Art: Fusing traditional and contemporary techniques, Yeshi Palden, a graduate from the National Institute of Zorig Chusum (NIZC), is displaying his artwork at the Nehru-Wangchuck Cultural Centre (NWCC) in Thimphu.

Probably the first of its kind, Yeshi Palden’s artworks display the 18 types of Buddhist hell realms that are usually narrated in religious scriptures and seen in traditional paintings in monasteries.

The paintings depict the horrifying reality of the hell realms. Some of the paintings portray how a sinful person is burned on coal only to be revived again until the bad karma has been washed off. Another painting portrays a person that is kept in the snow for a long time until one suffers from blisters appearing on the whole body, only to be burst and reappear again until the sins have been purified.

Sitting in front of a huge painting depicting The Wheel of Life (a painting of a mandala representing the Buddhist view of the universe), Yeshi Palden painfully colours every detail and figure in the painting.

The 26-year-old painter graduated from NIZC two years ago, after which he sharpened his artistic skills with a teacher from the institute. It was when he was receiving initiations on the preliminary practices (ngondro) from a Buddhist master that he realised there was a lack of visual representation of the Buddhist hell realms to people especially the younger generation that don’t have time to practice the dharma.

Through these paintings, I hope people will get to see and realise the repercussions of the sins they commit in their present lives, Yeshi Palden said.

“We live in an age where people are leading such busy lives that they hardly get time to practice the dharma. I hope through these paintings, they will get to understand more about the dharma,” Yeshi Palden said.

Through the exhibition, Yeshi Palden aims to pave a path for traditional artists that don’t get such opportunities to exhibit their artistic talents.

The paintings are not for sale but Yeshi Palden hopes to make a living out of his artwork in the future.

The exhibition titled “Hell – Wheel of Life” started from February 17 and closes on February 27.

Thinley Zangmo