Montien Boonma
Temple of the mind

23 July – 10 October 2004
National Gallery of Australia

Media preview
22 July 2004

View Montien Boonma: Temple of the mind website

The National Gallery of Australia is proud to launch an exhibition exploring the sensory experience of Buddhism: Montien Boonma: Temple of the mind is a major exhibition of works by the late Montien Boonma, one of Asia's best-known contemporary artists. His death in 2000 at the age of 47 was not only a great loss for Thailand, but also for the global art community. 

A feature of Montien Boonma's art is its unique tactile and sensuous quality. This exhibition from the Asia Society, New York comprises 38 major works including soil drawings, candle and perfume paintings, charcoal sketches, mixed-media works and brass sculptures, as well as herbal and sound installations. Among the installations is the National Gallery of Australia's own Temple of the mind: Sala for the mind, a 4-metre high, stupa-shaped installation of wooden crates seeped in multicoloured fragrant spices and medicinal herbs. 

Montien Boonma found his creative voice in the depth of Buddhist ideas and forms. Herbs and healing practices have a long association with Buddhism and have played a central role in much of the artist's work since the mid-1990s when he lost close family members, including his beloved wife, to cancer. The fragrance of the herbs soothes and heals both body and mind. Many of his works are metaphors for hope, faith and healing, symbolising religious devotion and transporting viewers to a spiritual realm.

In Buddhist teaching, sacred enclosures are cosmic centres of contemplation and concentration. Montien Boonma's constructions embrace this concept and visitors are invited to enter many of the installations and sculptures in the exhibition, including Temple of the mind: Sala for the mind. Viewers can also enclose their heads and shoulders in Melting void, a group of rough-cast torsos of the Buddha. In the large installation House of hope (1996–97), the artist encourages the audience to move through thousands of strings composed of medicinal herbal beads suspended like a curtain from the ceiling and falling in coils upon the floor.

The exhibition traces Montien Boonma's artistic response to his faith while charting his remarkable development as a contemporary artist.  Inspired by Buddhist concepts and symbolism, his works are often created from modern industrial materials such as cement and steel. The result is a multi-sensory experience, in which ancient spiritual ideas and concepts find international contemporary expression.

Montien Boonma: Temple of the mind is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., Blakemore Foundation, and New York State Council on the Arts. Montien Boonma: Temple of the mind is organised by the Asia Society and Museum, New York.

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