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Deciphering the walk of art

A few odd ones take it on themselves to reach outside the classroom and devise ways to seek acquaintance and understanding, but most others just quit with a yawn or a frown.

columns Updated: Oct 01, 2017 13:14 IST
Nirupama Dutt
A feel of art for a visually impaired student at Punjab Kala Bhawan, Chandigarh.
A feel of art for a visually impaired student at Punjab Kala Bhawan, Chandigarh.(HT Photo)

Most professional courses are designed in a manner in which students have to unlearn all that they learned or mugged staying awake for nights.

What a pity, but so it is with art in educational institutions, art colleges not excluded! In fact, many a time these institutes create such awe that students, rather than coming closer to the subject of their choice, are driven miles away.

A few odd ones take it on themselves to reach outside the classroom and devise ways to seek acquaintance and understanding, but most others just quit with a yawn or a frown.

Sorry to confess but literally, art and art criticism, both in lecture halls and on newsprint, are confused with exaggerating something beautiful and spontaneous in such indecipherable a manner that neither the artist nor the perceiver understood it.

It was something like the Left intellectuals shrouding the road to revolution with such clouded jargon that it never reached anywhere! The more difficult the better seemed to be the maxim.

One was witness to this several decades till the 1980s just mumbling apologetically, “Well, I am no intellectual!”

A bull is always required in a china shop to upset the uneasy or rather undecipherable calm. Come the nineties and it was a herd of bulls all around. One heard new-age, 40-minus editors crying out in panic: “I am not bringing out a paper for JNU intellectuals, please, I want all of you to be reader-friendly.”

One wondered what it was to be reader-friendly because one had never been unfriendly to the readers! Some deciphered it as targeting the lowest common denominator and others thought it was playing to the 18 to 25 readership with pictures of the half-clad.

Therefore, a leading daily would publish a picture a day on the front page and in the caption one would read an invitation saying “Do you want to send it to a friend?”

A link would be provided. Now as I write, I just pay a visit to Uncle Google and he tells me the meaning of the phrase as ‘easy to read’. Fair enough, the wiser of the academics by then had started writing in an interesting manner.

Working those days in Delhi, one saw great panic among the arty folks when music, dance and art reviews were banished by newspapers.

This caused so much of heartache to the ageing dancers and dance critics who organised a ‘wake’ of sorts in the India Habitat Centre, clothed in all black, of course hair dyed to match, playing Rudali to the hilt. Candles were lit to ‘Mourning the Death of the Review’, as the event was named.

Quite a spectacle but needless to say, no one missed those gobbledygook reviews except for the dancers and the dance critics. Of course, sadly replaced by artists and artistes in Page-3 party coverage!

Now coming to the art of the matter, modern art — both home and abroad — is not so ticklish a matter but for the aura created around it by our well-regarded institutions.

One of my favourite arty quotes is that by Walter Pater, a 19th century art critic, who put it so simply: “Art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass.”

Therefore, it is good that two young art experts from Mumbai and Delhi, Sidhant Shah and Supriya, were there with art students from Punjab and Chandigarh to tell them to forget all the mumbo-jumbo and relish their moments with some of the finest of fine art of the century gone by. Well this is what art and appreciation is all about.

nirudutt@gmail.com