Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. I woke up at five and did what most millions of Indians must have diligently done first thing this early morning... changed my profile picture on whatsapp to an image of Lord Ganesha. An old painting by Hemant that's now placed in the home of an overseas collector. That's the only one I put up year after year. Somehow all other Ganeshas done by various artists including Hemant, that pass off as modern works of Art, fail to engage me at all.
It may be clever to carve a tusk and trunk on a mound of clay, and the observer would guess it is Ganpati. Ardent followers of the deity have discovered him in the most unlikeliest of places. Tomatoes, jackfruit, papaya, capsicum, various tubers... and even in random rocks by the street. Nature itself has variations aplenty to prove omnipresence of the form. It doesn't require an artist to relay mere form to a devotee. When an artist creates, in figurative or abstract, enigmatic or explicit, regardless of its superficial treatment, one would expect something more to be added to the subject than merely its physical features and body language. In ancient India, they described this 'something more' as Rasa.
In English, there is no single word that would appropriately define the meaning constituted by Rasa... 'essence' comes the closest. Any painting or sculpture to be regarded as a work of Art must possess essence of the subject in a way that goes much farther and deeper than just its physical attributes. It is that element which emulates and appropriately expresses the dharma and karma of the subject. That is called Rasa.
|Ganesha form observed in natural fruits and tubers|
To make it simpler, if a figure of Ganesha is to be created for the masses, the artist must not lose touch of a fact that his muse is, above everything else, a deity for the observer... a figure meant to be worshiped. It must incorporate that spirit which makes the God, a God. In recent times, paintings of Lord Ganpati by contemporary water-colour artist Samir Mondal carry that Rasa despite all their modernism and semi-abstract rendering.
|watercolour paintings by Samir Mondal|
Artists, like any other professionals or businessmen, price their creations based on their investment in an artwork. Lesser the artist has put of himself in the piece... that much more affordable a painting or sculpture becomes in terms of sale. In a vicious symbiosis of sorts, it is this affordability factor that single-handedly determines why routine, anaemic Art sells the most.
I have been asking Hemant since years.... to create at least one series of assorted deity paintings where Gods would look like.... GODS.