Visions of Enlightenment
MONUMENTAL PHOTOGRAPHS BY: Peter van Ham
TIBET HOUSE US – NYC
April 20 – July 2, 2023
Join us for the opening of an extraordinary exhibition of floor-to-ceiling images of stunning photographs Alchi, Ladakh, by Peter van Ham.
For more information about the exhibition: CLICK HERE
At an altitude of ten thousand feet nestled in a lush valley surrounded by the majestic Himalayas, the world-renowned Buddhist monastery complex of Alchi is a destination for art lovers and seekers alike. Mandalas and towering sculptures of Bodhisattvas adorn the walls, ceilings and doors of each temple and include scenes from the Buddha’s life as well as secular life from a period of tremendous cross-cultural activity in the region. Alchi holds some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh: “… Mesmerizing colored patterns scroll across the wood beams overhead; the temple’s walls are covered with hundreds of small seated Buddhas, finely painted in ocher, black, green, azurite and gold. At the far end of the room, towering more than 17 feet high, stands an unblinking figure, naked to the waist, with four arms and a gilded head topped with a spiked crown. It’s a painted statue of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, a messianic being of Tibetan Buddhism come to bring enlightenment to the world. Two hulking statues, one embodying compassion and the other wisdom, stand in niches on side walls, attended by garishly colored sculptures depicting flying goddesses and minor deities. Each massive figure wears a dhoti, a kind of sarong, embellished with minutely rendered scenes from the life of Buddha..” Jeremy Kahn, Smithsonian
Over time, Alchi’s walls and structures have, and continue to, slowly become more and more vulnerable to dramatic changes in the climate. Rainstorms and snow have caused the mud bricks and clay plaster to spread, exposing the centuries old paintings, frescos and sculptures.. The deterioration has become accelerated due to a more unpredictable and warmer pace in climate. With authorization from the Dalai Lama, Peter Van Ham has produced some of the world’s highest image quality in terms of resolution, dynamic range, color fidelity, and geometric accuracy of these Buddhist masterpieces before they disappear. The images perfectly capture this precious works’ miniaturesque delicacy and the broad range of colors, representing the multi-faceted cross-cultural activity of renaissance in Western Tibet.
For 35 years, Peter van Ham has been exploring the Western Himalayas to regions closed to external access for more than half a decade to research the peoples, environments, and issues across disciplines such as geography, ethnology, etc. archaeology, and art history. Inspired by the tracks of the great Tibetan translator and builder of sanctuaries, Rinchen Zangpo (11th century C.E.), Peter was the first – and in many places the only person– to document the few surviving temple sites in the Tibetan realm. The temples’ artwork – wall paintings and sculptures – are critical documentation of Tibetan art and the vast and varied cultural exchange that took place between the cultures of India, Central and Middle Asia in the 11th century. Supported by H.H. the Dalai Lama, the Archaeological Survey of India, and UNESCO, Peter van Ham has shed new light on one of the most remote places of our shared human heritage.