To abstract. To abbreviate. To finally glimpse the whole.


January 2nd, 2013

Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme collects contemporary abstract Tantric paintings from Rajasthan. Quite different from more familiar and figurative lineages of Tantric art, these paintings are used as a means to shape and focus contemplation in the adepts who paint and use them. (Below, there is first a figurative image followed by a painting from Tantra Song and an excerpt from Jamme’s writings.)


I have noticed in the Tantric works how the simplicity of their conventional, geometric forms is complemented by the infinite complexity of their particular execution” water stains, flaws in the handmade paper . . . It’s not just a desire for the antique or a nostalgic patina that makes the incidental marks so important, it’s precisely that ideal forms—forms plumbed from the depths of the mid, of the soul—need to co-exist with randomness and the emptiness of chance. How is it that a symbol of god alone is so dull, but when juxtaposed with a smudge or a smear it comes alive?

—Lawrence Rinder, in his introduction to Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme



From Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme:

Imagine. Suddenly, after weeks, months, perhaps years of evoking the Goddess (for example), her arms, legs, her protruding tongue and frightful gaze, all suddenly resolved into a simple triangle pointing downwards.

To abstract. Abbreviate. To finally glimpse the whole.


Shakti in the manifestation of Kali, The Black One. According to an ancient treatise: “Just as all names and all forms disappear within Her, all colors disappear within black.” Night, once more, walks on night.


Kali haunts the cremation ground, and she is often pictured standing on the chest of the ashen white Shiva, who lies still as a corpse. In some images Shiva is ithyphallic and engages with Kali in a form of sexual intercourse called viparitarati or purushayita. In this position the female is on top, taking the active role. This inversion sends a message of the Mother Goddess’s supremacy. According to Shakta and Tantric cosmology, it is the feminine power that creates, sustains and dissolves the universe while the masculine principle is the static substratum. The sexual union of Shiva and Shakti graphically illustrates that ultimately the two are one, beyond all duality.

—David Nelson, The Many Faces of Kali

Kali and Shiva

From Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme:

The eternal and frenetic race of the feminine principle towards its masculine counterpart. Shakti pursuing Shiva…. The triangle of the Goddess is not presented with point downward, as tradition normally dictates, but in full agitation. In time, the triangle should come to actually tremble, vibrate, hover about its lover, its magnet.


Indubitable scene of pure love. The Goddess, transfigured, has mounted Shiva. We might claim that the great Tantric mass is here intoned.

Tantra loves such reversals, such inversions. Shiva who had been dark as night has become as pink as a vulva, and she who was pink has reacquired her original color—Kali, The Black One.


From Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme:

The “illustrious fish,” the little blue form that some eccentrics call “the little blue tongue.” One of Vishnu’s ten incarnations descending into the night of our dark world, yet under the seal of energy (the multi-colored spiral, thus having the power to sport all aspects of manifestation, all taste, all color). As if this energy, slightly drunk on its own richness, and turning in reverse, agreed to be guided—in time without time of a painting, by a god become fish.


More about Tantra Song on the siglio website. Bill Berkson’s interview with Jamme is excerpted here on the siglio blog.

This post was conceived by Siglio intern Casey Reck who researched and brought together of all the elements here. Please note that all excerpts reproduced here—text and images—from Tantra Song are copyrighted. We request that you credit any usage “from Tantra Song by Franck André Jamme, Siglio Press, 2011″ and link back to this blog or the siglio website.

The figurative images of Vishnu and Kali & Shiva can be found with full citations for their sources on Wikipedia. The single image of Kali was located on a blog discussing the origins of the Rolling Stones use of the tongue in their logo!

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