Tibetan Narrative Paintings at Rubin Museum
New York City. Illustrative and performance based narrative scrolls had always had an important role to play in the spreading of religions and converting people. Christianity employed the technique of murals on the walls and ceilings in order to teach the major stories of the Bible. However, these murals were not portable. One must travel to the churches to experience them. There was another way to spread the knowledge – using scroll paintings. The scrolls illustrated the stories/teaching accompanied by a narrator telling or performing the concerned stories. Buddhism employed this technique to spread the teachings of the Master among the illiterate people. Buddhist monks in Tibet also applied this technique. Along with portable paintings they also carried sculptures.
Rubin Museum presented an exhibition on Tibetan narrative paintings, curated by Elena Pakhoutova. The exhibition, Once Upon Many Times: Legends and Myths in Himalayan Art, started on September 16, 2011 and continued till January 30, 2012.
The Himalayan region is home to strong narrative traditions-evidence of which is found in a great number of Himalayan works of art. Once Upon Many Times presented the variety of forms that tell stories of the Buddha, illustrious teachers, legendary masters, spiritual quests, and adventures of heroes painted in thangkas, murals, and told in front of portable shrines.
Of particular note in the exhibition were reproductions of three Lukhang Temple wall murals that provided exceptional examples of illustrations inspired by Tibetan dramas and legends.