Research Done By Bhutanese Artists To Revive Ancient Culture Of Using Colours Sourced From Nature
Artists Penjor Dorji and Norbu Tshering are about to complete a research on using natural pigments to create artworks in Bhutan.
By Neten Dorji | Kuensel
Unlike in the past where Bhutanese painters used natural dyes to paint scrolls, the ones available today in the market are painted with imported colours.
Artists Penjor Dorji and Norbu Tshering, who graduated from the Zorig Chusum Institute in Trashiyangtse, which trains students in Bhutan’s thirteen traditional arts such as sculpture, wood-carving and weaving, are hoping to reverse this trend.
Source: Welcome 2 Bhutan
They are about to complete a research on natural pigments, in a bid to start reviving the culture of working with natural dyes.
Penjor Dorji said that with the guidance from his teacher and grandparents, he continued to research on the production and usage of natural dyes.
“About 90 percent of the research is completed and we have been researching on natural pigments for the last five years.”
Sources where natural colours were procured in Bhutan in the past
In the past, materials used in Bhutanese painting were natural pigmented soils, plants and trees, which are found throughout the country.
The names of different natural colours, the plants they are sourced from as well as their usage will be published in a book.
For example, dark brown is produced from walnut cover, yellow from marijuana, light green from mint, dark green from oak leaves and orange from madder.
“About 15 different colours have been documented,” he said.
The advantages of using natural colours for artworks
According to Penjor, natural colours can last around 3,000 to 4,000 years, if natural dyes are mixed efficiently with glue.
The two artists believe that the publication can contribute to the revival of Bhutan’s ancient culture. The book can also serve as a guide on the natural pigments used and their availability in the country.
A teacher from the institute of Zorig Chusum, Lopen Samten Dorji said that in the earlier days, painters used holy water and medicinal plants to make natural dyes.
“If we use that, it will benefit both painters and customers.”
He revealed that imported colours are expensive. “If Bhutanese go for natural pigments, it can benefit the country culturally and economically.”
In the previous trade show, Penjor Dorji said that a painted work of art using natural colours fetched between Nu 100,000 to 200,000.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.