ART BY KARMA PHUNTSOK

The art of Karma Phunstok is a futuristic expression of an ancient craft, a time-honored tradition interwoven with 21st century inspiration, imbued with the power of the distant past. His wealth of imagery and allegory flow from the richness of his life experience: from a childhood in Chinese-occupied Tibet, coming of age as a refugee in India, an apprenticeship in Nepal, and his love of the Australian outback. His work is internationally acclaimed, and his paintings hang in private and public collections and galleries on nearly every continent.

Born in Lhasa, Karma Phuntsok was a child
when his family fled Tibet in 1959, after the
failed uprising against the Chinese. Like
80,000 other refugees that year, they
followed His Holiness the Dalai Lama
through the Himalayas into exile. However
humble their beginnings, the Phuntsoks
strove for comfort in their new home,
thankful to be free of the oppression they
experienced under Chinese rule, where citizens were taught to revere Mao and
despise the Dalai Lama. For ten years, Karma enjoyed a formal education in
Sikkim, through a system of refugee schools. He particularly excelled at drawing
and painting. Over the years, his interest in art grew. True to his hard-working
culture, he took on many jobs with unsinkable enthusiasm before he decided
to earn a living as an artist. In 1973 he began to study with a master Tibetan
Thangka painter in Nepal.

Working with diligence and showing great promise, Karma Phuntsok lived with
the master 24 hours a day. He learned the secrets of distemper techniques,
creating traditional mineral and organic paints by collecting stones from far-off
places, grinding them by hand with a mortar and pestle. He learned how to mix
the pigments with egg, to temper them with herbs and glue, how to hem the silk
or cotton canvases and string them properly within a wooden frame. He learned
how to prime the canvases with an amalgam of rabbit-skin glue and chalk,
stretching them tight before ever lifting a brush to the surface. His apprenticeship
required that he master not just the discipline of painting Tibetan Buddhist deities,
but also the iconometric principles which underlie every Thangka composition.

By 1974, after an intense year-long apprenticeship, Karma Phuntsok became a
full-time professional Thangka painter, and has been ever since. In 1978, while still
living in Nepal, Karma met his future wife Carol, and within a few years they moved
to Australia. This move unleashed boundless creativity in Karma’s art, unveiling the
similarities between Aboriginal and Thangka styles. Both traditions use mineral and
organic pigments primed with natural binders, both make elaborate use of geometric
patterns and both revolve around complex imagery, to produce works of art
loaded with allegory. Through symbolism, artists of both Thangka and Aboriginal
styles employ metaphor to bring ancient myth and ceremony to life. Moving to
Australia proved richly rewarding for Karma’s work, as he began to entwine Tibetan
artistic traditions with Aboriginal themes and methods. His discovery and subsequent
mastery of the airbrush adds contemporary flair (and often humor) to his distinct
blend of ancient styles to create masterpieces that are as dynamic and modern
as they are traditional and reverent.

Karma Phuntsok now lives with his wife and son in a charming cottage in the rolling
bushland north of Kyogle. The only exception to solar power is the fuel he uses to
occasionally fire up the generator for his airbrush compressor. The dense forest
visible from the verdant clearing surrounding their home lays fertile groundwork for
the imagination that springs to life from his canvas. The art of Karma Phunstok is
a futuristic expression of an ancient craft, a time-honored tradition interwoven with
21st century inspiration, imbued with the power of the distant past. His wealth of
imagery and allegory flow from the richness of his life experience: from a childhood
in Chinese-occupied Tibet, coming of age as a refugee in India, an apprenticeship
in Nepal, and his love of the Australian outback. His work is internationally
acclaimed, and his paintings hang in private and public collections and galleries
on nearly every continent. To see some of Karma’s work, click here.

See Karma’s work
Child's Play Green Tara by Karma Phuntsok

Child's Play Green Tara

Rain Clouds by Karma Phuntsok

Rain Clouds

Medicine Buddha, the Blue Healer by Karma Phuntsok

Medicine Buddha, the Blue Healer

Tara, Deity of Longevity by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1449692894/1449692894_image.jpg

Tara, Deity of Longevity

Loving Kindness for a Modern World by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1449692842/1449692842_image.jpg

Loving Kindness for a Modern World

Liberation Under the Palm Tree by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1449692799/1449692799_image.jpg

Liberation Under the Palm Tree

Tushita Buddha Returns from the Heavenly Realm by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447163784/1447163784_image.jpg

Tushita Buddha Returns from the Heavenly Realm

Peace Over War by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447163710/1447163710_image.jpg

Peace Over War

Saraswati by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447163570/1447163570_image.jpg

Saraswati

Homeward Bound by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447163442/1447163442_image.jpg

Homeward Bound

Gold Buddha by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447163281/1447163281_image.jpg

Gold Buddha

You Wish by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447163171/1447163171_image.jpg

You Wish

Coconut Grove Buddha by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447162528/1447162528_image.jpg

Coconut Grove Buddha

Bod Rangzen  by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447162434/1447162434_image.jpg

Bod Rangzen

Pathfinder by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1447162302/1447162302_image.jpg

Pathfinder

War Peace by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1358538133/1358538133_image.jpg

War Peace

KOI Miami by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1358538024/1358538024_image.jpg

KOI Miami

Coffee Club by Karma Phuntsok *||* http://dharmastudio.com/cmsData/karmaPhuntsokArt/1358537986/1358537986_image.jpg

Coffee Club