Expressing the Inexpressible:
Symbols and Imagery in Himalayan Art

Himalayan art is rich in symbolism and imagery. The higher truths and hidden mysteries of Vajrayana wisdom were considered too subtle and rarefied to be understood by common language. Symbols and images became the language of tantra, the medium through which esoteric teachings were shared and communicated. As one contemporary Buddhist master explains, ‘Symbols are a last attempt to explain that which is inexpressible’.

In this collection, we offer a glimpse into the mystical world of tantric art and show something of its astounding depth and range — from sacred syllables that seem to pulsate with power, to dreamlike meditational deities whose allure and beauty so entrances us.

Nearly all the artists featured in this catalogue are life-long practitioners of Vajrayana Buddhism. Their superbly crafted works illustrate beautifully the depth and mystery of this fathomless pool of wisdom. We warmly invite you to immerse yourself in their grace.


Philip Philippou was born in London, graduating from the London School of Economics in geography. After leaving university, he developed a deep, abiding interest in Buddhist philosophy and Himalayan culture, leading him to volunteer for a prominent non-profit Buddhist organization where he played an important role in helping bring Vajrayana wisdom to the West.

During this time, he made frequent visits to northern India, Nepal and Bhutan, immersing himself in the peoples and spiritual culture of these remote lands. It was here that his passion and appreciation for Himalayan art, and the sacred roots upon which it is based, deepened and developed to a new level. In 2006, he helped create one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist temples in the West, built according to the authentic traditions of sacred architecture and craftsmanship of the Himalayas.

His studies, travels, and personal encounters have brought him into contact with truly remarkable Buddhist practitioners and master artists whose works he now helps to bring to a wider public audience. As curator of this special collection, Philip Philippou has brought together outstanding works from a select group of artists whose abundant talents capture the full depth and mystique of Himalayan art.