Look Inside

Volume 66 Number 4, June 2015

Volume 66 Number 4

The Arts of Bhutan
Edited by: Susan S. Bean

Introduction: Art in Bhutan
Susan S. Bean

Wangduechhoeling Palace: The Birthplace of Bhutan’s Monarchy
Ugen Choden

A Cultural Epiphany: Religious Dances of Bhutan and Their Costumes
Françoise Pommaret

Bhutanese Fashion and Textiles in the 21st Century
Diana K. Myers

The Emerging Contemporary Artscape of Bhutan
Kinley Wangmo

Her Majesty the Queen Mother of Bhutan Sangay Choden Wangchuck
Susan S. Bean

Photo Essay
A Passion for Preservation: The Photography of Yeshey Dorji
Madeline Drexler

What is Bhutanese about Paintings from Bhutan?
Christian Luczanits and Dorji Namgyel

Book Reviews
Himalayan Cities: Settlement Patterns, Public Places and Architecture by Pratyush Shankar
John Harrison

Himalayan Style by Thomas L. Kelly and Claire Burkert
Monisha Ahmed

Thematic Advertisement Portfolio
Voluntary Artists’ Studio, Thimphu (VAST)
Asha Kama

Thematic Ad-portfolio: Voluntary Artists’ Studio, Thimphu
Wangdi, Kama
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, 3 unnumbered + pp. 1–11

This article focusses on VAST, a non-profit organization that nurtures and promotes a new generation of artists and art enthusiasts in Bhutan. Through workshops, free talks, art camps and courses, field trips, exhibitions and voluntary work, the organization aims to use art as a means of community service and help bridge the gaps between the young and the old, the urban and the rural, the traditional and the modern.

Editorial Note
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, p. 12

Monisha Ahmed writes about the fallout of Nepal's earthquake, the change in leadership at the National Museum, New Delhi, the protests against the proposed repeal of the Handloom Reservation Bill and the fate of Delhi's Crafts Museum.

Introduction: Art in Bhutan
Bean, Susan S.
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 14-19

This issue of Marg, with its international roster of contributors, reflects Bhutan’s growing recognition as a distinctive space in the global art world. Although the kingdom’s artistic heritage was little known beyond its borders until the mid-20th century, the visual arts have long held a crucial place at the centre of life. Bhutan’s arts also bear witness to centuries of religious, political and economic intersections across the region. 

Wangduechhoeling Palace: The Birthplace of Bhutan's Monarchy
Choden, Ugen
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 20-29

Wangduechhoeling Palace, an architectural masterpiece is perhaps the finest representation of 19th-century Bhutanese architecture. It embodies the essence of Bhutanese architecture and captures all that is considered central and unique to traditional Bhutanese architecture. The castle-like dzongs have been regarded as a major architectural trendsetter in Bhutan and the palace is one of the few structures in Bhutan where dzong architecture has been directly adapted. This unique adaptation includes a four-storied central tower (utse) surrounded by a habitable structure (shakor) on all sides enclosing a courtyard. The palace is one of the few historic buildings that is still mostly in its original condition and is therefore of great historical significance. The palace marks the beginning of an era of peace and stability in the country and remains a powerful symbol of the establishment of monarchy in the history of Bhutan. Architecturally, the craftsmanship, space layout and the intricate timber details continue to inspire and influence the built environment even today. The paintings on the façade are also classic representations of mural art in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The paper discusses the historical significance of the palace and how dzong architecture has been directly adapted. The paper also delves into the importance of the contextual relationship in Bhutanese architecture by discussing the spatial layout and the historical relationship of the palace with other structures in the valley. 

A Cultural Epiphany: Religious Dances of Bhutan and Their Costumes
Pommaret, Francoise
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 30-39

For most outsiders, the religious dances of Bhutan are a visual feast of colours, enhanced by the twirling movements of the dancers, rich costumes and often, but not always, intriguing masks. The costumes and masks of the religious dances possess a deep symbolism which goes much beyond their beautiful and colourful appearance. They reflect the concepts of Tantric Buddhism as well as the social order and centuries-old local beliefs, and are testimony to the ancient links of Bhutan with its neighbours.
     Unravelling the different layers of meanings and their relevance to the Bhutanese, the article explores more particularly the amazing textiles that compose the costumes, their cosmopolitan influences as well as their Bhutanese interpretations.

Bhutanese Fashion and Textiles in the 21st Century
Myers, Diana K.
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 40-51

Textiles have been Bhutan’s most widely recognized “national art,” both inside and outside the country. The Royal Textile Academy, inaugurated in June 2012, under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, is playing a critical role in preserving Bhutan’s textile heritage, training weavers and stimulating the continued evolution of distinctively Bhutanese textile design. Social, economic and political changes are influencing radical changes in Bhutan’s textiles and their uses. With universal primary education, fewer girls grow up learning to weave. With the growth of government jobs, civil servants move throughout the country. Imported goods are readily available in Bhutan’s markets – and in urban areas the internet enables access to global styles and culture. It’s not surprising that readymade purses, suitcases, and plastic raingear have largely replaced hand-woven bags, sturdy carrying cloths and woollen rain cloaks. However, the national dress of Bhutan – a woven robe for men (gho) and woven wrapped dress for women (kira) – continues to be an essential element of the country’s identity. While factory-produced cloth can be worn for everyday, hand-woven garments are still preferred for important occasions. Women’s creativity continues to be expressed in weaving, and in designing fashions inspired by Bhutan’s distinctive textile traditions. 

The Emerging Contemporary Artscape of Bhutan
Wangmo, Kinley
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 52-61

Traditional art in Bhutan remains unchanged. It continues to be practised and play a significant role in preserving the country’s rich traditional and cultural heritage. While it remains unchanged, from it has emerged an art that is steadily gaining ground and emerging as a force to reckon with. Contemporary Bhutanese art is increasing in popularity, although not the recognition of traditional art. But it is providing artists with a new way to explore the world of art. Traditional art does not have room for the ‘I’ while contemporary art allows the artist to explore the unlimited possibilities of bringing inspiration to life on canvas. The attractions of such possibilities have drawn artists, including traditional artists, to wander through this world of art. By doing so a new form of art is emerging and gaining strength, not just by numbers but also by merit. 

Her Majesty the Queen Mother of Bhutan Sangay Choden Wangchuck
Susan S. Bean
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 62-71

A brief overview of Her Majesty the Queen Mother’s chief civic interests highlights two parallel tracks, each honouring and supporting the central role of women in Bhutanese society: raising awareness and appreciation of weaving as women’s art and bolstering the prominence of Bhutan’s distinguished textile arts at home and abroad, and at the same time focusing on women’s welfare as vital to the country’s successful transformation in the 21st century. The conversation concentrates on Her Majesty’s more than 20 years of advocacy, steadily advancing the preservation and promotion of her country’s textile arts. She notes with particular satisfaction several milestones along the way: the 1994 exhibition that opened its national tour at the Peabody Essex Museum, the establishment in 2001 of the Textile Museum in Thimphu, and the creation in 2013 of the Royal Textile Academy. 

A Passion for Preservation: The Photography of Yeshey Dorji
Drexler, Madeline
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 72-81

Photography, whose technologies have only recently become practically accessible in Bhutan, is opening ways to new modes of artistic vision. A portfolio of photographs by Yeshey Dorji, considered to be Bhutan’s greatest photographer, who subtly harnesses formal aspects of portraiture to frame moving portrayals of Bhutanese subjects, is introduced in an essay. Whether a mother and child, a mountain or a White-bellied Heron, Dorji’s photographs probe beyond appearance to capture the natural majesty and spiritual power within. He has made it his life’s mission to record in high digital resolution the full breadth of traditional life before it gives way to materialism and environmental degradation.

What is Bhutanese about Paintings from Bhutan?
Luczanits, Christian and Namgyel, Dorji
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 82-99

On the basis of a select group of Bhutanese scroll paintings (thangkas) dating from the late 18th to mid-19th century from the collection of the Rubin Museum of Art, New York, the writers attempt to define the distinctive character of Bhutanese painting of that period in stylistic terms. An initial discussion focuses on the criteria that allow them to be identified as Bhutanese paintings. Our point of departure is a mid-19th century thangka of Vajravarahi of unusual high quality, while the majority of paintings analysed are dedicated to wrathful subjects. Even though all of the paintings discussed share individual motifs and stylistic features, none of these is decisive in defining Bhutanese painting. Instead, our sample indicates that there is no Bhutanese style as such, but identifies a set of common features and that may well help in identifying Bhutanese painting on stylistic terms.

Book Reviews
Vol. 66 No. 4, June 2015, pp. 100–103

Himalayan Cities: Settlement Patterns, Public Places and Architecture by Pratyush Shankar, reviewed by John Harrison; Himalayan Style by Thomas L. Kelly and Claire Burkert, reviewed by Monisha Ahmed.