I usually explain my artworks to interested people by telling them my thoughts and intentions when I was creating the pieces. I tend not to definitively state that this is what it is because I want room for other views. My works for the most part have been described as contemplative and interpretive. In light of this, the work is really left up to the viewer’s interpretation and that is how I like it.
I meet many people everyday who used to do some form of art. And they usually ask me how I keep doing art because for whatever reason they did not continue. I guess that they are really asking me about dedication, time or passion. And I guess that they assume that art, for me, is a choice.
It is not a choice. It is a calling. Art is constantly calling me to make something. It insistently wakes me up at nights, interrupts my days, and holds my mind and soul hostage with ideas that it wants me to translate to canvas. If there are other artist reading this, I know that they understand what I mean. They have experienced the constant gnawing, yearning, and need to create.
It is a kind of bitter sweet pursuit. There is the fulfillment of creation – bringing an idea from conception to fruition. But art is not food, at least not in the common sense. People need to eat, sleep and have a roof over their heads but they do not need art. If people do not have a piece of art, they will not die, again not in the normal sense. But what a drab, bland and utterly colourless existence people would have without it in their spaces and lives.
So while I am aware that it is difficult to succeed as an artist, it has no bearing on why I create. Creation for me is a means of survival. If I do not do it, I will die. If I do not give in to the urge, I will go mad. Paradoxically, I might go mad giving in to the urge but that is another story. My only point now is that making art is not a choice, when art chooses me.
People say things to me all the time like, you know you may not make any money from art until you are dead or you know there are few artists who make any money from art. I smile and nod. Noted. I don’t argue. There is some amount of truth to what they say and some amount of falsehood too. There are many living artists who are making a great living and there are many great artists who are not. But I don’t argue because I will have to explain that art is not a choice. Art chooses me.
Many people do not feel that they understand art. They feel intimidated by it and do not know how to interpret a piece that they come across. They also feel intimidated by most galleries with their highfalutin prices and unapproachable atmosphere. I wish people did not feel this way because art is fun and much of it is left up to your own interpretation. Art is an engaging activity that requires you to really look and experience a short story that is told in a composed, colourful and conceptual way. All of us can experience this.
I am going to use a piece that I did called “Shrouded” to explain my thoughts while I was doing it and to demonstrate that the viewer can have a totally different interpretation that is as good, if not better than what the artist intended.
The piece, shown above, depicts a woman, wearing a head scarf, who is hidden behind what appears to be bars. My thoughts as I was doing the piece was that there are a lot of us who are hidden behind something. This thing that we are hidden behind can bring us a sense of comfort, security and escape. We can have a feeling of protection and a sense of belonging within this shroud.
Paradoxically, we can also feel trapped, imprisoned and stifled by this very thing. All we want to do is escape from it.
That was the dichotomy present in my mind while creating this piece. I showed a picture of this painting to my friend Himanshu. He told me that the woman is a mystery woman who many have tried to get to know but cannot because of the impenetrable walls that she has put up. I thought that was a very insightful comment and interpretation. It was never something that I the artist had thought of but it fits right into the shrouded theme. How cool is that?
This ability to look, see, experience and interpret is not out of anyone’s reach. Take some time to experience a piece of art. When you get right down to it art is really an experience. You might be surprised to find that you can figure out more than you think you would all because you took the time to look.