Saturday, 7 April 2018

Your Art Is Not My Art

A few years ago, I gifted an aunt of mine a painting. An abstract that I had created. She gave it back to me, saying she would never put up anything like that on her walls! Of course, she broke my heart...and set me thinking about that question that has dogged the creatively inclined for years: what exactly is art?

Why is it that something I consider art is not considered so by others? And vice versa?

What makes some people think Michelangelo was a wonderful artist? Not a tough question, you might say.


But what makes some others pay millions for a Jean-Michel Basquiat or a Jackson Pollock?  Very tough question!


Looking at this painting, or the countless others around the world today, one may well wonder "I could do this, too! What's the big deal? What makes this 'art'?"  To answer that question, I set out on a quest....using this library without limits, the Internet, as my compass, map, and territory...Along the way I discovered hundreds of new artists, one more brilliant than the other. Each an inspiration. 

From the "Granddaddy of Contemporary Art", Gerhard Richter, who creates everything, from abstracts to the realistic to photograph collages, who believes that "Art is not a substitute religion: it is a religion (in the true sense of the word: 'binding back', 'binding' to the unknowable, transcending reason, transcendent being)" , and who often honestly wonders why his paintings sell for so much....


To the mindbogglingly innovative Sumakshi Singh who constantly pushes and redefines the boundaries of art, refusing to stay confined to the frames of  paintings and insisting on challenging as well as enhancing viewer experiences of gallery spaces, even as she turns the craft of embroidery to art...


From the incredibly detailed, patiently hatched, large scale pencil drawings of  Laurie Lipton, who manages to grab and hold viewer attention in this age of overstimulation with her thought-provoking, numbness-defying, complacency-shaking imagery of overconsumption and over-use of technology, even as she intermittently brings to attention the usually ignored but always underlying presence of death in our lives, and who believes "Art is my purpose in life"...


To the cheerful, small scale, bright and colourful works of Carol Marine, who with her charming, light-filled paintings brings the mundane, the cups and tomatoes and shoes, to life, making them heroes of the moment with her eloquent titles, and who says "Art is the best way I know to express myself. I can say things with art that I have no words for"....


From the grey, brown and even muddy images of C. Douglas, who tries to depict the myriad dark, complex emotions of human beings and the existential crises of the 'Universal' man, working on and with crumpled paper, representing objects in an abstract way, and often seeking inspiration from poetry, agreeing with Nietzsche that "Art is the flight from boredom"... 

                                                  

 To the bright, happy, colourful splashes across Syed Thajudeen's canvases, with elegant, well curved 'Malay' figures with pouty lips, slender necks, and waists, celebrating love in all its shades, and the joy of life...


From the picture perfect water colour paintings of Ramesh Jawhar, who aims to capture the light across everyday urban or rural scenes,  from across India and abroad,  and feels "If you can express your own vision so that others can feel and understand what you are "saying", you have succeeded as an artist"...


To Brad Teare's creamy, thick paint applications across his luscious landscapes that instantly call to mind the works of Vincent van Gogh,  and who believes  that art is long and life is short, and "Creativity is the essential human activity, and I hope my paintings are reminders of that truth"...


From the lyrical, colourful, whimsical paintings of Nicolas Monjo, with his robust figures twisted and entangled, trapped within the frames of the canvas akin to people held captive by the dictates of society, like fish in a net, who believes "Art for me is a vision of the world and transcribing it into another reality that only appeals to emotions and sensitivity"...


To the multi-faceted Parvathi Nayar, whose graphite works on wood, large and small, take us into a whole new universe of abstractions never seen before, or if ever only through a microscope or telescope, who believes that "Our reality is a matter of habit and art can help change that reality"...


From the soulful paintings of Andrey Aranyshev with his loosely defined forms that are almost abstractions, amazing in their uniqeness, who believes art arises from a deep inner need, to express one's self, and though he doesn't believe in advising younger artists, as art is extremely personal, if he had to say anything it would be "Get to work!"...


To the impulsive, expressionistic works of Michael Hafftka, neither formless, nor complete abstractions, bringing to mind once more Basquiat, and reminding us to not "try to hard" to be artists or hold oneself hostage to the opinions of others, who aims to create emotional reality rather than just physical reality, and who feels any analysis of art "is not even necessary because...it all arises from internal impulse and feelings"...


If one is but so inclined, the Internet can open up a cosmos of imagery, thought-processes, artists. Hundreds and thousands of them. In fact, at first dizzying glance it may appear that 'art' can be defined in as many ways as there are artists, and you may soon find yourself exclaiming "Someone please get me out of this roller coaster!"...As I did at one point, completely overwhelmed, until I came across the book "Painting From The Source", by artist Aviva Gold, the last piece in the puzzle, as it were, and everything fell into place...

As Aviva says, "Everyone has a unique creative inner landscape of personal themes and images, a specific way of seeing and painting, of imagining and rendering as individual as one's fingerprint." 

And so my journey has brought me back to the beginning, to see art as play, as we all did as children. 

Every human being is an artist. True art is about connecting with the source, about being the channel, and letting creativity flow. Like children do it effortlessly. Painting and drawing from their souls, unmindful of the results, just happy to be. Art here is more about the process, an exercise in being, in connecting with something deeper within. Art is not just about a product to be bought or sold. To  be admired from afar. It is the deepest act of living, more truer than any religion. It is not about looking at the world and trying to imitate it, putting your attention outside of you, but about living more completely, authentically, joyously.

To conclude, we may all be driven by different demons, motivated by different goals and dreams, put to each one of us, art is all about expressing and communicating our own inner truth. 

And even as your art may not be mine, art it still is. Happy creating. 

(P.S. Do we really need another "book" on art when we have the limitless horizons of the Internet before us?)

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