ART and VULGARITY

via M. P. Ajithkumar published on November 20, 2007

“Thing of beauty is a joy for ever” wrote the occidental poet. And this joy for ever is super-sensual and intellectually perceptible (sukhamAthyanthikam yatthath buddhigrAhyamathIntndriyam), discoursed the teacher of Bhagavath Githa. That the object, which alone can impart the message of the eternal or give us the ultimate and never ending joy is the thing of Beauty has thus been an idea universally realized. Beauty is thus a wordless ecstasy, which can be experienced, it being the profoundest expression of the Truth. Naturally whenever an artist or a poet tried to image this secret reality deriving from his intuitive vision, to give an outward expression to this inner and informing spirit, it was couched in such and so highly beautiful a manner as to give the layman a lofty impression about the supreme beauty, in the most graceful way as to evoke in the onlooker a feeling of grace and real sublimity. One may wonder whether the Beauty stood before the poet or the artist in human form itself that he describes it in highly decorative diction. Seated with all the female grace and vigour, it was to another ancient poet the mother goddess in the crimson colour with three-eyes and ruby-studded and moon decked hair lock. The poet could not imagine imaging the beauty less beautifully than how it appeared to him. This was when the artist or the image-maker had become one with the Beauty. Art, if to quote the renowned philosopher and saint Sri Aurobindo, is not a mere ‘nauch-girl’ of the mind but a priestess appointed in the God’s house not to spin fictions but to image the harder and secret realities deriving from the mystic vision. KaviyA sathyasruthAh – poet or the artist is the hearer of the ultimate truth and to express this divine truth was his sworn mission. He was the missionary of the divine beauty helping the connoisseurs to enjoy the bliss a perfect work of art aims to impart.

Art becomes real when only it reaches the lofty plane where it evokes the aesthetic emotion – rasa – in the spectator or the (rasika through the operation of different detriments, consequents, moods and involuntary emotions. And to evoke a rasa one of the permanent moods may stand above the other expressions of emotions, which are subordinate and come in harmony and unity with this supreme emotion. Thus the first essential of a work of art – rasavanth – is unity, an idea well explained by the sage Bharatha. “As a king to his subjects, as a guru to his disciples, even so the master-motif is lord of all other motifs”, opines his NAtyasaAsthra. A transient emotion should never be the theme of art because its extended development tends to the absence of rasa, the aesthetic emotion. The art should never be the medium communicating the ordinary emotions making it sentimental. That which emphasizes the transitory feelings and personal emotion is not beautiful or true art and plummets to the low realm of pretty art where time and eternity, loveliness and beauty, partiality and love and all such emotions would remain caught up in a mess of confusion.

Beauty and aesthetic emotion – rasa and rasAsvAdana – are thus inextricably intertwined and inseparable. In fact the expression rasAsvAdana itself is fictitious because rasAsvAdana is rasa and vice versa. There is identity of subject and object, cause and effect in aesthetic contemplation. This experience is, says Viswanatha in his Sahithya Darpana, “pure, indivisible, self-manifested, compounded equally of joy and consciousness, free of admixture with any other perception, the very twin brother of mystic experience (BrahmAsvAdana sahOdara), and the very life of it is supersensuous (lOkOtthara) wonder”. Religion and art thus become names for the same experience, intuition of reality and identity. This as Ananda Coomaraswamy, the famous philosopher and art critic, says, is “not, of course, exclusively a Hindu view” of art but has been “expounded by many others like Neo-Platonists, Hsieh Ho, Goethe, Blake, Schopenhauer and Schiller”. Aristotle had long ago realized the importance of Catharsis or the state of mental refinement (chitthasuddhi in Sanskrit) as the source of all creative arts. The real art thus sources off only from the Himalayan heights of spiritual refinement and realization. The idea regarding art that it is the expression of the supreme realization has thus been universally accepted, and the only difference is that India down the centuries took it to the pinnacle of philosophical explanation. India’s research and involvement in the fine arts always stood far in advance of other cultural zones.

Yet there are the lower categories of expressions, which, though would not come up to the level of being the manifestation of the ultimate beauty, are not so much deplorable as to be disparaged barbaric or obscene. True any expression even below the standard level, however much eulogized in interpretation, would only fall to the realm of dilettantism. A connoisseur in such case is only the fool in the adage who ‘enjoys’, tasting the reflection of the fruit in the water – prathibimbitha sAkhAgra phalAsvAdanamOdavath. But the ordinary types who seemingly enjoy eulogize such forms also. This blasphemy is however pardonable when looked against the backdrop of the most heinous and harmful.

Right from ancient times India developed an art tradition, which has been unexampled. Even character sketches and brush strokes combined helped the artist up to portraying a person as done by Chitralekha who portrayed Aniruddha bearing in mind the behavioral patterns of the youth Usha dreamt. And the painting usually falling in with the rules of the traditional six limbs – shad-anga – rUpa-bhEda, pramnAnam, bhAva, lAvanyayOjanam, sAdrusyam and varnikAbhangi naturally carried the grace and sublimity the classical art requires. Reality and creativity spring up from the depth of imagination and concentration. Croce refers to “the artist, who never makes a stroke with his brush with out having previously seen it with his imagination”. It is interesting that King Agnimitra pointed out sidhilasamAdhi or impaired concentration as the reason for the portrait of Malavika lacking in fidelity to the original. Art is thus the highest realm where imagination and reality become one and the same. It was this cultural and national value of art many of the Indian painters imbibed in their portrayals. It was to this tradition the long array of artists like the anonymous ones of Kangra, Lepakshi or the modern ones like Nandalal Bose belonged. And Raja Ravi Varma who painted the divinities and female beauties decked in modest and beautiful garments and highly ornate costumes, no doubt belonged to the national tradition. His portraits of the female characters, whether Goddess Lakshmi or Sarasvathi or even the ordinary characters like Sakunthala exude an air of all surpassing tranquility and female sublimity. Ravi Varma was one of the makers of India’s national tradition and remained true to it all through out his life.

But art and the artist stooping from even the ordinary planes to the ditch of unexampled condescension is highly unpardonable. After all when it reaches the expression of cheap mind it turns a cultural offence, especially when done by an internationally famous painter who should well have been the role model for the budding ones. More unpardonable is the attitude of bodies tended to honour what should have been dishonoured and admonished. In fact the decision to extend an honour instituted in the name of great artist to a person whose interests and purpose run in contrasts to the values associated with the former or undressing whom or what the former had modestly dressed and decked is not only blasphemous but sinful too. There must be a bridge somewhere between the ideals of the person in whose name the award is instituted and the person to whom it is given. Otherwise it would act only as an additional incentive to do the don’ts. It has been to the credit of Raja Ravi Varma that he did his level best to take the Indian art to its utmost perfection. The highest sublimity, tranquility and the inner refinement Ravi Varma’s images impart are truly becoming of the highest artistic degree and excellence he attained. But the images of M. F. Husain, portraying the symbols of female chastity, divine beauty and the age-old idea of nationhood are the synonyms of vulgarity and barbarity couched in recklessness. They are also an attack not only on the ideal of secularism but on India’s age-old practice too of respecting the universal religions. They are irreligious, anti-national and hooligan expressions of female nudity and all that are vulgar. Really Husain doesn’t deserve the Ravi Varma Award.

Kudos to the honourable High Court of Kerala with its highly admirable suggestion to review the decision to honour Husain and brought issue to an impasse!

The Author is Vice President Akhila Bharatiya Rashtriya-Saikshik Maha Sangh (Kerala Unit) and Senior Lecturer in History Sanatana Dharma College Alappuzha, Kerala

Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Responses

Latest Articles from Bharath Focus

Did You Know?