Perfect Presence

Tantra, Jain and Hindu Ritual art from India

Tantra, a term known in the West for its associations with sex, magic and esoteric mysticism, has had an impact on many religions and philosophies, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, Vajrayana, Bönpo, Ayurveda and Shamanism.

Alongside related ideas of ‘mantra’ (knowledge through sound) and ‘yantra’ (the means to leading a Tantric existence), the philosophy of Tantra claims that reality (prakriti) is pure consciousness, pure being, pure bliss – a reality that is, however, veiled by illusion (maya). Through purification, elevation and reaffirmation of identity, Tantra aims to help us return to this unadulterated state of being.

In this beautiful book, art collector Joost van den Bergh explains his fascination with Tantra imagery began with a chance discovery of the catalogue for the Tantra exhibition (1971) at the Hayward Gallery in London. It also features specially commissioned writings by scholars including modern art critic and curator Mel Gooding.

Perfect Presence is Bergh’s third publication on this subject. It contains many examples of Tantric art from the 18th and 19th centuries alongside the work of contemporary artists such as Shezad Dawood and Ruth Marten who are inspired by this mystic art.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition, Perfect Presence: Tantra, Jain & Hindu ritual art from India at The Redfern Gallery, London (31 October – 8 November 2019), and in association with Asian Art in London 2019.

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