tara references

'steps taken'
Julie Swan 2013
terracotta / iron oxide / copper /gold patina
h.87cm x w.53cm x d.30cm SOLD


The goddess Tara is a female Buddha and meditational deity. She is often said to be the most popular goddess in the Buddhist pantheon. She is considered to be the goddess of universal compassion who represents virtuous and enlightened activity


  'where mind and heart meet in wisdom' 


The word Tara is derived from the root 'tri' (to cross') and this implies 'one who enables living beings to cross the ocean of existence and suffering'. It is said that Tara first appeared in the tear of Avalokiteshvara, also known as Chenzereng. The Dali Lama is said to be connected to this line of teachers. Many would say that Tara represents the original feminist. When she was advised to pray to be reborn as a male so that she could spread Buddhist teachings, she responded by saying;
'Here there is no man, no self, no person and no consciousness.
Labelling 'male' or 'female' has no essence, but deceives the evil minded world.
There are many who desire enlightenment in a man's body, but none who work for the benefit of all beings in the body of a woman.


Therefore until Samsara is empty; I shall work for the benefit of all beings in a woman's body' 

'earth hommage'

Julie Swan 2011

terracotta / copper / iron oxide

h.64cm x w.80cm  SOLD


This Tara takes reference from the 'Thousand arm' Tara of the Buddhist pantheon. Her arms appear to loop in a half circle and move from the earth to above her head.  A metaphor for 'the middle path'. I wanted to suggest a building up and then receding energy. An energy that, like a clock, moves in a continuous circle.  There is no beginning and no end, but like a wave, is drawn to the shore and then disperses into another form, only to be raised again and fall again to the sea.  Each hand symbolises a movement in time and represents a soul's development.


The first hand in this contemporary Tara expresses breathing in, a welcome, a gathering in and absorbing energy. An energy much like an embrace. The second hand suggests relinquishing, letting go and offering. The third hand purpose, intention and movement. The fourth epiphany The clock strikes twelve. The zenith has been reached and there is illumination.The fifth and final hand is farewell, an enfolding and returning to the earth. A clear reminder that the earth is our foundation. 

'is this it'

Julie Swan 2011

terracotta / copper / iron oxide

h.65cm x w.48cm  SOLD


Although she is seated in a traditional pose, this figure's energy is heightened and is not serene. She leans over to one side.Her apparel suggests decorative excess, perhaps more suited to the club scene and definitely indicative of our current need for 'stuff'. In a traditional figurine she may have some connection to the earth, but in this work she is raised above and separated from the earth and would need to balance very carefully. One hand is still held at her heart while the other is holding a conch shell. She is listening out for others .... perhaps to a mobile phone. Her hair is held up in extreme coils. These vertical lines echo those of her hands. They are inspirational in direction. She also wears a mask that has been lifted off her face. She is seeing without pretence. I have finished her in iron oxide at the base for earth and stability. Copper and gold patination has been introduced across her head and shoulders. This glazing suggests a 'moon-like' luminosity and reminds us of her light and femininity. I wanted to create a beautiful energy with this work.

'I am here'

Julie Swan 2010

terracotta / iron oxide / gold / silver patina

h.68cm x w.45cm  SOLD


This figure is based on the ancient Buddhist icon of White Tara. She is often said to be the most popular 'goddess' in the Buddhist pantheon.  She represents universal compassion and virtuous, enlightened activity. Her name indicates purity and truth.  She is also connected to longevity and her devotees believe that she assists them to overcome obstacles.She is the Buddhist representation of 'where mind and heart meet in wisdom' White Tara is also connected to the moon. In Tantric Buddhism the moon is associated with wisdom. She sees all and hears all. She is seated in a traditional pose. The right hand rests across her knee demonstrating the mudra of supreme generosity. Her left hand is placed near her heart and she holds a blue uptala flower. It blooms at night, hence the connection to the moon.  This in turn suggests the symbolic flowering of the human spirit in enlightenment. She has seven eyes. The three on her face represent spiritual and psychological connection. The two eyes on her palms refer to activity and the two eyes on the soles of her feet refer to progress. I have finished her in iron oxide at the base for stability. Silver and gold patination has then been introduced across her head and shoulders suggests a 'moon like' luminosity.

'still here'

Julie Swan 2009
terracotta / iron oxide
h.65cm x w.40cm  SOLD


This work has been created to re-interpret the ancient iconographic image of a Tara. The figure represents modern woman. I wanted to show her spinning and appearing to lose control, unable to be that 'still centre' of wisdom and compassion. The figure spins from a base form. This suggests the snake-like energy of compulsion, competition materialism and victimisation. Not the snake of old called Naga, who was said to protect Buddha. The figure spirals in a whirlwind of contemporary decorations that appear to rise up towards the head and here I wanted to suggest release. One arm is still touching earth while the other holds the symbols of enlightenment. The flowering of blooms and the enraptured expression suggest to me that the female has still an ability to forgo ego and to put others first. She has just donned the 'red dancing shoes' and finds it difficult to stop. She is however, 'still here', albeit in a different guise.

A mudrah is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism.
While some mudras involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers.