Sarah Richardson is a historian of the arts and religions of South Asia with a specialization in Buddhist visual and material practice, especially Himalayan painting. Sarah holds a PhD from the University of Toronto (2016), and is currently teaching courses as a Lecturer in the History of Religions for the Department of Historical Studies for the University of Toronto Mississauga.
Sarah’s forthcoming book, titled Temple, Image, Text: Word Made Visual in Tibetan Religious Architecture, is a substantial reworking of her dissertation study, which was the first in-depth study to investigate a rich program of inscribed murals at an important fourteenth-century Tibetan monastery called Shalu. The book reveals how mural paintings function in the production and social construction of knowledge and how, unlike earlier murals, those dated to the fourteenth century manifested and opened the otherwise closed, often inaccessible world of the sacred book, combining words and images to represent new ideological and epistemological structures developed in tandem with those produced for the earliest Tibetan Buddhist canons. Mural paintings, Sarah argues, were (and are) useful in larger cultural projects of Tibetan Buddhist knowledge production. Outside the field of Tibetan studies, this work exposes the potential of images for communicating and negotiating new forms of knowledge.
Sarah also extends her scholarly practice to the museum, and has researched for years the largely unpublished Tibetan painting collection at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). Sarah hopes to curate the first exhibition of this material in the ROM’s 100-year history, as well as author and edit the accompanying catalogue. This exhibit, tentatively-titled Visions of a Perfect Mind (date TBD), will focus on how Buddhist religious art constructs and represents vision, and how acts of seeing are prescribed in and by Buddhist art and religious texts. Refocusing on objects not merely as expressions of prior belief structures, this exhibit and accompanying catalogue interrogate the capacity of objects themselves to direct and demand types of vision. In this view, religious paintings do more than describe enlightenment symbolically, instead, having the capacity to socialize subjects to see in prescribed ways.