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Exploring Assimilations of the Traditional and Contemporary in Ladakh

July – August 2017

Isaac Gergan and Stanzin Nyentak


About the Exhibition

Earlier this year, LAMO proposed an Art Collaboration take place between a thangka painter and a contemporary artist to discover the synergies between the two artistic styles, and potential to create new work. While thangka painting is an old and established art form in Ladakh, contemporary art is a fairly new field. Commonalities as well as differences are visible in the two forms – while the first is taught in a structured manner within a fixed theological framework, the latter is imparted in a flexible genre. However, the overall emphasis is on line, form, colour and composition. LAMO felt that the collaboration/dialogue would be meaningful in the growing and changing art scenario in Ladakh.

The collaboration took place between Isaac Tsetan Gergan, a contemporary artist and Stanzin Nyentak, a traditional thangka painter. During this time they developed a body of work, which reflects new directions using traditional methods, styles and techniques of art making.

These paintings are the results of that collaboration. Various methods for their creation have been employed, some replicated and others newly conceived. The works are all different, and hope to set a rhythm for such collaborations and mixing of styles. This is an experimentation to see what happens when we bring together what we have valued and treasured, to come to face and interact and be changed by our sensibilities today. The works can be analysed, critiqued, deconstructed and understood with various lenses, of religious symbolism, formal elements, comparative art histories, semiotics, and other meanings that arise within itself and in context to the present. It is evident that possibilities of such experimentations can be infinite; it therefore becomes important that other factors such as the presentation of context, understanding of art histories, academic critiques and spaces for such work to be encouraged is simultaneously made available.

In this context, LAMO is looking to initiate future collaborations between traditional and contemporary art forms. Having had such results we can hope to see collaborations be a platform for exciting new directions. When many forms can come together to seek and help re-examine and re identify Ladakh’s traditional aesthetics and other contemporaneous results.

The collaboration project was realized with the generous support from Sara Crisp and Laura Kozaitis. LAMO and the artists would like to thank them for their support.

About the Artist

Stanzin Nyantak is a Thangka painter from Yarma, Nubra, a remote village in the north of Ladakh. He graduated with a diploma in Thangka painting after four years of training in the Thangka School at Norbulinka in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India. In 2014 he moved back to Ladakh and has been practicing his art since in commissions for monasteries in Nubra and around Ladakh, individuals and some restoration work. While his skills in the traditional art form is developing, Nyantak has a wish to explore modern art trends, and ways of representing the styles of thangka painting in more conceptual and contemporary directions.

Isaac Gergan from Leh, is a contemporary artist. He has done graphic design from Messiah College in Pennsylvania, USA, and BFA in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Vancouver, Canada. He now practices his art in painting, photography and ceramic in Leh. Isaac has taken part in exhibitions at LAMO and outside Ladakh, his most recent being a photography exhibition ‘After The Elusive Light’ at the IIC, New Delhi. His work is in private collections.

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