On waking up, say a spell backwards

Chris Dorsett

Research output: Other contribution


The exhibition Thinking Tantra is unavoidably tied to a long dormancy. For many art school people the term Tantric art seems to have been asleep throughout the development of Contemporary Art. Or perhaps it is the other way around. With Rebecca Heald’s curatorial project at Drawing Room, some kind of art school awakening seems possible. In the exhibition catalogue, Virginia Whiles suggests that Tantra offers opportunities for a 'rebellious search'. Rebellion interests art students and I am now wondering how much Philip Rawson had art school rebels in mind as he wrote his book Drawing (1969) and then began work on his Hayward Gallery exhibition Tantra (1971).

Rawson aligned being at art school with the state of being awake to Tantra’s possibilities. Perhaps he thought that students would be particularly receptive to the idea that Tantric diagrams were not diagrammatic for Tantric practitioners. Both the Drawing book and the Tantra catalogue treat imagery not as an abstracted formal proposition, but as a richly evocative reversal of the direction of creation – like saying a spell backwards. Rawson thought this about ‘expressive’ Western mark-making as well as ritualistic tantric diagrams. This event explores Rawson’s proposition that the apparently ‘generalized’ (e.g. diagrammatic) forms of non-European art are likely to be vastly richer in terms of memory-traces and cultural associations than Western abstract artists would want to take responsibility for.
Original languageEnglish
TypePublic event created for the Thinking Tantra exhibition at Drawing Room, London. The exhibition was curated by Rebecca Heald (Royal College of Art) with Amrita Jhaveri (Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai).
Media of outputPresentation with projected images and video
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2017


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