Artists: Notes on Art Making

Those who have read the introductory poem in Chhada will have some idea as to how stray thoughts come floating into the mind, all disconnected, and how an idea would link them together and how the whole things would then assume the chhada form- stray thoughts lightly strung together and lightly expressed in rhyme. In the process of transition the linking stage is the most important. Without the connecting link the verses would become at best what is called nonsense rhymes. To my mind, Gurudev's art, efforts have followed the very same process of birth and transition.

If you expect to find a purpose behind an art form or even a meaning-using the world in its conventional sense-you will be disappointed. Taj Mahal does not suggest any meaning. It stands as a thing of beauty. It would merely be a stone structure, if the genius of the artist was not behind it-in its conception as well as in its execution. This may profitably be remembered when studying Gurudev's paintings.

How did Gurudev come to compose pictures? In his early youth he had made some attempts and the pictures which he then produced are, I believe, still preserved somewhere. But his serious attempt began when he was seventy or so and it began in this way. As we all know, Gurudev was in the habit of scoring through rejected or substituted portions of his poems with lines thickly shaded with ink. He found that under his treatment the inked portions, joined together or standing separately, often developed a rhythm of their own and that with a few touches here and there they could be transformed into something concrete, say a flower or a bird or an animal, etc. His extremely refined mind would not be content with less. It abhorred all clumsiness- even in the matter of scoring out unwanted lines. Thus was born the idea of creating forms and it was allowed to develop till it realized itself in regular painting.

Rhythm is not confined to poetry only. Art has its own rhythm too. Without rhythm an artistic production is meaningless. The suggestion of beauty contained in a picture is nothing but the resultant effect of a synthesis of diverse rhythms. Rhythms vary, and the synthesis is worked out by the artist on the success or failure of which he is judged. The budding flower is connected with a particular rhythm, the crushed petal with another. These may be blended into a composition to produce a particular effect or used separately as occasion demands.

Rhythm, however, to express itself, must possess a vitality of its own. It is the essential vital element, the life principle, the prana sakti. In whatever Gurudev has painted, rhythm has found expression in an intensely vitalized form- so much so indeed that even the works of the most famous painters of the age look pale and lifeless by their side. If his pictures contained nothing else, their sheer vital force would have been brought them into prominence.

Another significant fact about Gurudev’s pictures is that they always deal with life in its process of unfoldment, suggesting energy. The depressing mood is absent in his form and colour compositions. This emphasis on what may be called “aliveness” is a natural characteristic of Gurudev’s paintings and this is his special contribution to Indian Art. Our modern artists may very well profit by it.

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