Friday, December 5, 2008


I have always been guilty of judging ‘Art’ as a futile attempt of an idler venting his sporadic inspiration as evidence that he is not dead weight on society. Artists and their connoisseurs I believed were feeble minded with limited logical reasoning capabilities. Showing off and always hungry for praises these people roam in search of like minded comrades. The fact that they are always aloof, dressed weirdly, sat in dark corners of coffee shops with a cocky attitude made them repulsive. The men behaved as women and the women scarce as they were indulged in their own masculinity matching ring for ring for every breath of tobacco inhaled.

With this thought, I stood in front of the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam last weekend contemplating if I could better utilize the 2 hrs and 10 Euros elsewhere instead of investing here. I thought I am too much of a real world man to waste time and money in such activities. There were three reasons that made me take the plunge. Firstly, what if I was off track about art and artists? Secondly, the very fact that I have never walked this path, absolutely new territory for me and thirdly, it was freezing my balls cold outside.

My partner tagged along not particularly happy with the entry fee. He let a sigh when I told him that the head phones for information would cost an additional four Euros. Five minutes into the first gallery and I was already regretting it. There was a large painting where people crowded and whispered among themselves in false admiration. I decided to keep walking and make it through the ordeal. To make things easier, I put on the head phones and punched in the number next to the painting.

She had the most beautiful voice, the story teller, who told me the painters name (that I had never heard off before) and the story of how after a hard fought battle in the high seas between the Dutch and Spanish navies the commander of the victorious Dutch Navy celebrated with his lieutenants. I now knew that I could ride this wave listening to stories and was glad that I got myself the head phone.

Not all paintings or artifacts had numbers next to it, so I had to painstakingly read through the description next to them arching taller than the shorter ones who thought it was their birthright to stand in front. Every painting had a story, sometimes more than one story and I must say it was visually appealing and I felt a sense of admiration creep in. I brushed it aside forgiving myself for false hopes. There was a painting of people making merry, drinking, flirting with women and playing with pets one of which was a chained monkey. It seemed to suggest that indulgence was tolerated or even encouraged as long as desire was not let loose.

The were other messages of virtue and vice and soon I found myself punching the same button over twice in front of some paintings. It dawned on me that it was not the recording I wished to hear again, neither was it the voice of the storyteller. Some of the paintings cause a fixation that reaches out to within you. When I saw Rembrandt’s self portrait it had a hypnotizing effect that leaves behind all trace of space and time and I stared into it as if to communicate with the master. It felt like the effect of the first pint of beer I had. The first revelation of intoxication. The only difference here was that there was no way of replicating it. I felt, I found something here.

The eye chooses what it wiches to sees and the ear what it wants to hear. I heard the stories but now I was more interested on how was such magic created. The storyteller exposed to me the science of painting. The principles of light and shadow, the approach to infinity, the rules of motion and inertia, the subtleties of emotion and so on. These paintings were not the result of a sporadic inspiration which is articulated momentarily. These painting took months of research on requirement and months to design. The details needed to be practiced till it becomes second nature before execution on the real thing. This was no more art, this was science. I was sure I have found something here.

It was dark when I got out of the Museum; I had spent more than 4 hours in there. I did find something but I had more questions than answers. Had I been wrong all along? Is it the general effect ones profession has on oneself? Is that why hard rock music stars needed long hair where ever it grows, piercing in the most remote corners and had to have marijuana for breakfast, coke for lunch and LCD for dinner? Why is the painting credited by the painter than by what is painted or who commissioned the painting? How am I going to be remembered 400 years from now?

What I did find is that I am an artist myself and this note is my product. Though I don’t wear weird clothes (I don’t think I wear), I still search for like minded individuals like yourselves to consume my product. But why am I creating this product? It’s certainly just not for your consumption. The objective of this product is to seek appreciation and admiration. The hunger for praise which I ridiculed in the post earlier is the very reason for the existence of this article. We seek this both from ourselves and from others. The ratio of this however I am not aware of.

P.S.: This article is named Calisthenics, for lack of an appropriate name. The Objective of Art seemed equally cliche' but boring. It’s probably my hope that the reader derives that it has been an emotional and mental exercise.


Girish said...

Calisthenics - with this title i expected your artistic exercises/experiences from the wonderland. ;) but got to read about the artist in you with a penchant for art.

good one - this is for the artist.

Madhukar Hebbar said...

Nice story mate :-) (how can I not say this after seeing the article ;-))

"Every thought is a creation", this is the definition I have read from "Conversations with God" book. I believe, this is a best definition of creative/creativity for me as of today. Generalizing, this definition is true for all, not just for artists.

Madhukar Hebbar said...

forgot to say, got confused with conclusion. Is it general to all? or specific to most people? or specific to you?

I have seen some cases, who have created for the fun of doing, money, without caring for apreciation. Most important I think is satisfaction for self to create something (not sure you termed this as appreciation from self), appreciation from others is probably secondary.

Critic said...

Yes, in search of oneself. This article is amazing since it focuses on that fact that there are certain things which has to be seen from inner eyes to feel the joy and wonderful creativity.
My all time favorite saying is "A thing of beauty can be a joy forever", by John Keats. And as the eternal saying goes, "Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder".

Shetty said...

Thanks guys, I am glad you liked it.

Hebbar, it certainly applies to me but I can safely generalize. Every creation requires appreciation from within or without. Even when you create something for the 'fun of doing'you yourself are appriciating it in the process though you dont care much for others appreciation. Thats what I meant by ratio.

Again thank you, your comments help me clear the clouds

Madhukar Hebbar said...

I guess the process you define can be termed as satisfaction.

Unfortunately, there are terms which involve "relative definition" (What people mean by it), absolute definition (what it actually means). Its always a fight to come to terms with absolute definition of things in midst of the cloud of relative understanding.

Your article, throws a lot of light on absolute understanding of art. Thanks for that.

Today/tomorrow will publish one of my experiences which opened my eyes towards this subject.

Gulmohar said...

I can vouch for this product of yours totally meeting your objective! In other words, I appreciate it.

In my opinion, something cannot (should not?) exist unless until the creator is totally convinced and absolutely appreciative of her/his own creation. So, appreciation from within is always an inherent ingredient in any creation. Of course, it may not happen all the time and perhaps is the word mediocrity. So, the bigger question for me is why does this mediocrity exist? Is it only due to the fact that we do something which we do not like? Or for the fear consequences?

On the other side, appreciation from others is what all of us definitely crave for. Yes, it is true that we are still human beings and perhaps continue to be in this state for some good time to come. But at times, I wonder whether these two attributes are just one. Because, the moment there’s lack of mediocrity, it is at worst - Commendable work.

By the way, when is your next visit to EU? It would great to meet you in person!

VidyaShankar Harapanahalli said...

First thing first

Pray, where is the Johny Walker and Friday is just four days away? if you have not returned, get one.

Appreciation is the first thing but not last, then we all have to move on to self realization, self actualization, mentor role...

I will try to write more in detail, little later...

Shetty said...


I coudnt agree less. Mediocrity exists , but its a question of when? Appreciation in time, tends to wane out. We constantly raise the bar. Very few creations inspire such feelings time and again. Hence the meuseums, theories,all time greats etc etc . The rest land in mediocrity and evenutally vanish.

Keep Walking!