An Advice to Artists in their 20s, 30s and 40s too
Is there any shortcut to success in art scene? How does an artist make his/her life worth living in the bleakest of scenarios? Can today’s oppressions be tomorrow’s blessings? JohnyML answers these questions put to him by some young artists.
|(Self Portrait - Vincent Van Gogh)|
The other day, when I was talking to a young artist about her works and life in general, she informed me that for the last few months she had been going through a very bad time. She defined bad time as a time in which things did not happen the way she wanted. She felt that the walls around her were closing in on her preventing her from free movement. She said that she seemed to have lost her anchor in her life. Had she not been staying with her family, she told me, she could have even done the worst to herself. Each moment she lived felt like an eon full of suffering. Somehow she wanted to come out of it and find her anchor.
While listening to her only one question kept on repeating in my mind: can’t art be an anchor for an artist? If not, what could it be? Most of the artists of her age, who are in her late twenties, must be feeling the same about their lives in today’s world. The art that they do today does not satisfy them. The snobbish art scene in which they operate does not soothe them. The hypocrisy is too pungent to tolerate. When I think of it, anybody could fall into the trap of any magical door that opens in front of them. They are all vulnerable and anything that could help them get out of the situation would look very lucrative. I have seen young artist friends leaning towards spirituality for an anchor and slowly losing their art. Some of them become full time spiritual seekers and still do art. Then there is a problem. Spiritual practices are a kind of art in itself. An artist who does not fall into any sect but still pursues certain spiritual philosophy could do good art as his state of being as an artist does not come in direct conflict with his scholastic pursuit of spirituality. But when those artists who have donned the garb of spiritual sects do art, it could present itself as a conflict often failing the innate nuances of both. When full time spiritual people with a uniform do art, I have seen them going nowhere, neither to a sublime world nor to a world of living realities.
|(Jean Michael Basquiat)|
Spiritual path is one of the escape routes for a young artist. Complete repudiation of art itself, indulgence in worldly pleasures, indiscreet emulation of successful trends, committing suicide etc. also give them escape routes. But they will never become artists. When we read art history we come across those artists who had lived a life full of surprising events. For us, as we are separated by time, all those incidents would look surprising but for those who had lived them it need not necessarily be so. But they stuck to it, pursued their primary passion of creating art and just did not care about success in the material world. But the world conspired well enough to make them successful that is why histories have been written about/on them.
Hence my advice to my young friend was simply this: One should have a very deep life, full of experiences and surprises. Life should surprise the person him/herself. The pivotal question is what is experience? For all the human beings living milieu is the originator of all experiences. But it all depends how you imbibe this milieu in you. Common people are also full of experiences but none ask them to express it. If someone takes up a project to record the oral histories of all the people above thirty years in this world it would create an endless and exhausting but very fascinating history. The so called common people are immersed in worldly matters; property prices, holidays, wage earning, illness, marriages, births, deaths, ceremonies and so on. But artists, while going through similar experiences store them as data (almost automatically), analyze, judge and express them discreetly as and when through powerful mediums in the most authentic ways. That’s where the experiences differ. Experience when expressed becomes art. In one of the exhaustive Kabir Projects (an attempt to document the saint poet Kabir’s influence in the contemporary world), one could see an old fruit-seller singing Kabir’s dohas (couplets) in her rustic voice. She doubles up as a repository of Kabir’s poetry and a way side vendor of fruits. But in our eyes suddenly she is elevated as an artist.
From where does this fruit seller get her authentic voice? She is an illiterate. But she has grown up with her elders singing it. They got etched in her memory as she lived a life as good as the mendicant poet. It became her life experience. She did not separate Kabir’s philosophical perspective from her own life. For her it was a deep experience lived through ages. Depth and intensity with which one lives the life matters a lot. A shallow person wallowing around and fiddling with many things would only create shallow art. A person who lives a limited life but does it with all kinds of intensity could create wonderful art. That’s why when we chance upon folk and tribal artists their works look far better and intense than those done by the urban educated artists. It is not the education that matters. A degree can get you a job but experience can give you a life.
|(Ram Kinkar Baij)|
You may ask me, whether there is any parameter for checking the intensity of one’s life. I would say the more you feel your pain, the more you feel your happiness, the more intimately you involve in any of your activities your experiences become deeper and deeper. To achieve this there should not be a schism between yourself and the acts that you perform. As Tagore says, the dance and dancer should become one to make the prayer happen. While writing about the life of Ram Kinkar Baij, K.G.Subramanyan says that he was an artist who gave a chase to life and its excitements. One could imagine the kind of excitements that Santiniketan could provide in mid-20th century. There were no malls and multiplexes and there were no parties to attend or exhibitions to inaugurate. But the barren landscapes of Santiniketan excited him as if he were witnessing and living the life in a magic land.
We are living in a time where shallowness in everything is a norm and often camouflages as depth. Repudiate it and dive deeper into the innards of the ocean of experiences. Abstain from chasing others’ whims and fancies. The struggles at late 20s will look like vaults of experiences when you wade through the turbulent waters of another ten years. The scars on a warrior’s body tell the wars he had waged. Art is a scar, which could be proudly flaunted. Like Desdemona fell in love with Othello while listening to the hardships that he had to go through, your hardships in life would make others fall in love with your works. When others fall in love with your works you become a successful artist.
|(A painting by V S Gaitonde)|
The Conservation Crusade Show
|( An artwork made from waste)|
The art installations completely made with waste objects discarded by the urban lifestyle on a regular basis, like watches and mobile phones, earphones, etc. The installations speak volumes about how much the humankind consumes in the name of modernisation and discards at a rate the earth cannot biodegrade.
The exhibition will remain open till 20th of July 2013 from 2 pm to 7 pm. Offering a helping hand to this save-the-environment initiative is the Earth Day Work, whose consistent green activities are prominent across the country.
|(Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi)|
The event is to be held on the 17th of July 2013 at 5: 30pm.
The Evolution of an artist
|(A painting on display at the show)|
(News reports by Sushma Sabnis)