What is Thangka?
Thangka painting is an ancient type of Tibetan art, which has been preserved in the Himalayan region for two thousand years. Thangka is a Tibetan word, which means 'recorded message'.
Tibetan Thangka is a scroll like painting which can be explored like a map through visual symbols and colours. Each detail is intricate and has a deep symbolic meaning, referring to parts of the Buddhist philosophy. Hence, Buddhist Thangka is meant to combine fine art with spirituality, to create a captivating art piece filled with philosophical meaning.
All of our paintings come from the original birthplace of Thangkas, which is Tibet, Nepal, North India and Bhutan. Depending on the size and quality of details it can take an artist up to three years to complete a single piece, using 24 Carat Gold, Sterling Silver and Himalayan minerals. Authentic Thangkas are painted on cotton, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala.
The majority of our paintings are made by the Nepalese and Tibetan Lamas, as they are the original holders of the Thangka secrets. According to the tradition, Tibetan Lamas are defenders of Dharma (Cosmic Laws) and are similar in status to Gurus in India.
Gammas is the only Tibetan art gallery that sells only premium quality Thangka paintings. We are proud to offer our customers only the best selection of Tibetan art. All our paintings go through a rigorous screening process in our gallery in London and are guaranteed to be original, authentic and brand new.
Unfortunately, most other Thangka sellers that can be found online do not share our ethical principles and sell inferior quality paintings under the guise of high quality ones. Often their paintings are made by students or amateurs using exclusively colour paint, without the use of 24 Carat Gold, even if indicated differently. Sometimes the difference can be found in the detail, which is obvious to the trained eye but can at times be difficult to spot by a new customer.
We found this appalling that is why we describe in detail how our art pieces differ from the ones that can be found elsewhere so that our customers are sure they buy only high quality art.
Thangka is a form of painting or embroidery on a woven material, usually on cotton or silk. Preparation of the canvas is an essential part of the process and the quality of it can greatly influence the painting. A mixture of animal skin glue, distemper and water is applied to the canvas, dried in the sun and polished with glass. This process is continuously repeated and can take up to two weeks.
Once the canvas is ready the artist takes precise measurements and makes a sketch using charcoal. The paint used to make a premium quality Thangka is derived from precious & semi-precious natural minerals, crystals and plant materials, such as pearl, coral, lapiz lazuli, cinnabar, sulfur, azurite, malachite etc. These natural substances are well known for their healing properties and power. The artist grinds the material to a fine powder and mixes it with hide glue and water to create the paint. This guarantees that the colours of the painting stay vivid and vibrant throughout the years. The final touch is made by applying 24 Carat Gold and Sterling Silver.
Finally, premium quality paintings made by experienced artists are taken to a highly realized Buddhist master or Lama to bring the image 'alive' and infuse it with the positive energy. After this process, Thangka is a receptacle of wisdom, ready to be hung as a genuine living embodiment of an enlightened mind.
A Closer Look at Tibetan Thangkas
Lama Painted Art
One of two types of paintings worth extra attention are paintings handcrafted by Buddhist Lamas. Lama is a title officially extended only to the few dozen Tibetan Buddhist monks who have achieved the highest level of spiritual development.
In Buddhist tradition, Lama paintings are considered to be one of the highest qualities. Lamas must undergo rigorous training to learn how to apply 24 Carat Gold and Sterling Silver to create an authentic and alluring lasting effect on the canvas. Lamas often have more than 40 years of painting experience before they can use Lama status to paint Thangkas.
Before being "released to the world" these paintings are prayed upon by a Lama and the whole temple, bestowing them with blessings and positive energy. Some people believe that a painting made by a Lama can bring good fortune because Lama leaves part of his energy in the painting. It is said that even looking upon such a painting will place a positive imprint within one's mind resulting in future happiness.
The Newa Art, also known as Newari style, has its origins in the Valley of Kathmandu in Nepal, where Newa people lived and created. Newari artists achieved international repute throughout Asia, and were acclaimed as world-class painters and sculptors with unparalleled skill and iconographic expertise, rivalling their Indian counterparts of the Gupta period. Indian, Chinese and Tibetan royalties used artists from Nepal to work on important commissions.
Newari art has had a great influence on the development of traditional Tibetan paintings. The adoption of new ideas in the cultural dynamics led to two developments in Tibetan paintings - based on Newar Indo-Chinese (Newari style) and traditional Tibetan elements.
Nowadays, Newari paintings are commonly kept in museums and private collections in the West and Asia. There are only a handful of genuine painters left, who can draw in this way, as it requires perfecting both Tibetan painting technique and Newari painting style.
Newari style paintings are rarely reproduced nowadays and have near enough become extinct.