IOWA CONTEMPORARY ART
Permanent Home of the
ANONYMOUS SHIVA LINGA PAINTINGS
Paintings from the prestigious
55th VENICE BIENNALE (2013)
All of the paintings are anonymous and untitled. The artists use various media
(watercolor, tempera, gouache, ink, hand-made colors) on found paper. The location
of the artist in India, the date of the painting, and the dimensions are listed below.
(Click on images below to enlarge.)
This exhibition includes a video that David T. Hanson and Allen Cobb
created of the Anonymous Shiva Linga Paintings,
displayed on a monitor in continuous loop accompanied by
the traditional Vedic chanting of the 1,000 names of Shiva.
2014, HD video, color, sound, 48 minutes.
More about the Hudson Collection
This inaugural installation in ICON’s Hudson Collection Gallery features the Anonymous Shiva Linga Paintings
exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director of the 2013 Venice Biennale and
associate director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. For the Biennale installation, Gioni selected
31 paintings from the series of 71 Anonymous Shiva Linga Paintings assembled by Franck André Jamme and
Feature Inc., New York. ICON’s exhibition duplicates the selection and sequence of the paintings at the Biennale.
The Shiva Linga is an abstract or aniconic representation of the Vedic god Shiva as an eternal cosmic pillar of fire,
the first and final form of all creation. The three-dimensional stones and two-dimensional drawings of the Linga are
considered by devotees to be not mere representations of Shiva but rather the sacred embodiment of the Divinity.
These Shiva Linga paintings on found paper are made anonymously in India (primarily in Rajasthan) by practitioners
of Tantrism—some of whom are artists—to represent and embody fundamental aspects of Tantra, a vast and complex
spiritual and philosophical practice. Made to awaken heightened consciousness, these devotional images are used for
visualization and meditation as part of Tantra’s spiritual practices. While the images are centuries old with highly
codified forms and colors, the paintings are filled with such a high level of the artists’ intentionality that they continually
appear fresh and alive. The French poet/scholar André Padoux has described these images as “painted silences. . .
the simple revelation of pure consciousness.”
According to French poet Franck André Jamme, who has played an instrumental role in bringing these paintings to
western audiences, the tantrikas who create them work in a focused state of mental rapture. Despite their expression
of an unbroken, centuries-old tradition, the works in this exhibition (made between 1966 and 2004) seem both timeless
and utterly contemporary. They also possess a remarkable affinity with examples of twentieth-century abstract art.
The progeny of hand-written, illustrated religious treatises from the seventeenth century, copied across many generations,
these paintings are part of a distinct visual lexicon that confounds assumed differences between East and West, the
spiritual and the aesthetic, the ancient and the modern.
This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Hudson, founder and director of the New York art gallery Feature Inc.
The Hudson Collection has been very generously donated to ICON’s permanent collection by Patricia Hudson,
James Hudson, and Thomas Hudson.
Janet and Bill Teeple, Patricia and Thomas Hudson, and David T. Hanson
This exhibition has been made possible by the generous donation of the Hudson Collection
to ICON’s permanent collection by Patricia Hudson, James Hudson, and Thomas Hudson,
and by major support provided by David T. Hanson, the Fairfield Cultural Alliance, and
the Fairfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.