Dr Susana Marin
The Living Tradition of Pahari Painting: An Artist’s Exploration of the Continuity of Guler and Kangra Painting through Fieldwork Investigation of Materials, Techniques, Form and Inspiration in Present Day Studio Practice
Departing from previous studies in the field, Dr Marin investigated Pahari painting as a living tradition through analysis of how it is presently understood, practiced, and transmitted. Focusing on 18th century Guler and Kangra idioms, an enquiry into the processes and practice of the artist was used to consider whether it is still possible to achieve the same quality of painting as evidenced in the historical examples. The research draws on extensive fieldwork and apprenticeship in studios of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan and records the knowledge of contemporary masters. Academic research into primary and secondary texts, including the Guler and Kangra paintings themselves, provided further insights. The inquiry focused on four essential elements of the practice: materials, form, technique, and aesthetic content. The current context of Guler and Kangra painting was considered through critical analysis of issues such as lack of patronage, use of commercial paints versus natural pigments, the impact of the tourist, copy, and forgery markets, and the challenges facing present-day artists. Drawing throughout on personal reflection and artistic practice, the work concludes that a living tradition still exists, that it is still possible to access its chain of transmission and to paint in the style and spirit of the Guler and Kangra masters. The thesis contributes to current scholarship on Pahari painting recording the knowledge of living masters, offering the author's insights as an artist and her own artwork as a contribution to current efforts to keep this art alive.
Dr Katya Nosyreva
The Unknown Craftsman and the Invisible Guild-Exploring Spiritual Principles Underlying Traditional Visual Arts: The Design of the Tomb of a Sufi Master and the Making of a Mihrab
Dr Nosyreva’s research project used the designing and making of an architectural space for a sufi lodge of the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi order in Delhi, India as the point of focus for addressing larger questions in relation to contemporary traditional art and spirituality. The designed space incorporates a miḥrab for congregational prayers and the tomb of the late shaykh of the order, Hazrat Azad Rasool. The project is largely made in porcelain tiles, and is rooted in ceramic craft; its design flows from the tradition of Islamic geometric art, and the practical and conceptual sides of geometry inform its design and execution. These elements are linked by an overall perspective arising from the spiritual practices and teachings of the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi order. Through creative practice, combining academic and visual research, the author has sought ways of integrating the artistic process into the larger context of Islam and of Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi spirituality. The project’s relationship to traditional modes of Islamic art and architecture and the place of contemporary artistic practice within this tradition are further questions addressed through the research.
Dr Marsha Andreola
Engaging Geometry’s Sacred Nature: An Orientation for Teaching Sacred Geometry Through the Practice of Traditional Hand Drawing
Dr Andreola’s research explores the higher purpose of educational sacred geometry. The work examines the ways in which teachers may facilitate student engagement of the sacred within a classroom setting and develops a conceptual teaching orientation for providing expanded learning experiences. Using a drawing compass and straight edge, the practice of traditional hand drawing provides a foundation for cultivating experiences of higher consciousness. The structural framework for the resulting teaching orientation is derived from Joseph Milne’sMetaphysics and the Cosmic Order, which suggests empirical, philosophical, and revelatory as three distinct levels of knowledge.
The hermeneutic phenomenological approach taken by this work includes interdisciplinary, cross-cultural research. First, a thematic analysis of Book VII of Plato’s Republic considers geometry’s role as an essential study. From this analysis, three axioms are identified and proposed as guiding principles for teachers. Second, consideration is given to ephemeral paintings constructed during the sacred practices of three cultural traditions: the kolams painted by women in south India, Navajo ceremonial sandpaintings, and the Tibetan Kalachakra sand mandala. An exploration of ethnographic research into these practices offers insight into experiences of higher consciousness associated with drawing geometry. This perspective correlates with Keith Critchlow’s position that the practice of constructing geometry represents a form of karma yoga. Insights drawnfrom the three cultural traditions suggest the existence of universal attributes which underlie the practice of drawing geometry. The teaching experience of the author guides and informs an examination of these attributes, from which emerge essential concepts and elements. These concepts provide sacred geometry teachers with a foundation for recognizing their pivotal roles in facilitating student engagement at the revelatory level.
Dr Adrian Iurco
Fresco Iconography in Our Time: The Nature and Future of Byzantine Fresco in XXI Century Romania
Dr Iurco’s research answers a need to consider the decline of the art of Byzantine fresco painting in Romania and to begin to look more closely at the reasons for, and results of this decline. Undertaken by a fresco painter, the initial impetus was to solve practical problems encountered on the scaffold that revealed lacunae in existing texts, such as the Hermeneia of Dionysius of Fourna. It soon became clear that technical problems were not the cause of this decline. This initial finding, that there was no technical barrier to revitalising the tradition of Byzantine fresco painting, was the most important achievement of the research showing that, with further research and dedication, it was possible to keep this tradition alive.
While technique would remain a focus, the research began to develop along three further themes; recapturing vitality in a painting tradition that seemed to have stagnated, the relationship between iconography and architectural spaces, and engaging with the communities that impact the work of the fresco painter. Broadening the themes of the research required development of an approach based on Action Research within the general inductive method supplemented by other methods, all driven by the impulse to open new questions. The main project was painting a complete fresco ensemble for a church in a small village in Romania. Further projects in other churches, a monastery, and exhibitions in galleries supplemented the findings. The search for vitality led to painting in a naturalistic style, seemingly in opposition to the Byzantine style. This provided a means for exploring the tensions and similarities between these styles to see how they could support one another. A further important finding was that the application of these methods resulted in tangible improvements in the painting itself.
Important social dimensions affecting Romanian fresco iconography were exposed and further work is required to fully investigate these secondary outcomes. The application of these methods by painters in similar circumstances is not sufficient, but an important dimension of the work was the development of a way of thinking, seeking solutions to problems by creatively interacting with life as it is encountered. The final intention is to bring together those who are interested in this art form and its future, to ask questions themselves, to demand good questions from others, and to share the information to further understand this problem.
Congratulations to Susana Marin, Katya Nosyreva, Marsha Andreola and Adrian Iurco, on the successful completion of their doctoral studies.