A politician who works with his times and has a certain vision is already on the rise; but necessarily he depends on his public to be relevant. Think of Hitler whose rise to power was phenomenal. Circumstances of his times made a pathway in the chaotic Weimar Republic where defeatism was as rampant as the reds scare of a Bolshevik take over. It is impossible to imagine the Austrian corporal could have got anywhere were it not for the general belief that the war was lost because of some conspiracy of International Jewry. Every German who subscribed to this canard made Hitler his man of the hour. From this to ‘the final solution’ by which some 6 million Jews perished by the state policy of Third Reich we see what compromise can do to the ruler and the ruled . Here we see prejudice of Germans was very much in evidence as ambition at its worst. Banality of evil the man on the street supplied to the street corner agitator like Hitler who had seen the war and suffered as a result, a platform to air his ideas. Once his command over the nation was complete the mass murder of Jews was simple progress from A to B. Such are the stuff of leaders of men that they make use of lies that are convenient truths for them in their rise to power.
An artist communicates but his relevance can only be banked on truth. Thus with every artist who has endured across centuries.
An artist worth his salt has no use for pleasing public opinion. Paul Gaugin had a family and a successful stock-brokering career but when the muse of art called him he left all to be painter. His contemporary Van Gogh in his brief and tragic life sold but one painting. But when we see a starry night do we not see through his eyes? This is the highest accolade an artist can merit for which his life is but a means to convey some inner truth. Life imitates art as Oscar Wilde quipped. Similarly we all have been acquainted with Turner on watching a sunset; or with the lush English landscape we acknowledge how much we owe Constable for the delectable realization that he is a kindred spirit after all. Death and ravages of time are past any man’s power but in a painting of Raphael or sunflower series of Van Gogh we affirm the artist’s commitment to be true to his inner vision. In a manner of speaking our ordinary lives transcend at least for an hour or two, to a sublime level.
Take the truth peddled by prophets. Has it ever made man any more enlightened any time any place that he set Truth its parameters? In teaching truth to masses, has its visible effects. Tolerance, love, compassion become in its votaries commonplace. How come the world is in turmoil and lives of men trivialized? Truth is not at fault but those who bow and scrape before Man with the Message and do much less than what was taught. These disciples merely threw wool over all and added their own and passed Truth for real! How much more can any one be misguided than a man is given power to issue ‘fatwa’ over but not register what is true for all to be benefited from it? This damns both the inflictor and inflicted at the same time. This is vanity of human mind. On the other hand an artist can empower his viewer with visions of bliss and make his view of things never the same. At what cost have artists their lives among fools and evil men bequeathed to us. Is art relevant? Of course it is without which, homo sapiens do not deserve the label sapiens .
Read Full Post »
Posted in art, essay, tagged art, Benny Thomas, essays on August 11, 2016 |
Leave a Comment »
As a social animal man communicates with others; being endowed with a larger brain mass and given to abstract thinking he has several means at his disposal to communicate with others. Art is one such.
A shop assistant who decorates the window in order to catch the eye of the passerby relies on some intrinsic urge from within so he succeeds in his objective is as much as an artist as a housewife who decorates the home in order to speak for the people that live within. In their art there is something as natural and self-conscious attempt to communicate with others. Their naturalness springs from the manner they set out to achieve rheir objectives; even so it is an indirect social statement of the technology and social status. What makes then an artist special?
An artist is an individual given to express pictorially and has command over the language as much as a lawyer has command over the laws of the land and can employ them to make a case for his client to purpose. Language is such words used carries meaning and these are at deeper level rooted in culture and social history of the particular milieu that a viewer can identify with. Words also change meaning since these are dependent on the end user. How artists in the medieval times treated sacred subjects are not same as how modern artists would see symbolic value in the objects themselves.
Peter Paul Rubens made a triptych in which the central piece is deposition of Christ from the cross. This painting was made (1612-14) for the Guild of Arquebusiers, who wanted their patron Saint Christopher (meaning: carrier of Christ) portrayed. If Rubens had complied with this wish, he would have had to explain himself to the authorities, because the strict Contra-Reformation’s principles did not allow portraits of saints to be hung in cathedrals. Instead, Rubens chose to hide all references to Christopher by portraying Christ as being carried in all three panels. (artbible.info)
Compare this with Salvador Dalí’s Corpus Hypercubus(1954). Influences of his times and his personal attitude to Catholicism can be found in it. His interest grew from the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II which left a lasting impression on him. In his 1951 essay “Mystical Manifesto”, he introduced an art theory he called “nuclear mysticism” that combined Dalí’s interests in Catholicism, mathematics, science, and Catalan culture in an effort to reestablish Classical values and techniques(wikipedia- Corpus Hypercubus). An artist can only do so much as a child of his times despite the many tantrums he may throw in order to draw attention to himself.
Merely a shock value does not give art its relevance other than making the thinking person come to terms that there are more than many ways of looking at things. Many paintings that shocked the public in their time have become accepted as part of our cultural heritage. This is no different than the infant who threw many a tantrum has quietly taken place in the society of men as dutiful father hardworking tax-paying burgher as ever to do his duty to his family and state.
(To be continued)
Read Full Post »
Posted in art, essay, tagged art, Benny Thomas, essay on August 10, 2016 |
Leave a Comment »
An individual is a creature of his times. One of the enduring myths of the last century, especially with emergence of Nazism, has been of the ideal ‘superman’ a “Caesar with Christ’s soul.” Such a person of heroic mould, least of all in Adolf Hitler was it realized, who was neither a Caesar nor the other. Übermensch the Nietzschean concept has remained only in print. Reason for it is simple and almost humdrum to be ludicrous. No man may have been idolized in our time as Chairman Mao. He wielded power with possible exception of Stalin and Hitler as no other political figure. When his great leap forward failed what did he do to deflect criticism from him but let loose the Culture Revolution 1n1966*. He needed the youth and not sane cousel in order to hold on to power. Much as he tried hardly had he left the scene came socialist market economy under Deng XioPing (1) . In oreder to be relevant the powers-that-be had to correct the course in comparison with emerging nations each vying for relevance. China could not remain stuck in time of Charman Mao and instead veer in a tangent. Such divergence exists in belief-systems as well. Prophet Mohammed founded a religion, a third way because of his direct observation as to the manner Christianity and Judaism had evolved. His own vision of Truth will evolve after his decease into sects each claiming exclusive rights to his legacy. From experience we know the legacy of Chairman Mao or Prophet Mohammed was as durable as ‘writ in water.’ Is Truth so misunderstood that such luminous heroes end up as caricatures? Nations are made up by people as beleivers to a belief-system are but men. Each individual adds something of his own to the common experience and no one has ever taken the reins of a body of men and has shown himself like ‘superman.’ Look what followers of Christ or Mohammed have done in the name of religion. They were pioneers and their example as pure as driven snow, and consider what Papal infallibility or salafism has done to it. Their institutions what with so many adding their bit have been made to look like well trodden path of slush or a slaughterhouse.
No individual like a fish can superimpose his own values outside the stream in which he has his being. An artist similarly can only understood as child of his circumstances. (to be continued)
Read Full Post »
Harlequin Ducks- in watercolor
Oh Lonesome Me! Polar bear watercolor wet on wet technique
Read Full Post »
Re.5:vs.4 ‘And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon. And one of the elders said unto me,: Weep not! Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David hath prevailed to open the book and loose the seven seals thereof.”
Read Full Post »
I am busy with an illustration from the book of Revelation (Chapter-5) The Lamb slain before the foundation and the book with seven seals. I love having a lot of grays at hand. I have the whole composition in my head; by tomorrow I hope to finish the work.
Read Full Post »