of thoughts in ebb and flow

Archive for February, 2011

Is this art?!

An exchange of comments on my last blog post made me ponder – What is art? Who is an artist? And some parallel streams of thought suddenly connected. Erich Fromm in  The Art of Loving talks about wanting to dissolve separateness as a driving, fundamental need of man.

We live, I sense, in a constant state of tension – between the urge to establish our unique identity, our individuality, our separateness from the multitude of humanity and the equally deep yearning to merge with, be one with, for want of a better word, the `essence’ of life that is in all creation. To connect.

Art, to me, seems to be a beautiful way of marrying these two divergent needs. The artist in choosing his medium, his language, in his creativity expresses his individuality, his uniqueness. In offering the gift of his creation to others he seeks to connect with them, not just superficially, but in a very deep sense. To make a `soul connect’.

Seth Godin in a recent post says, ` Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s in the soul of the artist” So what IS art?  One way of looking at it is, art is that which goes beyond the minimum, necessary functional requirement of a task. Be it a poem, a painting, the elegant flip of a roomali roti, the perfectly timed six that Sachin hit yesterday or the three lines of code that do what would otherwise have taken twenty lines – they are all art. And each one of these creators is an artist. Driven to take what they do to something beyond the ordinary. And in that final flourish of the brush, that last keystroke the artist feels a deep sense of completion.

The English-born, Canadian painter Arthur Lismer said, “.. an artist is, a child who has never lost the gift of looking at life with curiosity and wonder”

And of that curiosity and wonder is born what we term `art’. Heres to the artist in each one of us – wondering, curious, just waiting to make art!

Art e`sense’

That’s what I like about modern art. It gives both the artist and the consumer a sense of involvement and accomplishment. And you can never be `wrong’. So I can get away with expounding on how the soul of the artist is seeking freedom through the random unfettered brush movement. While the artist goes out to buy  replacement colours for the bottles his five-year old unfetteredly (artistic licence if you will) dropped onto the canvas in a burst of imagined freedom of movement in Dad’s workspace!

“What’s the trip?” I say to the Monet’s and Manet’s of the world, these artists who labour to re-create and contain nature in their puny canvas. Why choose God (or the electron-neutron-boson- whatever colliding machine for the atheists out there) as your competitor? Give me a treat for more than just the eye. If your medium constrains you from involving all my senses at least involve my mind!

My professor from back in college was a genuine artist. After a particularly long, completely meaningless burst of CP (class participation) from a student he would pause for a decent interval, seem deeply appreciative and say `OK. Therefore what you are saying is….’ and proceed to say all those points that he deemed necessary for the progress of the case to the next level of analysis. That’s what I call sheer artistry. Professor happily moves on. Student CP artist nods sagely and sits back pleased that he has made such an intelligent contribution and that he can close his CP account for the rest of the semester. The rest of the class continues their mental excursions without being stressed.  Perfect example of win-win if I ever saw one!

What’s the connect? Where is this post going you say? Well. Nowhere. It is like modern art. It will be what you make of it. Come, come. Surely you have a responsiblity towards making sense of what you read?!!!

The circle of life

Spring is here, I am sure. A little bird told me. Two little birds to be exact. I don’t know exactly what birds they are. My knowledge of birds while not little enough to fit on the back of a postage stamp is nowhere close to even amateur ornithologist status.

They are swallows of some kind I think. They are migratory. Of that too I am sure. Cos they frequent their mud home outside my window only in the two months of spring. And they swoop.. very elegantly too.. they must be swallows. Swallows swoop don’t they? Not for them the inelegant flap flap and `i hope my wings can lift me a few feet’ of the other feathered specimen in my apartment block – the pigeon. But more on them later… this one is about the swallows.

They appeared suddenly while we were breakfasting .. peering in through the glass windows, ensuring the occupants were the same benign, albeit slightly crazy family that they had seen the last time around. Satisfied with the `Sssh.. don’t move..they’re back’ reaction they got.. they proceeded to inspect the mud nest they had abandoned many moons ago once their kids had had their diving lessons and moved on in life.

The first morning they spent sitting around inspecting the nest that was in a state of dilapidation. Size does matter you know. You just need to know how and where to use it. The little things made me feel quite guilty for landing them in this state of affairs (when God knows I had, for ten months, done everything in my power to ensure no cleaning lady ever got close to their nest in her over- zealousness). But duniya zaalim hai... all I got in return was accusatory stares from the two of them. Once they realised neither the sharp looks nor the aggrieved stance they adopted later were going to be much help they got to work.

From the sounds of it they had a fairly long drawn argument on how much repair and of what kind was needed but by day 3 they were hard at work. Assiduously bringing in soft feathers, long grass strands, mud, some other un-identifiables and glueing it all together with I-have-no-idea-what.

Once again the little half-cup shaped mud nest is up and ready for starting a new family. This time the choice of colour for the external walls is more blackish than the reddish of the previous years. Housing aesthestes in the swallow world are possibly gung ho on black this year.

Looking forward now to their congenial neighbourliness as they go about laying eggs, watching over the hatchlings, feeding them, pushing them out of the nest to fly….. it does my soul a lot of good to see this little piece of never-changing circle of life …. year after year for the last six years… brings all the ups and downs of the financial markets, the earthquakes in New Zealand, the craziness of IPL, the anger over corruption and traffic, the rising prices.. into perspective.

This, finally, is what life distils into. A cadence that is simple, meaningful, unchanging .. and all the rest is noise.

That’s not what I really meant!

I love them. I think I have been in love with them all along. Mid-life crisis notwithstanding. Love to tease them, play with them, roll them around to see how they ..er..roll… and best of all i love to hear them. Hear them cackle with glee when they are pronounced a certain way, smile when they get the right tone, nod sagely when they are delivered with the weight they need… I love to make love to them, leave a mark on them before they go out there and I lose control of them. Yes. I am sure as I can ever be…  I love words and I love giving voice to them.

But I don’t love them enough to bury myself in their place and time of birth and the complications of who parented them or who their close relations are. Be that as it may.. they are here.. with me for the moment .. and that’s all that matters…

And like a true artist I love them for the sake of them and am not unduly worried about whether the babies I create with them will be cared for by listeners, whether they will make a name for themselves in the annals of reading history.

And because they mean so much to me I refuse to see they are not as important to many. That what they say and how they say it should not be read so much into. That every pause, every slant, every syllable  is not laden with meaning and intent! And they mean it when they say “Oh! That’s not what I really meant!”

Ah well… it takes all kinds 🙂

And that’s how it ends

One would think a first blog post would be about beginnings. But I don’t want anyone, least of all convention, to dictate to me the order of things. So I am going to talk about ends.

I like to end conversations with a Ciao. I think it’s light and breezy and gives the connotation that this is a temporary lull in the tide of our interactions. I never did like the servile air of the school-prescribed `Yours faithfully’ and remember agitated negotiations with my son to at least risk using `Yours sincerely’ in place of it in his school letter writing.

.. So it comes as a bit of a shock to me that Ciao shares etymological background with the Italian `Schiavo’ – which means `I am your slave’…. Sigh. I’ll never be able to Ciao that easily again!

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