Beauty and Tradition on Canvas
Artist Tashi Dhargyal works to keep authentic Tibetan culture alive, one meticulous stroke at a time.
courtesy of Tibetan Gallery & Studio
Better known for its collection of wine-tasting rooms, shops, and restaurants, the Barlow in Sebastopol is also home to Tashi Dhargyal’s art studio, where colorful art history is being made.
Dhargyal is creating what’s believed to be the first thanbhochi—a ceremonial Buddhist scroll painting—done by a Tibetan master painter outside Tibet. “My main goal is the preservation of traditional Tibetan art,” says Dhargyal. “It’s my dream.”
That dream is now a two-story artistic reality. The 300-square-foot painting, which depicts 37 sacred Buddhist figures, requires custom-built scaffolding to access portions of the cotton canvas that covers almost an entire wall of the Tibetan Gallery and Studio.
It’s a labor of love that allows no room for shortcuts. One of Dhargyal’s former teachers traveled from India to help him create and prepare the massive canvas, which took a month to complete. Paint was produced by grinding minerals and mixing them with animal-skin glue and water. Roughly 70 colors were created, but with shading and other variations, Dhargyal admits to losing count.
“There are probably even more than a hundred different colors on [the thanbhochi],” says Dhargyal with a smile, “but I’m just guessing.”
The project has attracted its share of fans, including the Dalai Lama himself. Dhargyal was granted an audience with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader before starting his work, and a framed letter from the Dalai Lama’s secretary endorsing Dhargyal’s artistry hangs in the studio.
Work began in July 2013, with hopes of completing the thanbhochi by 2018. Now in the final stretch, Dhargyal is focusing on fine detail work using 24-karat gold—and he is optimistic he will finish ahead of schedule.
Once completed, it will be donated to a monastery in Tibet. But before the thanbhochi finds its permanent home, Dhargyal hopes to exhibit it around the world and share it with as many people as possible. He’s even created an adult coloring book including images from the thanbhochi titled Coloring for Meditation with Tibetan Buddhist Art. Descriptions offer insight into Tibetan art, and readers who visit the companion website can, in a sense, color along with Dhargyal.
The Tibetan Gallery and Studio is open to the public on weekends and by appointment. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.