Art and SmArt

via V Sundram published on June 2, 2007

I had  written about the abominably atrocious and perverse paintings of Hindu Gods and Goddesses by M F Hussain who in my view is only a shockingly stark symbol of ethnic bestiality, religious perversity and cultural barbarism. Through his vulgar paintings he has caused a grievous hurt to the emotions and feelings of all the Hindus of the world. The tragedy of India today is that all Governments (more particularly the Governments of Kerala and West Bengal!!) and a large percentage of no less irresponsible men in our corrupt and decadent judiciary view his vulgar paintings as an integral and legitimate part of his minority rights on the one hand and of unassailable freedom of creative expression of an independent artist on the other.


 


M F Hussain’s pro-Muslim (clothed) and anti-Hindu (naked) Paintings


 


I have just finished reading a brilliant essay on the controversial subject of art and artistic expression by Kishore Asthana.


 


Let me quote his brilliant and appropriate words in this context: “An artist creates art from three primary sources. The first, of course, is the heart. What emerges from an Artists heart can indeed be called ART. The second is the brain. Sometimes an artist creates art, like a student who writes an essay. This is essentially poster-art and is deliberately crafted. This should be called SmArt. Then there is the third source ? the organs of procreation. When the primary motivating factor for art arises out of the artist’s genitalia, then it can be termed FArt. Of course, in any work of art, there may be different proportions of Art, SmArt and Fart?”


 


All responsible intellectuals and citizens would always be champions of artistic freedom, but within reasonable and civilized limits and not divorced from the accepted tradition of social, spiritual and cultural values. So long as these limits are respected, I am all for Artistic freedom. Whatever arises out of the heart of the artist must be inviolate for he has no discretion in it. We may criticize it but we do not have the freedom to ban it. SmArt-work is deliberately created. SmArtistic freedom should not be defended as vehemently, because, unlike Art, the artist has discretion in creating SmArt. If it makes us think, we should appreciate it. If it succeeds in raising our aesthetic sensibility, we should applaud it. However, if it goes against the grain, we should condemn it.


 


FArtistic freedom is like telling us that everyone is free to keep letting out either odoriferous or foul smelling farts in a crowded room and no one should object to these because every artist must have freedom to create FArt. In my view M F Hussain’s paintings are in the nature of foul smelling noisy farts in a crowded room and that is why thousands of people in India, and more particularly the Hindus, have expressed themselves so violently against the so called artistic FArts of M F Hussain, with many of them dragging M H Hussain to several courts of law. The images of naked Mother India, naked Sita on Hanuman’s tail and spread-eagled Durga with someone emerging from her vagina are all examples of M F Hussain’s foul smelling FArt. Likewise the explosive picture of Jesus Christ drawn by Chandra Mohan in Vadodara on the cross with semen dripping from his penis into a commode is FArt, too.


 


I fully endorse the magisterial finding of Kishore Asthana: “I am not for restraining anyone’s heart-born art, but I am against allowing people to FArt in the crowded cultural hall that is India, in the name of freedom of FArting.”


 


The self-appointed moral police which objects to petty things is at one extreme. The intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals and artists who automatically rise in defense of all FArt in the name of ARTISTIC FREEDOM, without realizing that this term cannot be used for FArt, is at the other extreme. Both are equally guilty of thoughtlessly trivializing our society and making a mockery of our sensibilities. The UPA Government in New Delhi is the strongest defender of such a debased and debauched form of ARTISTIC FREEDOM


 


Apart from the disgraceful and irresponsible Government of Kerala which has dealt a death blow to the soul and spirit of Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906) by announcing its decision to give the prestigious Raja Ravi Varma award to M F Hussain, the mute Hindus of India have to suffer too many Pseudo Secular intellectuals who too arrogate to themselves the role of Omnipotent and Omniscient art critics like the Communist Government of Kerala. In this context let me quote the luridly learned words of Vinay Bharath Ram with clinchingly Pseudo Secular effect (!!): ?Why should I defend M F Hussain? By doing so I am defending my own identity as an Indian and Hindu. The controversies raised by his detractors over his paintings being ‘obscene’ are laughable.”


 


I would like to know whether Vinay Bharath Ram and many other Pseudo Secular intellectuals like him would show the same breadth of vision and understanding towards the work of an unknown Hindu Artist called Kailash Tewari from Bhopal. Two weeks ago several Muslim groups in Bhopal raised their political and Islamic objections to some paintings of Kailash Tewari displayed at an exhibition, which depicted Muslims as terrorists. The paintings by Kailash Tewari featured Osama bin Laden and Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff, with people in beard and wearing religious caps attacking India and Parliament. Kailash Tewari said: “My exhibition titled ‘The Face of Terror’ depicts the truth. I am not talking about Muslims, but unfortunately all terrorist turn out to be Muslims. I cannot do anything about it. Bamiyan Buddha Statues in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Muslims. The World Trade Center in New York was destroyed by Muslim terrorists on 09/11. Even our Parliament was attacked by them. What can I do if the attackers have names of Khan or Mohammed or Salim in their names?”


 


The Pseudo Secular Mafia of Mass Media have a tendency to see issues of this kind in liberal versus reactionary terms? Let me give an example. All Pseudo Secular liberals would argue that MF Husain has the absolute and inalienable minority right to paint a naked Saraswati or a nude Bharat Mata. At the same time they would not extend the same principle to the Danish cartoons. Their laughably “liberal” position is that Hindus should be tolerant of the manner in which their gods and goddesses are being portrayed by M F Hussain and they have no right to go to the streets to assert their religious freedoms. At the same time, the ever-compassionate Muslims of India have all the rights to go to the streets and loudly complain about any visual representation of the Prophet Mohammed, regardless of the country or continent in which such a blasphemous anti-Islamic act takes place!!


 


Let me now turn my attention from the world of the vulgar, absurd, ugly and the ludicrous, to the divine sphere of the eternally sublime and beautiful Indian art. In order to understand the soul, spirit and ideals of Indian art, we have to learn at the feet of that great Maharishi Shri Aurobindo. Let us tune our ears to the sublime words of this Saint, Sage and Seer: ‘A good deal of hostile or unsympathetic western criticism of Indian civilization has been directed in the past against its aesthetic side and taken the form of a disdainful or violent depreciation of its fine arts, architecture, sculpture and painting. The Indian mind in its natural poise finds it almost or quite as difficult really, that is to say, spiritually to understand the arts of Europe, as the ordinary European mind to enter into the spirit of Indian painting and sculpture. For the Indian mind form does not exist except as a creation of the spirit and draws all its meaning and value from the spirit. This characteristic attitude of the Indian reflective and creative mind necessitates in our view of its creations an effort to get beyond at once to the inner spirit of reality it expresses and see from it and not from outside.?


 


“A great oriental work of art does not easily reveal its secret to one who comes to it solely in a mood of aesthetic curiosity or…still less as the cultivated and interested tourist passing among strange and foreign things; but it has to be seen in loneliness, in the solitude of one’s self…a sense which modern Europe with her assault of crowded art galleries and over-pictured walls seems to have quite lost. – have put their temples and their Buddhas as often as possible away on mountains and in distant or secluded scenes of Nature and avoid living with great paintings in the crude hours of daily life.”


 


In this decadent age, addicted to fact gathering, it is cold logic and not sublime feeling that commands supreme respect. Calm, impersonal feeling is the essence of true discovery. Our humanity is reduced by half- indeed by much more than half-when feeling is eliminated from our quest for understanding. Equating feeling with unbridled emotions, we have allowed ourselves to be swept up in cyclones of confusion, calling the chaos itself as meaningful. Emotions may be an obstacle to understanding. Calm feeling or clarity of feeling, however, is the very essence of deep understanding. Calm feeling is intuition. And intuition is that calm and clear feeling which appears when both the intellect and the emotions are lifted into a still, inner perception of the truth. Without intuition, profound insights are simply not possible.


 


(The writer is a retired IAS officer)


e-mail the writer at [email protected]

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