Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Shapes Page

Painting Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:

1. General Art History Shapes
- Four Painting Composition Types
- Figurative Forms
- Diagrammatic Art
- Mandala

2. Specialized Iconographic Shapes
- Circle
- Half-circle
- Crescent
- Video: A Question about Crescent Shapes & Deities
- Square
- Triangle
- Tetrahedron
- Weapon Wheel
- Confusions
- Others...

The study of shapes in Himalayan are is divided into general art history shapes and specialized iconographic shapes.

General shapes for paintings are the Four Compositional Types: [1] over-lapping figures, [2] register, [3] floating and [4] repeated figures. Each of the compositions types have a unique method of dividing and filling the composition. Precise geometric shapes are primarily associated with Diagrammatic Art and Mandalas specifically.

Shapes in Himalayan art are very much related to iconoghraphy, colours and Tantric theory. The four basic shapes can each have two forms, two dimensional or three dimensional, depending on their use and application.

The circle is generally used to represents the entirety or wholeness of a subject. The best examples are depictions of the world such as Mount Sumeru and the surrounding continents and ring of mountains. Mandalas, meaning center and circumference, are almost always round with only the two exceptions of the Medicine Buddha mandala and Vaishravana Riding a Lion. The universe is also envisioned as a circle. A half circle is sometimes used to portray the second or third floor of a mandala palace.

The square is used to represent the palace at the center of a mandala, but not always, depending also on which of the four activities are required. The triangle can also be used for the shape of a deity palace. The triangle shape is commonly mistaken for a tetrahedron. Only specific knowledge of the subject can determine which use is intended. The four basic activity shapes of a circle, square, half circle and triangle also relate to the shape of the fire pit in homa rituals.

The tetrahedron is a very symbolic shape that represents the three types of emptiness described in Buddhist philosophy: wishless, signless and emptiness itself. Male figures in deity yoga meditations generally arise out of a single tetrahedron and female deities from a double tetrahedron.

A weapon wheel can be found as a two dimensional flat disc under the feet of some wrathful deities, such as Mahakala and Krishna Yamari, or as a three dimensional spiked-sphere used in visualization practices directed towards protection and well-being.

Jeff Watt 5-2020

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).