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|December 22, 1997||
The art of the matter!
Here's to an urbanised society getting quickly accustomed to fancy auctions, theme parties and computer paintings, all in the name of art.
And we say we are saturated with the commercialisation of art, aren't we? The question, however, remains: Wherefore art ART?
The artist and his ego go back further than Dorian Gray. But when Bikash Bhattacharya, a Calcutta-based artist, is able to sell an empty canvas, we wonder about what exactly he has sold -- his taken-for-granted talent, his past record or his name? Are we to become understanding about the fact that, for a man who saw the Naxalite movement close enough for it to leave gashes on his psyche, Bhattacharya was merely getting his rightful due from society?
Why is it that when a litterateur writes a populist 'My thoughts' kind of journalistic piece, no one raises much of an eyebrow, whereas an artist doing it results in such vehemence? There must be some sanctity.
In a strange irony, sticking to one's tradition, or individuality in the case of the urban artist, is what gives an impetus to identity and a kick to the ego. The artist wants to have his cake and eat it too.
All this would have been perfectly fine if there wasn't a pull on the other side. The need to disown. As Arpana Kaur, another well-known artist, admitted, "Once my painting is almost complete, the umbilical cord snaps of its own accord. The painting is free to go. And I am free to do some more."
This is the dichotomy, and it is not merely the marketplace that causes angst. Every now and then, the artist decides to have a talk with himself.
Of course, the self is not the root of all the problems. Sometimes art seeks to bank on a fad, much in the manner of the genteel folks working towards social consciousness.
I wonder if a revered creative person's statement remains valid when he said, "A day will come when many will try to escape from the death-trap being laid by our materialistic society. And it is the artist who will once again come to his rescue." Will he? When?
After he himself has been able to escape the trap, and refuses to toe the line that expects him to sell a blank canvas?
Illustration: Dominic Xavier
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