On the Abstraction of Sacred Forms:
Understanding a New Visual Language in Spiritual Art

Siddhartha Shah
Original date: Thursday, September 24, 2009

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Art, by its nature, tends to break from tradition—reinterpreting, reinventing, and revisioning familiar images from the past. However, when artists choose to represent deities or other religious subjects in a modern visual language, their works are often misunderstood and criticized. Many take offense at the abstraction of sacred forms when, in truth, this style can lead us to a deeper understanding of spiritual traditions if we learn how to see. This presentation discusses the work of some controversial artists in India and Nepal, questions the boundaries between the evocative and the offensive, and seeks to support a new vision of religious art that supports an evolving contemporary spirituality. Masterworks of modern Tantric art and works of India's most celebrated modern artist, M.F. Husain, will be on display.

Siddhartha V. Shah studied History of Art and Classics at Johns Hopkins University, and holds a Masters degree from the California Institute of Integral Studies in East-West Psychology. Raised Hindu, and having lived in India and Europe, he brings a fresh interpretation of Eastern traditions and culture that can be understood and integrated in the West. He specializes in sacred art and travels around the country organizing exhibitions and lecturing on the role of sacred art in spiritual practice.

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