Trawling through sites on selftaught artists of various kinds — painters, musicians, poets — I came across an interesting exchange. The person writing it said, “It seems like you can’t be a true artist without having years of fine arts courses…and getting a degree.”
|Folk artists provide a kind of comfort zone for those who enjoy art but don’t want to deal with art form in which they have to find meaning
In an interesting reply, someone at artbusiness.com wrote, “In a way you have an advantage over the “intimidating” aspects of the art world…because you’re not intimidating, you know how to paint, can relate to everyday people, speak a language that they can understand, and they like your art enough to buy it.
You can’t ask for more than that.” There have been numerous selftaught painters, poets, musicians throughout history, some of them quite famous. The work of many selftaught artists, including folk artists provide a kind of comfort zone for those who enjoy the arts but don’t want to deal with paintings in which they have to find “meaning.”
I think that at some stage or the other, we all want such “comfort zones,” where we can relax with poems and novels we love, paintings we can understand, and work that does not perpetually confront us with the exploration of “underbellies.” Newspapers and TV provide us with enough of this, and there is alimit to how much of this stuff we can stand.
Last week, for instance, I met one such self-taught painter, Anna-Judy Dias who has been painting since she was a child, without any formal training. She specialises in skilfully painted seascapes, especially those near her home, and sometimes works from photographs she herself has taken.
Recently, however, she has begun to branch out into Biblical themes, and, perhaps most interesting of all, quirky portraits of birds, including a sparrow who visits her home for snacks. I don’t know where she will go from here, but she deserves every encouragement.
Her response to Van Gogh’s expressionist paintings, particularly the one of a sky in a blue-black turmoil, and a church with its structure distorted, was promising. By and large, however, writing, painting and the like involves some idea of what is going on in the world of painting, music and the rest.
Flannery O’Connor, the American short story writer said she was of the opinion that all these nascent, uninformed talents should be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. Certainly the thought that “everyone has a novel in them,” for instance (I’ve forgotten who said that) is alarming. Nevertheless, there are many people who, to begin with, write for their own enjoyment. But then they become anxious to show their work to people they think of as “experts,” and some are anxious to publish or exhibit when the ink or paint is barely dry.
Any art form involves disciplines of various kinds. In poetry, for example, it involves the ability to tell a word that is “alive” from a phrase that is a cliché, to tell when a rhyme is there just for the sake of rhyme or whether it involves a real sense of completion. It involves the ability to stand outside one’s emotions and words to assess whether the emotions are overstated or understated, the words too many for the purpose at hand.
One tends to think that because one has words at one’s disposal, they can be used in any way one feels like, in contrast to, say paint with which one may be unfamiliar. In practising any art form, one has to have the ability to be both inside and outside the work — inside because one is involved in what is being portrayed, outside in the sense of being able to critique what one is doing. There is no such thing as “impersonal” and “personal” art of poetry.
Any work has to be both in order to succeed. An artist must be both artist and critic.
• Inspiring individuals
This refers to Eunice de Souza’s column ‘Another side of Jaipur’ (PM, June 21). I admire Dr Jasbir Jain’s level of motivation. The account of this retired professor from the University of Rajasthan tells us an important thing about life, that is, there is no end to learning.
Eunice’s appreciation of Dr Jain in the opening lines of her column reminds me of Prof E VChitnis, an eminent scientist who worked with the ISRO and now settled in Pune. Just like Jain, Chitnis, who is in his eighties, continued to enlighten post-graduate students at the University of Pune even after his retirement. He used to teach Developmental Communication at the campus. Despite his ripe age, he kept us motivated for two years. Hats off to all such individuals.
- Ayaz Ali