What is Art ? It is the mirror to life.
Primitive art thus has certain characteristics that mirror the culture of the artist. In May or June 1907, Picasso experienced a “revelation” while viewing African art at the ethnographic museum at Palais du Trocadéro. Picasso’s discovery of African art influenced the style of his painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (begun in May 1907 and reworked in July of that year.) In the early 20th century African artifacts were being brought back to Paris museums in consequence of the expansion of the French empire into Africa. The press was abuzz with exaggerated stories of cannibalism and exotic tales about the African kingdom of Dahomey. It was in this climate of African interest that Picasso would look towards African artifacts as inspiration for some of his work and it makes no difference that he was an outsider reinventing artistic impulses of his life and the times into art. It is recognizable and and the life of a nameless primitive artist is interpreted according to canons of art. Whereas in the hands of Joseph Conrad the African interest would focus altogether on the mistreatment of Africans in the Belgian Congo. Heart of Darkness is a literary work of exceptional quality that can transcend the narrow boundaries of time and place to be equally at home in another time and place. Francis Coppola set it in Vietnam with equal success and called it Apocalypse now.
Art as the mirror of life. This is what Art can achieve. It gives life thousand faces and the mirror is telling the truth each time. Only that the beholder need to remember the emphasis is laid in each case differently. Truth is absolute and only God can define what it is. So let us not assume to know what it is.
When Patriarch Jacob wrestled with angel or saw a ladder reaching heavewards we need to accept Truth is set in a certain form that does not vitiate the narrative or the underlying veracity. Does it touch some familiar chord in you? If you have in your life wrestled with good impulses with all the might and sought a blessing from the Highest the story of Jacob cannot remain alien to you. It does not mean if you succeeded or not. The Scriptures holds up the mirror to your life so as to elicit certain feelings in you. When you respond to it in a positive manner the Word has achieved its purpose.
According to Moslem tradition Prophet Mohammad was carried at night by a fabled beast Al-Buraq to the presence of Angel Gabriel. We need to remember that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction simply because we have no way of knowing Truth in its perfection. Art as I said earlier gives Truth a human tongue. It is thus we get the best out of the Word. For that matter how is that we have the Hand of Fatima in many versions ranging from Egyptian, Hebrew and Christian traditions? It is life given a certain symbol naming it as good omen or charm and so on. It is to be treated as such and not make undue fuss over it. Instead some silly fellows want to impose their own nonsense as truth. They pose as the Watch and Ward staff for God. Among Jews and Moslems alike there are those who want to make worshippers think in the way they think. What makes them think they know the truth? Wahhabism would try hard to make Islam ‘pure’ but would require plenty of money to stuff down the throats to make it digestable! In sacred and secular art also you find such misguided fellows. Shakespeare had been bowdlerized by some and yet Shakespeare lives on preeminent above such ignoble souls.
For me art must serve life. When we see Truth in its perfection words of human artifice shall fail since we ourselves shall be part of that Absolute quality.
Posts Tagged ‘African art’
Posted in art, religion,, tagged absolute quality, African art, Apocalypse Now, art, Francis Coppola, fundamentalism, Heart of darkness, Joseph Conrad, life, religion,, Shakespeare, Truth, wahhabism on December 17, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
What is Art ? It is the mirror to life.