Artists: Notes on Art Making

We live in a chaotic world ridden with brutality and expression and separated from reality. The endless divisions between man and man, the narrow political frames of races and religions reflect man’s inner self full of conflict and disorder. Caught in utter confusion both in himself and in his exterior, he has yet to realize and live the qualitative nature of his existence and his exterior, he has yet to realize and live the qualitative nature of his existence and his inner potential remains uncared for.

The pressing commercial and political environments with their motto “survival of the fittest” are denuding man of his humanity; forgetting man’s genius, we are being moulded into petty little creatures, preoccupied with our own narrow and selfish problems. With his inner self frozen as it is, man is unable to face the outside world. To do this he needs a pliable and open mind. Thus we face a world of neuroses. It is time to wake up from this dormant state and bring about the order that is so necessary, where man can live his natural existence and give full expression to his innate genius.

Looking outwards, we come face to face with the vast unknown universe of which man is but a fragment. His interior remains just as unknown to him and is still to be explored and experienced. In order to penetrate the exterior an inward journey becomes important.

The human organism has a system of senses. There are our external senses which, because of their conditioned nature, give us a distorted picture of the world. Then there are the neuro-psychological senses which constantly interfere and often overpower our sense perception, choosing and filling away these prejudiced impressions as memory and knowledge. The habits and ideals, which result from these sensations, are based on deep fear and insecurity. Thus an ego is formed that sets itself to seek more and more in its search for security. In his anxiety not to diminish and desiring more, man becomes violent and often ruthless in his actions. At this level man lives torn between opposites and moves on the surface of things.

Beyond our outer senses and psychological disturbances lie our inner senses (such as awareness, love, understanding, wonder, observation, intuition, etc.) pervaded by our innate intelligence which is like the brilliance of the sun. With the use of insight the unknown unfolds itself; and in exercising these senses man, using his inherent potential, begins to function qualitatively.

In complete relationship, which is a state of love, there is no time to think about freedom. If one wants to be free one cannot be involved. On a psychological level, seeking after freedom results in isolation; thus the conflict and exploitation which results in human society. Present day commercial and political circles exploit this world.

The Process of Discovery and Invention

When one is deeply involved with an experience one enters into the process of discovering or inventing; one discovers in the act of exploring and one invents while expressing. But the process should not be confused with the end, that is, the experience itself. This becomes clear when Cartier-Bresson, the great photographer, says that in taking a photograph it is the importance of capturing the moment and not the process involved that interests him most. We see that the commercial world, in its blind pursuit after profit, has distorted this talent in man for its own end.

Commercial technology has also penetrated the activities of the artist. Emphasizing invention in his work, the artist is preoccupied with the mere manipulation of techniques. So art today suffers from lack of profundity, philosophy and poetry.

The Nature of the Senses

The peculiar character of our physical senses are such that we can only calculate in simple geometrical and mathematical terms and on a mental level by the use of logic and reason. This becomes clear when we examine the works that man has realized on this planet.

We try to comprehend exterior reality by projecting our limited senses and by simple manipulations we arrive at the total image. In a flower we recognize the simple radiating movements of the petals, its pleasing colours and shapes. In trying to reach the flower we have merely projected onto it the inherent character of our organism. The flower in itself is neither beautiful nor ugly -- but is. It is yet to be explored and experienced. And if we merely try applying our limited mind, the exterior suggestion becomes vulnerable to distortion, as our habit-infested mind persuades our senses into choosing things from it that give us pleasure.

But with an enquiring mind, guided by intelligence, we can go beyond the crystallized nature of our limited senses, and can penetrate the exterior. We go beyond the aesthetic limitations, which our senses seek for, and experience profound joy from the truth that is revealed.

The Structural Elements of our Actions

If we fully understand the character of our senses and how, while experiencing, the exterior reality is distorted by them, we become aware of the part they play in our expressions.

A picture, which is an expression, is made up lines, colours, forms, light and shade and texture, besides the material medium. These, let us call them structural elements, constitute the basic nature of our perception as well as our expression.

The basic lines or movements are straight, wavy and spiral. The colours are red, yellow and blue. The elementary forms are square, circle and triangle (and in their solid state a cube, sphere and cone). White, grey and black form the light and shade, and so we can reduce the various textures into their components. We make a picture through the use of the media mentioned above, the way we use bricks in order to create a structure; and in our perception we build an image of the exterior reality by projecting these elements. Take the example of a red flower; the degree of distortion is what we have to watch. Actually the rays that were rejected by the flower reach our eyes. The resulting sensation of red is cooked in the eye; the red colour is not of the flower. Thus the distortion of the outside suggestions. At the psychological level we are much more prejudiced, being preoccupied with the sense of fear and insecurity; in trying to choose we become insensitive to the thing itself.

The Nature of Our Inner Senses

Some feel that art forms are sensuous and as such they cannot be used for expressing profound experiences. But Paul Klee, through contemplation, gave these elements more life and meaning. The Impressionists tried stopping the incoming impressions on the retina, thinking that those images were the real. The Cubists and other developed their own theories about the exterior world of forms, not realizing they were preoccupied with mere surfaces. The Surrealists obsessed with their subconscious, believed they were reaching the very depths of theunknownreality.The Expressionist artists were busy with their nervous outbursts, as they were afraid that man would come to a full stop beyond his precious desires and ambitions and so on. All this demonstrates the extent of man’s limited preoccupation with himself and his pleasures. Only with the use of our inner senses, and their pliability, quickness and high degree of sensibility can we not only penetrate and experience the vast unknown, but also turn the basic elements of our senses into a dynamic and plausible medium -- like the seed which, with its innate force, dissolves the surrounding material that it absorbs, into a plausible and active substance that explodes into a proper tree.

One only has to sense the power of the structural elements, the amount of energy hidden in them. A line, which is in itself unrelated, looks static and dead. When it is felt as a point in movement leaving a trace, the line becomes dynamic and activated. Through its stresses and strains a line moves straight, in waves or in spiral.

A point is both energy and a visible form, very much like a packet of energy which is also in appearance, matter. The universe with all its radiating forms, shapes and colours, is woven with these energy packets. And so with these energy charged points we can fabricate our, pictures. That is how the forms and colours, etc., dynamic as they are, can enter into a relationship and create a total image full of life.

Thus we feel in our expression, the very pulse of the universal forces -- a feeling of being in tune with nature. A dancing Nataraja in full radiation or the Buddha in contemplation with both radiating and concentrating movements are good examples.

The dynamic nature and power of the mind is such that time and space melt, giving birth to new images. Let us take the example of a tree, that looks like a crystallized shape. Now start reducing the in our mind the life of the tree to fifty minutes. We feel the tree is in full movement. And if we try reducing and compressing the fifty years of time into a movement, that is from the stage of the seed to the final tree, we feel the whole thing as an explosion or radiation.

This kind of illusion is not an illusion for it is as living as the exterior reality. Inside universal time our conditioned time is static. The inherent neuropsychological process, precarious as it is, clings on to time and matter and seeks after continuity and permanence.

The Present

From moment to moment, and at every movement, we are faced with a new situation. At each turn of the head we perceive an entirely new context. If we want to participate and be alive to these continually changing contexts we have to be careful of the old or the past in our ourselves, which distorts our immediate experience. With a mind which is open to the present we enter into a state of experiencing; and only in those moments of experience we live. Our body might corrode and wither, but we remain young in spirit. In exercising our inherent faculties and the potential energy that arises from them, we come to experience the joy that man is.

Self-involved and buried in the past, man lives, moving from one surface of things to the other, in the midst of opposites, seeking his little pleasures. Driven by anxiety and with his energies exhausted, he looks for help, perhaps towards a saviour or an authority. His spirit withers and gets old while his body is still young.

The Neurosis of Present Societies

We face a world which is ridden with commercial technology where every activity of man is interfered with. Profit-based commerce sets its own pace. Caught up in this vicious circle man is denied his proper rhythm and harmony and he becomes neurotic and deprived.

The word “progress” which commerce boasts and the word “evolution” which the historian is fond of are meaningless to living man. “Civilization” and “Culture” are married to these words. They smell of the past or trace the old into the present and forecast the future. In this process the present, the now which is so vital in living, is ignored. Thus the quantitative aspect is recognized, and the qualitative, which is constant change, is denied. So man, loaded with his knowledge, memories and ideals and with the resulting pride in his nation, race, religion and what not, steadily becomes spiritually impoverished and immune to life. It is tragic to watch man living buried in his past and not knowing how to live in the present. As his interior is frozen, he is neurotic and full of hate.

When the proud westerner says he is evolved, or progressive, cultured or civilized, is he so? He lives in the most violent society the world has ever known, as endless wars have proved. He has lived in a world of contradictions and conflicts. He has lived in a world of contradictions and conflicts. He has compromised with a gigantic machine which is the commercial framework. He lives in it and feels proud of it, not knowing its dehumanizing effects and ignoring how under the pressure and noise of this machine man is being reduced into a petty little creature and ultimately may end by becoming a robot.

Caught up in this speed, even the artist is confused. His ambition, stirred, he turns his studio into a production unit, manipulating his medium and constantly inventing, the reward being recognition, ultimate fame and comfort. His work suffers from the lack of self-expression and depth. It lacks poetry and philosophy as there is no time to reflect or contemplate. For him his art a way of living but is made for the gallery.

Education Today

The student, who goes through an educational institution, is treated like a computer, fed with the memory and information, all of which becomes meaningless in day-to-day living. When he walks into the open he faces a world of confusion, full of conflict and turmoil and ends up in isolation. As a result hatred pervades his life.

An educational institution is a place where one spends the best part of one’s life. It should be a place where one has a chance to exercise and develop the qualitative nature of one’s life.

Published in Lalit Kala Contemporary, 1970
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