[Pema Namdol exhibits]…the most remarkable originality, even genius, in his portrayal of the traditional themes and subjects of Tibetan icon painting.
— Professor Robert Thurman PhD, Columbia University

About Tibetan Iconography

The images relate directly to the subconscious, bypassing dualistic preconceptions of the conscious mind to induce positive effects. 

As visual representations of enlightenment, the icons (figures) in thanka paintings are profoundly symbolic.  They are an expression of the essence of various aspects of the Buddha-nature (essential purity) within us. To be possession of an external expression of enlightenment in artistic form - something perceivable perceivable by the mundane sense of sight, something which can be studied and identified with - enables us to establish a connection with an internal attribute that is usually inconceivable to the unaware mind.  

Exhibit of Tibetan iconographical art (thankas and metalwork) at San Francisco Arts of Pacific Asia Show

Exhibit of Tibetan iconographical art (thankas and metalwork) at San Francisco Arts of Pacific Asia Show

All the elements of a Tibetan religious painting have a symbolic value. These symbols serve as aids to developing inner qualities on the spiritual path. The deities themselves are regarded as representing particular characteristics of enlightenment. For example, Manjushri embodies wisdom and Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig) embodies compassion. Paying respect to such deities therefore has the effect of paying respect to wisdom and compassion, which in turn functions as an inspiration to aquire those qualities within ourselves.
— His Holiness Dalai Lama, from his forward in Mystical Arts of Tibet

Handmade brushes & pigments

Handmade brushes & pigments

Tool for burnishing gold

Tool for burnishing gold

Hand ground earth pigments

Hand ground earth pigments

The Creative Process

The work of a traditional thanka painter is to bring forth the vision of a deity, or its mandala, in a format which is as aesthetically pleasing and accurate as possible.  Designed according to ancient tradition using celestial measurement, thankas are typically created on archival canvas with very fine brushes (some as few as eight hairs) using hand-ground semiprecious stones, natural pigments and 24kt gold, and take anywhere from several months to years of intense focus to complete.  The painted canvas is then sewn with traditional silk brocade and adorned with ornate knobs.  

Chae-thu Style

A synthesis and evolution of the best of the central and eastern Tibetan thanka painting styles.

As visual representations of Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche, Lama Trakden, and Men. Professor Nae-jung Rinpoche, amongst others, have recognized Pema Namdol Thaye as having established his own distinctive style as a thanka artist.  Pema Namdol's thanka painting style was coined by his own artistic master, the Ven. Lama Tsarak Gonpo Tenzing Rinpoche, as "Chae-Thu" (pronounce chay-too) - meaning a synthesis and evolution of the best of the central and eastern Tibetan thanka painting styles.

Pema’s distinctive style derived in part from his thorough traditional training…received from his older relatives, and in part from his own never-ending quest for stylistic excellence. He has synthesized the art he inherited and raised it to a still higher level of excellence.
— Prof David Jackson, Author; Asian Arts Curator

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