ABOUT THE ARTIST
Shankar Art challenges the viewer to penetrate one's own being. It is only through this knowledge of the inner self that one can open to Shankar Art.
Let us enter the Sumi-e doors where we see the exuberance of the playful mind teasing the viewer to float, as if without a body, in fields of color. Boom! We open the vortex of the Black Kalas and are hurled into the depths of space. Our imaginations are challenged as we view images ordinarily seen only from some astronomical observatory. New, expanded universes open for us to view and explore.
Shankar Art speaks of Sumi-e and the magic of "the hand that is quicker than the eye." The spontaneous brush space and energetic color open the door and create a place for other unexpected adventures. Calligraphic gestured strokes and atmospheric impressions bring inner peace; shanthi. What subliminal message runs at the core of Shankar Art? We see signs, symbols and markings that indicate a realm we know intimately within our own being, yet never acknowledge as a sphere in which others might share the same feelings and sensations. From the markings, we begin to see networks and webs of structure that become rediscovered mirrors of our own minds. Current after current of this river of consciousness has been captured in Shankar's Sumi-e language, causing us to wonder about the artist and his experience as recorder, chronicler and reporter from the landscape of the inner mind.
What inner awareness does one need to approach Shankar Art? Imagine the time (kala) devoted to creating this art. Recognize that in taking time to study Shankar Art, we may be inspired to find a moment of peace within ourselves. This "time-taking" will also reveal the viewer's own power to create, to transcend ordinary expression. In our examination, we discover metallics here, metallics there, explained by Shankar as higher notes in the scale of the color palette acting in this play of transcendence.
In Shankar Art we see an ever-expanding window that reaches far back into human antiquity for its very basis of thought and being. Both Buddhist scholars and thoughtful students of the Adi Shankaracharya and Advaita will find these philosophies camped together in Shankar Art. Shankar reveals the divine as if by automatic writing or speaking in tongues. The brush moves as the artist witnesses. Nothing is planned; it is a matter of being present in the eternal moment.
Does this art really transport people beyond the ordinary mind to some special space? History will tell. We do observe that, in viewing this collection, we are touched in a way we do not expect. These paintings are like deep memories that are brought to consciousness for the first time.
There is joy in being the cargo in the hold of this ship, the SS Shankar. But where is this ship and its cargo headed? It sails through yatra, yantra and mandala and to the image-rich land of India with its own fanciful tales of enlightenment and guru teachers. At long-last we are docked in a port that forms a cultural bridge between the ancient roots of the rishis of the Himalayas and the cyber shores of modern western civilization.
To understand the quality that sets this artist apart, we must look back some thirty years to 1967. The TM movement had begun; the Beatles were sitting in Rishikesh trying to still their minds and the horrific Vietnam War was constantly in the news reporting the ever-rising death toll. Young Shankar, opening to a new world, found richness and meaning in meditation, the yogas, vegetarianism and Gandhi's faith in non-violence.
At an innocent young age, Shankar heard of the great yogis of the East for the first time: Yogananda, Bhaktivendanta, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, Meher Baba and the wonderful Babaji, the eternal yogi. Stealing away in the back of a hippie truck, Shankar traveled west with a band of self-proclaimed, American yogis. As they crossed the country, these seekers spoke of Edgar Cayce's predictions and the end of the world while searching for a deeper meaning rooted in the spiritual. Scouring the Rockies, it was as if they were led by the spirit, to the Lama Foundation, high on a mountainside in Northern New Mexico. Here the touch of Neem Karoli Baba came into play; call it the enlightenment factor. Once touched, his story was no longer of life's mundane activities but of the possibility of the expanded aspect of human behavior known as enlightenment.
After Lama, the quest continued, Shankar's vision turned naturally then to India. He chanted the Hare Krishna mantra and had his first practice of devotional murti worship. He traveled with other like-minded aspirants, complete with UFO's, and kept company with all the books channeled by the masters: the Akashic Record, the Lemurian Records in rock crystal, Urantia and Oashpe. At 17, Shankar was reading his way through occult wisdom like an unaware boy and new world began to open for him.
Then the next layer of his story unfolded. The arts called. He began training in the visual arts and spent years honing his skills. At the New York Studio School, he experienced strict emphasis on the rules of charcoal drawing and the use of models posing in controlled environments.
Once in this selective school, Shankar gained access to the great artists of the time, such as his mentor, Philip Guston. He toured galleries with Alex Katz and drew with Peter Agostini, Nicolas Carone, Charles Cajori and Mercedes Matter. He worked with the historically versed: George McNeil, Leland Bell, Gretna Campbell and Louis Finkelstein. The visiting artists at 8 West 8th Street in New York City were equally impressive. We can only guess how this influence played into the genesis of Shankar's unique calligraphic style. Shankar interacted with the visiting artists which included; Estaban Vicente, David Hare, Harry Kramer, Sidney Geist, Willem De Kooning, Elaine De Kooning, Wayne Thiebaud, John Cage, Jack Tworkov, Larry Poons, Milton Resnick, Philip Pearlstein, Paul Resika, Herman Cherry, Roy de Forest, R. Buckminster Fuller and Brice Marden.
Shankar's first show of Gordian Knot Paintings was held at the Brata Gallery on the Lower East Side in November 1972. These oil paintings strongly echo the bold strokes of Philip Guston. After his first show, Shankar continued to study, with even greater determination, at the New York Studio School and produced examples of his earliest calligraphy and oil painting style.
Yet there were other forces at work. Shankar began to listen to a Ram Dass' special broadcast on a New York radio station and through that connection he was led to the yogini, saint and teacher, Hilda Charlton. Under her tutelage, visions of India began to form; world travel, Zen monasteries and art in Japan, and the Jade Buddha of Bangkok were calling. Finally, while in India, his dream came true when he met his sat guru, Neem Karoli Baba. During 1973, as Shankar continued his tour of India, he met many illustrious gurus, mahatmas, and maharajas. These involved visits with Kirpal Singh, Sathya Sai Baba, Siva Bala Yogi, Ananda Mayi Ma, Mother Mira Aurobindo, and direct disciples of Muktananda.
Returning to New York, Shankar found spiritual support in the songs of excellence that sprang from Hilda Charlton. He was well received in the art world and garnered several showings of his work in and around Soho. Little did he know that after a second yearlong journey to India, he'd find new inspiration in Florida in the form of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati. These were, however, "art-lean" years, described by Shankar as the time when the self was the piece of art on which he worked. During this time he published his first book on yoga, Yog Mountain Rivers to Sea
Toward the end of his sadhana at Ma Jaya's Kashi Ashram, Shankar began painting again in earnest. We know these works as the first of the Sumi-e doors. It was during this time that Shankar met his lifelong companion, Chandra Devi, and together with her made his third journey to his heartland, India. On returning to America, Shankar and Chandra settled in Boulder, Colorado where he continued to produce more Sumi-e doors, some of which were large-scale sets of ten on rice paper and others on canvass. Paper became another avenue for Shankar's energy, inspiring more calligraphy, sets, series and scrolls. These works of Shankar Art constitute his 1980's collection.
By the1990's Shankar began to explore larger canvasses (66' x121") and his evolving Sumi-e language adaptability. He also began to create innovative video presentations of his work. It was at this time that mystic images began to appear in Shankar Art. This new body of work took shape as Shankar affirmed that this is the style of painting with which he wishes to surround himself. This collection includes mandalas, yantra paintings of Siva, and yogis. Most recently his YATRA paintings have begun to show splendid views of well-known pilgrimage places in sacred India.
Today, the Shankar Gallery, with its new showroom, office and video studio is located in Boulder, Colorado where many have come to share the living presence of Shankar Art as well as to enjoy satsang, darshan, yoga, and advaitic knowledge. Shankar is also known for his puja (ritual yoga). He and Chandra maintain a Siva lingam altar room for ritual worship, kirtan singing, and meditation where all those who visit feel the openness of Shankar and Chandra.
Furthermore, Shankar is the pujari (priest) for the yearly Mahsivaratri Festival at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, New Mexico. Many hundreds of worshippers come each year for an all-night vigil of song, love and abheisekha (pouring of amrita upon the Siva lingam.)
Shankar promises us a Siva book about this yearly experience at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram as well as more Shankar Art to go along with the many treasures we now can find as we open the Shankar Gallery web site.
The Shankar Art Collection
The vast collection of Shankar Art goes far beyond what is shown on this web site. His works are diverse. His smaller works are accessible to all with 9" x 4" small-scale 'cards' starting at $40. He has worked on various papers, linen, and cotton. They take many forms; vertical and horizontal scrolls, stretched canvasses, and floating works framed in glass to name just a few. Please contact the artist for more details.