“In every grain of the sand, there lies a story of the earth.”
The art of pouring colored sands and powdered pigments from minerals or crystals, or pigments from either natural or synthetic sources, onto a surface to create a fixed or unfixed sand painting, is known as sandpainting.
Usually done by throwing different colored sands on a surface to create a beautiful design, it is carried out by carving various scenes or paintings out of ordinary brown sand. It is one of the most beautiful art forms but is often fleeting.
The story of colors in Sand Paintings
Colors for the painting are typically created using naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a charcoal/gypsum mixture (blue). Brown can be made by combining red and black; pink can be made by combining red and white. Corn meal, flower pollen, powdered roots, and bark are some other colorants.
Walkthrough over the Civilisations
Aboriginal art encompasses a wide range of media, such as sandpainting, leaf painting, wood carving, rock carving, sculpture, and ceremonial clothing, as well as artistic embellishments found on weaponry and tool making it one of the essential rituals of Aboriginal culture.
Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings are typically mandalas. It is known as dul-tson-kyil-khor in Tibetan (mandala of colored powders). The sand is placed with care on a large, flat table.
The mandala’s construction takes several days, and it is destroyed shortly after completion.
This is done as a metaphor for the “impermanence” of all contingent and compound phenomena and as a teaching tool.
The lamas, or Tibetan priests, dedicate the location and summon the forces of goodness during the opening ceremony, which kicks off the mandala sand painting process. They chant, make declarations of intention, do mudras, asanas, and pranayama, as well as visualizations and mantra recitation.
The lamas begin the first day by outlining the mandala that will be painted on a wooden platform. The colored sands are laid in the following days, which is done by pouring the sand through old-fashioned metal funnels called chak-pur.
Each monk rubs a metal rod across a chak-serrated pur’s surface while holding it in one hand; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid.
A sand-painted mandala is a tool or instrument used for numerous purposes. It is composed of traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a variety of ancient spiritual symbols (such as Ashtamangala and divine attributes of yidam). The earth and its inhabitants are to be rededicated as one of the main goals.
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The sand painting is ceremoniously destroyed after the meditation is finished using a Vajra, and the sand is then collected and brought to a body of water for the offering.
Unfixed sand paintings have a long cultural history in many social groups worldwide, and they are frequently temporary ritual paintings prepared for religious or healing ceremonies. This style of art is also known as dry painting.
Another form of sand painting, Rangoli, is a ritual practiced in the Indian region that involves sand painting with colored sand to create beautiful patterns. Kollam is a traditional decorative art practiced as per long-standing customs in south India.
It is also created using white stone powder, chalk, or chalk powder with natural or synthetic color powders. The other southern Indian states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala have adopted it since its origins in the prehistoric Tamil Nadu known as Tamilakam.
Footprints on the Sands of Time
Going over the historical roots of this lovely art practice, it can subtly be traced back to King George III, a talented watchmaker and craftsman in his own right. He was the inspiration for the art of sandpainting.
He was intrigued by the abilities displayed by royal functionaries known as Table Deckers, who decorated the white tablecloths at royal banquets with elaborate centerpieces decorated with unfixed colored sands and sugars as "paint" and a bird's feather as a "brush."
A European traveler who had carefully observed these intricate works in Japan brought this technique to England.
The King suggested implementing it as art while watching the table decorators at work. If the sand pictures could be fixed permanently in place rather than being thrown away with the feast's leftovers, this would save a lot of time and energy by eliminating the need to employ numerous skilled embroiderers to labor over such professional work.
The Unheard story of Andrew Clemens
The deaf-mute artist Andrew Clemens, born in the United States of Dubuque, Iowa, rose to fame for his skill at producing unfixed pictures using colored sands compressed inside of decorative chemist jars or glass bottles.
The Mississippi River-facing bluffs are where the sand was gathered. His sand bottles featured sentimental verses with elaborate decorations, sailing ships, plants, animals, and portraits, among other things.
He displayed his creations at the St. Louis trade show, and after spending hours painting a picture inside a bottle, he would shock the audience by smashing the bottle with a hammer to reveal that the picture inside had not been fixed.
In addition to that, there are countless locations where one can gather natural colored sand for crafts, and there is a huge variety of colors available all over the world depending on the contents of the mineral-charged waters that leach through the sands.
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However, for the tourist, the impressive chalk spires of The Needles and Tennyson Downs are encircled by the vertical sand cliffs at Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight, which is best viewed after a light rain.
Although visitors are no longer recommended to collect their own sand from the cliffs, many businesses on the island sell sand for sand painting.
Thus, sand painting has a long and rich history, representing the very roots of ancient art forms that have, at present, given birth to various other modern art forms. To appreciate all that contemporary art forms offer, we must remember their origins.
author: Priya Bhushan
editor: Diya Mondal