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  • Writer's pictureAnshuman Arya

Aesthetics and Artistry: Comparing a 19th Century Thangka Painting to a 21st Century Video Game

by Anshuman Arya 15993



25 March 2013

Associating Indo Tibetan Thangka Artwork with the videogame Journey, as examples of resonant ideologies used to perpetrate a unique, meditative understanding of existence.


How echoes of balance and emotional resonance within our existence, and paradigms of ascension, can be heard across various cultures and through multiple platforms, typified by a Thangka Artwork depicting the “Wheel of existence”, and the videogame experience of Journey.



A crushing urge to find resonance, in cultures across the globe, in cross connected human thoughts and ideas, that drive towards discovering a unified theory of everything, so to speak, has been one ever expanding interdisciplinary human endeavour, which is nebulous and profoundly confusing in nature, as we must accept that there are so many variables in laws governing our beings, yet undefined.

It is evident, though, how human creativity and productivity has helped shape various cultures with their distinctive yet parallel perceptions of the universe and interpretations of life. It Seems important to read into all of what various cultures have to offer in terms of knowledge that was known to help attain a higher state of mind, as there lie several clues into our being within ourselves.

Art may be interwoven with many forms of beliefs, ranging from highly descriptive religious or spiritual to vague representations of life or personal experience, all of them with their own message or story, often open to interpretation, and thus helping form deeper connections with the piece.

Symbolism in art, not the late nineteenth century Art movement perse, but the essence of symbolism as “action in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams.” has been a part of many religious rituals and practices for ages.

Great minds influencing the symbolist era, like Schopenhauer and Nicolas Roerich, were themselves highly influenced by ancient eastern philosophies and were pioneers in bringing them to the west. In his own work, Schopenhauer maintained,

"Truth was recognized by the sages of India"


“Schopenhauer believed that what distinguished aesthetic experiences from other experiences is that contemplation of the object of aesthetic appreciation temporarily allowed his subjects a respite from the strife of desire, and allowed the subject to enter a realm of purely mental enjoyment, the world purely as representation or mental image. The more a person's mind is concerned with the world's representation, the less it feels the suffering of the world as will.”

(Balakian, 1967)

"Schopenhauer…regards art as the only means of temporarily escaping the fundamentally futile nature of reality. Arts Essential Role is…to enable us to escape what we already intuitively know about the irredeemable nature of what we are."

(Bowie, 2003)

Nicholas Roerich, a great artist, social activist and advocator of world peace, was a keen believer in symbols especially the one that represented holy trinity in and across various cultures all over the world.

It can be interpreted as the holy trinity of past, present and future bound by the ring of eternity or as religion, art and knowledge in the ring of culture.

He believed that some variation of this symbol had existed for millennia throughout various cultures, especially Buddhist Cultures, and in Notes on the Roerich Pact and Banner of Peace, he stated,

“The Symbol Was Not A Mere Decorating Ornament all over, it bore a very special meaning. Collecting all its images together, we might prove that it is the most extensively spread and ancient one among all the symbols of mankind. No one can claim that it belongs but to one religion or is based on only one folklore. It would be very beneficial to glance at the evolution of human consciousness in its variegated forms.”

Deriving from these ideas of spiritual transformation, aesthetic experiences and symbolism, this essay will look to analyse the following pieces of work, as two, contrasting in agency yet similar in capacity, channels of knowledge and empowerment.


Indo Tibetan Thangka art, more specifically one depicting the “Wheel of Existence” from circa 1800s scrolls, depicting highly detailed and intricate artwork and scriptures. The content of Thankas can range from stories with morals, to depicting lives of deities, and other teachings of the Buddha.

The Purpose of Thankas is mostly meditative guidance and they are used as an “object of aesthetic appreciation” during rituals, as Schopenhauer stated.


Journey, a video game released in 2012 on the PlayStation Network, garnered much appreciation and acclaim for its simplistic yet emotionally charged gameplay.

Unlike most videogames on the mainstream market, this one was really different from rest in what seemed an enchantingly absorbing gameplay environment surrounded by a deeply complex concept folded into merely 3 hours of immersive gameplay top to bottom.

The gameplay experience as described by many players, comes close to a deeper understanding of self, due to the games innovative design and as (Sheffield, 2013) puts it

“Journey is one of those rare games that targets an emotional experience and actually hits it.”


Journey | Exploring the Medium & Mechanics 

Thangka: Discovering Synergy in Everything

Coming Full Circle


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