forest Lawn Museum (Glendale), Pacific Asia Museum (Pasadena), and Tibet House and Rubin Museum (New York). His work has been commissioned by esteemed lamas from all the major Tibetan Buddhist lineages, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the 4th Dodrupchen Rinpoche, and Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche, as well as by museums, cultural centers, and art collectors worldwide.
Dedicated to preserving a culture rich in philosophical symbolism and vast in view, Pema Namdol completed the construction of a scale model of what is perhaps the most accurate representation of the Zangdok Palri Celestial Palace ever built in April 2009, for Ari Bhöd, an organization for the preservation of Tibetan culture in Tehachapi, California. It was exhibited in the Hammer Museum in Oct-Nov 2010 as part of "The Mandala Project," during which time Pema Namdol was described as being "akin to Tibetan art's ambassador to the world," by the Los Angeles Times.
In May of 2011, Pema Namdol commenced the historical Shi-Tro mandala project, known as the Golden Buddha Temple: Pantheon of One Hundred Buddhas, a 200-foot-wide structure to be built in Sikkim, India. Advisors to the project are expecting this mandala to be the benchmark of celestial design for future generations, not only for its religious and symbolic significance, but also for its unique design features. This model is Pema Namdol's eighth 3-D mandala.
In addition to these undertakings, Pema Namdol is an educator of Tibetan art and architecture, being invited as a guest speak at the first International Art Symposium on Tibetan Art, London; to lecture on and supervise the construction of traditional Tibetan architectural design at the Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture; and as a participant in the "Hammer Conversations" of the Hammer Museum. At an early age Pema Namdol was granted the distinguished position of honorary head teacher at the National Thanka Painting School of Bhutan. He continues to offer dharma art workshops and lectures to museums, schools and dharma centers across the globe, and he plays an active role mentoring Padma Studios™ apprentices.
For over twenty-five years Pema Namdol has provided a vital contribution to the global appreciation of traditional Tibetan arts, and he continues daily in his mission to impart his knowledge and artistic creativity to the utmost of his ability, for the benefit of all beings. Pema lives in Los Angeles with his family.