Tenzing Rigdol
The Storm in the Fragrant Land
Watercolour, charcoal and ink on paper
160 x 131 cm (53 x 51.5 in)

The center piece of the exhibition, The Storm in the Fragrant Land, in which a blue wrathful deity stares at the viewer with penetrating eyes and fierce fangs, clenching a vajra.

The figure’s wrathful appearance is at first frightening, but a closer look at his vivid blue eyes – almost crying out to the viewer for understanding – reveals that he is instead attempting to create a compassionate connection with the audience. Wrathful figures in Tibetan Buddhism do not function malevolently; rather, their frightening appearance is meant to help practitioners cut through their own egos by shocking them out of complacency. Here, Rigdol’s figure seems to be bounded by the lines, but he also looks as though he is on the brink of breaking through them. Non-practitioner audiences, likely unfamiliar with the gridline prescriptions of traditional Buddhist art, may perhaps note the lines across the canvas as dramatic visual markers; their eyes tend to follow the lines around the canvas like pathways through the painting.

And that is exactly how Rigdol intended the viewers to read the painting, as the gridlines reference to different stages of enlightenment. As audience follows the grid lines, they will be able to see different figures throughout the painting that comes from the smaller works from the same series. As these figures move up towards the head of the deity, they change from a thinking position, into a struggling posture, contending with the environment around them, and finally speaking into the Deity's ear.