The objective of the Conference is to unite artists in a congenial atmosphere and accommodate their convictions so long as they help the cause in which we are vitally interested. I think I ought to enlighten you at the outset that I have no intention to drag my address to various aspects of technical complications though I strongly feel that technique is the only means through which the artist must convey his emotions to the receptive agent. I have refrained from a comprehensive survey on this point purposely as I am afraid it might be prejudicial before the matter is freely discussed.
Joy is the ultimate end of a creative function. Art is one such function. It infuses life into joy for a longer period than just a fleeting moment. A thing of beauty made, radiates its virtues not only to one who claims to be the creator, but also to those who are endowed with receptive quality. This quality is the capacity to see the truth underlying the beautiful. It is the result of cultivation of sympathy and deeper understanding. It is born of constant contact with the thoughts of the artist and association with is creations as well. To contact the beautiful is an inborn tendency of the connoisseur. He loves to penetrate deeper than the surface on account of temperamental affinity with the artist and profound sympathy for his vocation.
The relationship is almost identical with that of magnet and steel. But the inherent attractive quality of the magnet, however powerful may be, ceases to function when faced with non-receptive agents. Similarly, an indifferent approach to the beautiful will have no better result than a fruitless endeavour, because art is not for all. I have stressed upon affinity and understanding of pictorial language with regard to assessment of values, because assessment of the true value of a pictorial pattern theme has often come to be confused and diverted from its goal by superficial appeal for the cultural drive manoeuvred by intruders in the field of art. The confusion is inevitable for the reason that the response of the subject-matter becomes so overwhelming that it forces the layman to submit to a total surrender to sentiment. Sentiment, thus fostered, develops into fatal consequences, particularly when initiated by unassimilated motives like religion, politics, nationalism and morals. Whereas subject is not a criterion in a pictorial pattern theme, it is only what is expressed, that is, the driving energy of the emotion that compels the artist to respond to his calling.
It is only a cause; as such, cause cannot be valued in place of effect. To be more precise on this point, a few concrete examples are necessary. Let us compare to portraits, one of a king the other of a beggar. The painter of royalty is a novice and that of the beggar a master artist. Now if the two pictures were compared and their qualities assessed on the intrinsic values of pictorial theme, the beggar’s portrait will be held in awe and exaltation and not the King’s, though the latter is more entitled to claim appreciation on the ground of the sitter’s position.
The logical conclusion behind this estimation is that, though the king is identified in a canvas on account of faithful resemblance, yet what is portrayed is deprived of the majestic characteristics a ruler is supposed to be possessed of. The result is not only due to inexperienced handling but also lack of insight and sanguine execution. In the case of the king, it is the outcome of groping in the dark and in the case of the beggar, a deliberate exposition charged with sincerity of study, a revelation of rich technical achievement and penetrating vision which found its way deeper than mere superficial resemblance.
Therefore to understand the beauty of a picture in keeping with its subject matter, contact with the concealed skill of the artist is indispensable- the skill is the language- the vehicle that conveys the spirit of the effect to the receptive. It is the life giving element which can make a dumb dead flat canvas live and speak, and in the other case resemblance of the living may turn out to be dead.
Here I may add that to make a picture vibrate with life, it requires a lifelong study and struggle endowed with confidence and sincerity. The result eventually provides a means to create a thing of beauty which is transformed into a source of joy not only to the one who creates it, but also to those capable of reciprocating sympathetically.
Coming to the standard of beauty, I should say its range is so widely spread that the magnitude cannot be surveyed with a pre conceived ideal or given formula. For instance, I may say a scene of horror is no less beautiful than the altar of a divine service in its particular sphere. Slums in their grim poverty and agony are no less a pictorial subject than the grand courtyard of a palace where beautiful damsels assemble, decorated with jewels and gems and dance in rhythm to please the master. The former is a picture of pathos and the latter is a scene of lust. Each has its appeal to the proper receptive agent.
The man of the slums under the grip of the poverty and hunger has no time to enjoy the forms of the dancing girls. He is in immediate need of food for sheer existence. Nor will the man drunk in lust extend pity to a suffering humanity, the reason being that pleasure and agony do not go together.
In the circumstances, value relative and to enjoy it is a matter of temperamental affinity. As such the merits or demerits of the subject in graphic or plastic arts have to be assessed in relation to how pattern theme in keeping with the subject has been revealed.
Now coming back to the objective of the conference, it will not be out of place to say that such conferences are considered ridiculous by some who hold that a creative artist must live a secluded life completely isolated from disturbing facts and controversial opinions. Contrary to this conviction, the mission of the artist is likely to be jeopardized.
In defence of this plea, isolation is urged to enable the artist to get into the right depth of meditation and ensure accessibility to the royal road to perfection. This is a grand retreat towards renunciation. The rub comes from the fact that the artist cannot get away from his commitments, being pledged to society and his nation. Renunciation is no good to a man who must live in this world with his ego, attachments and ambitions.
The modern artist is not privileged to isolate himself from disturbing facts as his predecessors could. Patronage in olden days was assumed by kings and religious institutions. Contrary to this, the modern artists is not only involved in economic problems but is also perplexed by successive invasions of foreign influence directed by current issues of fashion. They are ever-changing, ever fleeting in accelerated speed. If one is accommodated, the other strikes a new note and before the discord of the new is adjusted intune,it is found to be out of date. It has to succumb to its natural doom no less quickly than it made its advent. Hence the question of distinguishing the alive from the bed keeps the artist pre-occupied rather than permit him to pursue the path of his own choice.
He has no other option because he does not know where he will be landed if he failed to submit to fashion.
Engulfed in an environment as the artist is, one should not feel it strange if he did submit, maybe not necessarily in spontaneous response but as a result of coercion. The artist has therefore no business to shut his eyes to facts, nor can he afford it, since it will be courting physical starvation.
The problem has to be solved by selling the records of his emotions. But who is to buy? Who is prepared to share the joys and sorrows of his struggle? He gets lot in bewilderment in quest of a sympathetic patron.
In case his desperate efforts are rewarded with success, he soon realizes that he has exposed himself before a person whose queer sense of patronage merely serves to uphold a self-constituted dignity. Such patronage is pity in disguise, a means for the buyer to live on reflected glory.
Similarly, there are critics who, I am reluctant to say, are in most cases no less susceptible to fashion reinforced by a tendency to exploit the artist, whereas, the virtue of a true critic is a helpful guidance in a constructive spirit, to point out the pitfalls that impatiently lurk round the corner.
This should not be, for obvious reasons. I need not go into details. But one point I cannot help bringing to the notice of the public, and that is the deterioration that has come to stay as a result of the assertion of perversities in art. It is deliberately designed to frustrate progress. I admit it is an inevitable result of the tremendous unrest in the creative mind which must pave its own path for an easy stride, and to make things easy, it is but natural for him to abandon the complexities, indispensable in academical conventions.
The upheaval in the mind tends to unearth primitive methods. These methods might indeed be bold and executed in an effortless child-like manner, nevertheless the execution was not childish-the reason being that artists of the primitive age were not subjected to conditional approach to art. In the circumstances, it is but natural that their attempts were sincere and innocent of the complications of science that have developed today.
Whether the primitive man felt the painting was a cultural urge or a decoration for his cave walls to -enhance the beauty of his abode, or just a hobby or an aid to woo his lover or a fine recreation after the toil of hunt, is not our concern now. What we are interested in, is his art, which was harmoniously adjusted with his primitive skill, his cave abode and the wild environment he was obliged to live in.
What suited well a cave, surrounded by gorgeous landscapes and wild ferocious animals thousands of years ago cannot fit in with a city of the modern world, since the way of living, climatic effect and conditions of life today are completely different from what they were then.
It is absurd to imagine that we could revert to the mental equipment of primitive men, having all the benefits and shortcomings of civilization.
The cave-man’s sincerity might have been an asset to him considering his peculiar environment. But the same in our times will turn into a liability.
Let me now tell a sad tale-the tale of the fascination at large for a primitive cult. A full-grown adult having all the cunning and shrewdness that higher intelligence confers, trying to be innocent like a child, proves that something is wrong somewhere.
My contention has particular reference to those artists whose struggle for higher technical achievements is frustrated by obvious incapacity. One can understand the resentment against proceeding scientifically for self-expression. What amuses me is the incomplete and funny disguise of the artist who prefers to deny the joy of creation in pursuit of being proclaimed dangerously original-so dangerous as is capable to give the shock of life not only by its contact but also for rear of its virulent type of contagion.
Those who have not succumbed to the contagion of dangerous originality have gone back to tradition which provides for peaceful existence. There is no taxation of brains in the pursuit of art, nor has the artist to bother about original patterns. He is perfectly happy to indulge in repetition just as a trained parrot does.
Tradition has a value of its own. It is a history of the past. But confining oneself to lost glory and exhuming the dead from the burial ground is a job that can lead the artist only to the glory of stagnation, where he must repeat and rot.
Repetition overdone often brings distaste even for dainty delicacies. But this is not accepted as truth because the cry of sentiment voiced emphatically by the mass overrules sense. Though I may say that the mass as a rule have no taste of their own, they have acquired one created for them by the thinker.
I think I have said enough by way of prologue to the Conference and the rest as to where we differ or concur may be left for discussion.