‘I am the consequence of an inspiration; I now intend to be the source of an inspiration.’
True art always attempts to dig at the core of life and to unravel the deeper truths of life.
The Indian landscape has always been fertile ground for the fostering of creativity. With the rich diversity in its terrain and in its people, ours has been a land that has always nurtured the creative spirit. In a land that retained its contrasts, it is not surprising that the artist was never short of raw material for his art. Our artists thus dug into poverty, disease, conservatism, oppression, illiteracy, labour and the entire struggle that characterizes human life, and discovered the treasures that lay hidden in these stories of struggle. And thus, our art stood for the resilience of our souls…
Our rich souls.
That was the golden era of our art. The beautiful stories of our lives engraved onto paintings, sculptures, dance forms, literature, films and literally every medium of art.
Our works of art set standards not just for art or the artist, but for society. These works of art were all inspired by real life- by the deep philosophy of life. The artist gave it form, using his medium of expression, and as a result, they touched a deep chord in our minds.
Art not only inspired masses in terms of life, but also trained them to recognize true art. Art that possessed a soul. A soul that retained something of the essence of life- something that gleamed and glittered even when bared of its external enhancements.
A true artist is a sensitive observer of life. He is a thinker, and elements of real life pass through his emotional core, and are acted upon by his cognition, to be expressed in his medium of art.
He attempts to reach out to the emotional intellect of the masses, triggering their thought processes effectively.
True art thus lingers- in our hearts, in our minds, and inspires endlessly.
Somewhere along the line, as struggle and deprivation faded away from the common man’s life, society took on more superficial values, devoid of inner meaning. Life, on an average, turned superficial and dwelled upon idle entertainment and the pleasure principle. These superficial values were extrapolated onto art, and ironically, they turned out to be a huge success. The masses, particularly the common man and the inexperienced youth, welcomed such a transformation with tremendous zeal.
Since ‘market’ was the final word, authentic art was effortlessly replaced by superficial, meaningless art that offered idle entertainment and no fodder for thought.
Also, art is often confused with skill. Art must pass through the emotional core of the human mind. Only then can it possess a soul.
When a painter paints a sunset, and reproduces the picture in perfection, it is skill. It is imitation. It is only when the sunset has spoken to him, and he captures in his art this spoken emotion that his work qualifies for art. Such a picture speaks to you.
Skill can imitate, and it can bring in perfectionism. Art is raw and does not demand perfectionism. Art has to do with creativity.
One often wonders:
‘Should art set standards for real life, or vice-versa?’
In any case, such meaningless art seems to have set the standards for society, which as a result, has stooped to levels beyond hope and rescue.
I despair at the films and music of modern times. In the past, we lived the experience of a film. Today, it ceases to be an experience.
And to make it worse, we have all those reality shows on television- the masses watching themselves perform on the screen. They are the performers, they are the viewers. And they bypass the mind of the artist. The true artist has been pushed to an inconspicuous corner, and he withers away.
Reality shows are certainly identifying young ‘talents’. These young talents will be tomorrow’s voice, tomorrow’s skill. I am not sure if they will be tomorrow’s art, but they will definitely set the standards for tomorrow’s art.
And art might just step a pedestal down, and we may not even realize it.
Some people talk about the generation factor in defence. They feel it is the generation gap. The inability to accept change and the clichéd statement of having seen better times in our days. Yes, I feel I had seen more meaningful days when I was younger. My parents say the same about their younger days. Perhaps every generation says that. And maybe they are right! We haven’t lived their lives, and therefore, do not know.
I remember my friend Ravi who enlightened me on the value of traditional art forms. To quote him-
Traditional art forms necessarily require a lengthy period of apprenticeship. This deeper level of commitment enables, sometimes ensures, the artist brings more if not all of the self to the art form.
He also added a note on the influence of technology on art:
Maybe the ease of duplication and imitation has even altered what creation is all about! One needs to wade through the sludge of technicians to locate the artist. The technical ease of production itself becomes a veil that few care to get behind. Technology itself props up barriers that come in the way of a deeper engagement.
This is the story of the deterioration of art. Can we revive true art? Where do we begin?