After going part time with his communications service, ISKCON Communications Director for Australasia Bhakta Das is using his free time in “the latter part” of his life to realize an artistic dream years in the making.
He’s creating a series of twenty contemporary, expressionistic paintings, which will give an overview of the Bhagavad-gita As It Is chapter by chapter. At an impressively large 2 x 1.5 meters each, the astonishing pieces will go on a touring exhibition when they’re completed an estimated three years from now.
“Prior to taking to a devotional spiritual life in the 1970s, I had studied a Fine Art Diploma at a university in Melbourne,” Bhakta says.
“Then for many years as a practitioner and teacher of Bhakti Yoga, I continuously had the burning desire to utilize my God-given artistic abilities by painting a series of large paintings for a touring exhibition depicting the famous Bhagavad-gita which is one of the most influential treatises in Eastern philosophy.”
Bhakta was inspired to do so, he says, because, “Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, the Founder Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, has personally enlightened and bettered my life in so many ways.” He wanted to bring such insights to the broader community, reaching people who may not otherwise have been familiar with Krishna consciousness.
“My aim is not to draw out every single philosophical point, but rather to highlight key concepts in each chapter,” he says. “Hopefully these individual paintings of each of the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad-gita will give the viewer an overview which will give them an understanding of the flow, context and practical application of these timeless spiritual teachings.”
When starting work on the project a few months back, Bhakta first launched straight into a painting depicting the first chapter of Bhagavad-gita but found himself stuck.
“I just couldn’t get it,” he recalls. “I had a canvas, and I was painting on it, but I was thinking, ‘Why isn’t this working? How do I put this together?’ Then, while I was chanting, it came to me that I was missing out on the first part of Bhagavad-gita – Prabhupada’s introduction. I started working on the introduction, and then thought, ‘I have to do a portrait of Srila Prabhupada as part of this.’”
While applying the finishing touches to Srila Prabhupada’s eye, Bhakta Das suddenly realized, “Ah, Prabhupada is here!” “From then on,” he says, “Everything just flowed, and it all came together. Since then, it’s just been revelations opening up as to how I can present it.”
The twenty paintings in the exhibition will include one on the introduction to Bhagavad-gita, showing Krishna and Arjuna, Srila Prabhupada, the disciplic succession, and the spirit soul; eighteen covering the key concepts of each chapter; and a final painting that will be a tribute to Srila Prabhupada and the Holy Name.
Bhakta has already completed the painting of the introduction as well as one depicting the first chapter. The first chapter painting, entitled “Doubt,” depicts the blind king Dhritarastra; his minister Sanjaya, who could envision and describe the events on the battlefield of Kuruksetra; and the warrior Arjuna, experiencing lamention and doubt about having to kill his relatives in the battle.
The second chapter painting, meanwhile, will show Arjuna surrendering to Krishna, who is beginning to instruct him; as well as the various stages of the changing material body throughout life, portrayed in a new and unique way that is different from ISKCON’s classic changing bodies depiction.
The large 2 x 1.5 meter paintings are created with acrylic paints on canvas, and their unique style incorporates pointillism, a type of art pioneered in the mid 1880s wherein small dots of color are used to form an image.
“Pointillism gives an ethereal feel to a painting,” Bhakta says. “I don’t want static, flat paintings, but rather I want each painting to have depth and a vibratory quality.”
Each painting takes Bhakta Das about two to three months to complete, and he anticipates the series will be completed in 2023. At that point he and his wife Bhakti Dasi – who is overseeing websites, photographs and patronage for the project – plan to take the paintings on a touring exhibition of community centers around the Australian State of Victoria, where they live. Beyond that, they hope to be able to tour the Bhagavad-gita As It Is exhibition nationwide and even internationally, pandemic allowing.
At each exhibition, limited edition prints and a coffee table book of the paintings with commentaries will be sold, along with Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. The commentaries in the coffee table book will analyze Bhakta’s techniques and the various themes depicted, and will also relate the themes to the viewer’s everyday life.
Bhakta hopes the exhibition leads to people discovering the Bhagavad-gita and getting as much from it as he did.
“The Bhagavad-gita has done so much for me,” he says. “I was struggling so much to try and figure out life. When I came across Srila Prabhupada’s books, the penny dropped. Everything just made sense. Prabhupada’s teachings were just so clear. From that day on, any clarity of understanding of what life is about, and of spiritual knowledge, is all because of Srila Prabhupada’s grace. So I want to express that and bring it out to the public as best I can, with my limited abilities, in a way that is different from the usual presentation of Krishna consciousness. I want to attract people who would not normally be involved in any sort of spiritual search.”
For more information or if you are interested in supporting the project, please visit https://www.facebook.com/Bhagavad-Gita-Art-Exhibition-109075240976578
Or write to Bhakta Das at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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