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BIOGRAPHY OF MASTER THANGKA PAINTER NOEDUP RONGAE

Noedup Rongae

I started my training very early and in somewhat privileged circumstances because my father, Tenzin Rongae, was a master artist at the Khampa Gar Monastery in the kingdom of Lhatok, in eastern Tibet. I was accepted at the age of eight as an apprentice with a group of 10 artists who worked under my father's direction. I was taught first how to apply the flat coloring, then the shading, and eventually line drawing. We also created masks, clay sculptures, and wall murals for many monasteries of the area. Basically, it was a group endeavor, with Tenzin Rongae as the master designer.

This was the general situation until late 1958 when my family fled to India where we continued to work for monasteries, particularly that of Khamtrul Rinpoche in Kalimpong. But now it was only the two of us thangka painters, father and son, working together.

My father painted in the style of the New Menri School. This school has probably one of the most stylized approaches to composition. For example, in the Old Menri School, the deity would always face straight forward, with very little sense of movement in the body - very symmetrical. In the New Menri School the figures could be off-centered or in profile, with lots of movement and action.It is considered to be a peak in artistic development and patronage for all artists in Kham at the time.

My own personal style is to work with the blue print of the New Menri. But since I left Lhatok I've been exposed to many other schools and styles of painting. One that I like very much is the Karma Gadri style with its spacious approach to landscape.

I have been painting for over 40 years, completing probably over 1000 thangkas, and I still feel that I am learning. There's a lot of freedom in what I might include in a painting but, at the same time, I'm more traditional than ever. Often times I reflect on the quality or energy of the deity and the work becomes much more real. At such times it is delightful to paint!

Since moving to the west in 1973 at the invitation of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who was a close teacher and family friend, I have worked mostly on commissions for Buddhist centers and dharma practitioners. I also paint some thangkas without patronage to sell, but only in the Shambhala community and never displayed in stores.

Objective

One of my main concerns is education and culture. It is sad to see that the Tibetan Buddhist art is in steep decline in Tibet as well as in refugee communities in India and Nepal. In general younger generation of the Himalayan region takes very little interest in their own art and culture. For a long time I have wanted to ensure the transmission of the practice of thangka painting and other forms of art. So in hope of reversing the decline I have established Shambhala Art School which was inaugurated by the governor general of himachal Pradesh Governor Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje on the 28th of September 2007.It is my hope to interest many younger generation of the Himalayan region. I feel it is vital important not to forget their own rich cultural heritage. I invite you with open heart to explore in the Himalayan Buddhist art, but unfortunate shortage of funding ,we had to turn down lots of new applicants in last few months.

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©2007 Shambhala Art school • Noedup Rongae • Director