Artists: Notes on Art Making

"It is not the world that matters but how you are attached to it." This is the real core of our investigation through Tantra the possibilities of new approaches to give concrete meaning to the abstract expression in the contemporary art movement in the country in particular and to find out to what extent we can contribute to the world art movement in general.

Tantra literature is full of symbols which can direct the sound mind to fathom the very depths of ultimate aesthetic realisation in any creative expression and the forms of which are basic in cosmic organization.

The age old symbols may not be intelligible to the contemporary mind but their power to drive forward is beyond question. The question, therefore, is to know and experience, the power inherent in the symbols which can give birth to many more this kind to the new thinker. I for one have, after full consideration of the problems involved in this approach, been busy experimenting in terms of painting and my search into this branch is specifically related to sound and colour. In Tantric literature and practice we find that great importance is attached to the basic sound and also find the sound described in 52 variations and other combinations and the same is attached to different geometrical diagrams for invoking specific aspects of energy.

These basic sounds, like Klim, Shrim and Rhim, symbolize creation, existence and dissolution respectively, and the ultimate sound OM not only symbolizes the cosmos but it is the cosmos itself. This thought has led an adept to give sharp distinction to sound which ultimately becomes silent (Anahat). It transforms every tissue, organic or otherwise, 'to identify with the cosmos through many forms of Yantra, the vehicle of mantra, the pure geometry. This energy creates the light by which everything is lit and thus the realization of colour through this light. This light within will unfold colours unknown to the mere physical instrument of seeing. It is a colour of seeing and knowing at the same time. This resulted in the creation of a dozen paintings by me and some other important painters, like Swaminathan, Barve, Santosh, Paniker and Biren De have created an impact over the younger painters who are seriously involved in this kind of realization of a new image in painting which to my mind is very significant.

Some painters just try to popularise images of yantra without the specific relationship of mantra and other symbols which enumerated in tantric literature. This leads to a superficial aspect and thus remains on the surface of the subject but proper discipline within oneself and realisation of the relationship with the order should certainly bring out the right tune and tone in this respect. Swaminathan is nearer to this relationship in his painting and his symbols do run through the colour where he sounds supra-conscious notes.

Barve's paintings are more symbolic but the effect it produces is in the nature of 'pop' art. His colour is more of matter than spirit but the image he produces is something unique in its search. So also other painters, like Paniker and Biren De. In Paniker's work we find what seems to merely scriptographs appearing like a manuscript page enlarged to the size of the canvas, while Biren De is more dynamic and his new imagery transforms colours of a very unique order.

When I say this, it does not mean that this aspect requires altogether different discipline but it is to identify with the inner discipline which already exists as our breathing and other functions of our body. Outer indisciplines which we have carried with us all these years have to be seriously eradicated in such a scheme.

Ajit Mookerjee in his book of Tantra art rightly says. 'Art is not a profession but, a path towards truth and self realisation to both the maker and the spectator.' And for such realization how true and necessary it is to be serious in experimentation.

For my requirement I have put the problem like this: Form, colour, space, and texture are the basic elements for an Artist. And all these create a kind of sound appealing both to the eye and the mind. The sound is not possible without the space and space is not possible without form and form is not possible without colour and texture. The necessary strength of the mind which can go through the reverse process would certainly experience voices of silence, the very core of the cultural richness of any time.

This manifests in tantra as the point, line, triangle, square, circle and many other variations of geometrical forms which form the yantra and which constitute the shapes and what they mean not only to the artists but others well. Those who are well aware of yogic realization through practice and its relation to tantra sects prevailing in India will easily understand and grasp the spirit of this subject of experimentation.

In order to understand the symbols handed over to us by the seers, let me give you a few of the examples and how they are interpreted for the sake of an adept. They are enumerated in several tantric texts like "Tantra Sar" "Saundarya Lahari" and "Hindu Polytheism" by Alain Danielow and many others. Detailed account in Alain's book is very useful. This information is capable of projecting the image for the seeker. To quote Job "I have heard thee by the hearing of the ear but now mine eyes seeth thee," which is true of everything we do and crave for.

As I have already said the geometric symbols are interpreted as follows:

The Straight Line

When a point moves independently of any external attraction its movement is a straight line. The straight line is taken to represent unhindered movement, that is the principle of all development.

The Triangle

Development assimilated to a rising or a movement in an upward direction can be represented by a vertical arrow head or a tongue of fire, the triangle with its apex upward is also taken to represent fire identified with the male principle, symbol of Siva or the cosmic purusha. All upward movement is characteristic of the fiery element of which mental activity is the subtle form. The triangle pointing downward represents force of inertia which pulls downwards and tends to suppress activity the passive aspect of creation. It symbolizes the female principle.

The Circle

It is the symbol of all returns, all the cycles, the rhythms, that makes existence possible. The coiled energy which it represents when awakened allows all beings to cross the sphere of manifest forms and reach the stage of liberation. All these and many other geometrical shapes in tantra deserve aesthetic reassessment which may revitalize the aesthetic judgment and it is on this basis that I have directed my energies to realize the basic perception and many others who I hope, follow the quest will certainly enrich the contemporary art image of ours and see more throughlimitations and thus realize that "the meek shall inherit the earth"

Published in Lalit Kala Contemporary, 1971
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