Contemporary Art meets Buddhism

Ipshita Sen of Saffronart shares a note on the Haein Art Project

Haeinsa Temple, Korea

Haeinsa Temple, Korea. Image Credit: http://haeinart.wordpress.com/about-haeinsa-temple/

New York: Viewing art in non-conventional spaces is always refreshing and gives the viewer an opportunity to engage with and understand the art better.  A Buddhist temple in South Korea is hosting a show of contemporary art in an effort to provide a new perspective and to create an interesting juxtaposition between Buddhism and contemporary art.

The Haeinsa Temple is a 1211 year old shrine nestled in the lush valleys of Gaya-san National Park. The temple is dedicated to the Korean Avantamsaka School of Buddhism and is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, the most complete collection of Buddhist texts, printed on 81,258 wood blocks. The buildings and the blocks were designated by the UNESCO as one of the “most important and complete corpus of Buddhist doctrinal texts in the world”. The layout of the temple is typical of a Korean monastery. Stupas, gates, courtyards, and halls are all aligned along proper axes according to geomantic principles and Buddhist symbols, physically illustrating the process of enlightenment. In fact the entire layout of Haeinsa temple resembles a sailing ship with pagodas as masts.

The year 2011 marked the first contemporary art show at the temple, commemorating the millennial anniversary of the wooden blocks, which were initially engraved, with the intent of protection from the invasion from a northern Dynasty. The ancient blocks were lost in a fire resulting from the invasion.

This year, the Haein Art Project at the temple featured new works by 30 artists from around the world; South Korea, India, U.S, Spain, Italy and Hong Kong. Most of the artists were invited to spend two weeks at the temple and create new works that are related to Buddhist thinking, for the project.

The works were scattered around the grounds of the temple. Indian artist Vibha Galhotra created an installation of white flags at the pathway that lead to the temple gates. The flags represented national flags devoid of color thus attempting to erase the borders of a divided world. Other Indian artists featuring in this project were Sheba Chhachhi, Reena Kallat, Shilpa Gupta and Hema Upadhyay. Another work by South Korean artist duo Mioon involved projections of nature and architectural images that sporadically appear and disappear as though an echo of fullness and emptiness in the viewers mind.

For more information read here.

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