This presentation –
quite candidly – perches on the horns of a dilemma, namely,
whether the objects put up in it are to be approached as those of
utility, or as ones deserving of disinterested attention. But the
compiler of the event has not run into the quandary unwittingly.
Rather, she courts it head on by waving a question mark in the face
of the public.
Ambiguities do not please those comfortably basking in the warmth
of ready made assumption. None of the exposed rich, immemorial,
art – crafts nurtured in the ambience of the socially submerged
India of the hinterland, as also to the urban ethos and its so-called
high art, this mentally agile maker asks of herself hurting questions.
Indeed a whole host of fateful issues would seem to lurk at the
back of her mind, and these bear on our present socio-economic,
somewhat self-justificatory existence.
For one thing Gopika Nath
would seem to debate the thin line dividing art from craft, realizing
well that great artistic powers may produce works of art even though
the technique be defective; that even the most pukka technique will
not produce the finest sort of work in their absence. And, yet again,
that no work of art whatever, can be produced without some degree
of technical skill; that other things being equal, the better the
technique, the better will be the work; that the great artisic powers
for their due and proper display demand a technique as good in its
kind as they are in their own. Well here are some, perplexing dilemmas
Even so, if we ponder a
bit, it might become clear that the prime motive that makes you
produce an object is vital to its meriting the name and nature of
art. Finesses in technique alone ought not entile a design or pattern
in whatever genre, to be mistaken for substantial art. Art is not
artifact alone. Some live impulse, some dynamic vision – needing
expression – throws up vitalizing form, one in which vision
and design cannot be told apart. Fact is, there is a wide variety
of only nominal art, masquerading as true art right now. And this
may well come in the form of paintings, sculptures, or what
you have. Again, if some art is only a variation on craft objects, some
exceptional so-called craft objects may well be art. It all depends.
After all, till the other day, all artifacts carried the load of
necessity, or of social or moral purpose, on its back, without in
any way being the worse for it. The Sistine Chapel, as the Ajanta
frescoes are is evidence enough. On the other hand a great deal of
painting when it is not really the expression of distilled feeling
or personal intuition may well be art only by proxy. Alternately
the apparent crafts of the rural or tribal worlds may be precisely
that, even when they are not placed in the elevated niche of ‘art’.
Gopika Nath is not automatically
announcing what is what. What she is really at pains to gesture
is the tricky nature of the whole celebrated enterprise. She suggests
caution. Is minimalist colour field painting art or craft, of only
crafty art? That some painting has no mundane uses does not necessarily
help raise it to the eminence of art. But it could well be art,
hinging on whether you detect behind it any genuine creative assaying.
But it is clear, that, on our art scene most framed objects tend
to be described as art; contrariwise the humble origin of a thing
– or its unbondedness – causes it be dubbed as craft.
The quality of what a maker invests in his or her work, is what
results into an art. This foregoing pedantic opinion is not of academic
interest alone, since far too many of our lay art viewers are hopelessly
smug, else hypnotized by nomenclature, or else by public image,
to challenge their unconscious presuppositions. The author of this
event means to do just so, and with much vigor.
And what she has been also
endeavoring to do gently, is infuse fresh life in the famed textiles
of the land; to help out the creative but mute opral India, threatened
by demonic industrial forces. She at the same time, is want to keep
herself at an objective distance from the uncreative but opulent
urban consumers of cultural artifacts who are not at all in touch
with the living traditions, treating art only as merchandise. And
so, Gopika Nath, even as she puts up ravishing work on the walls,
also courageously airs self doubts.
This is a sign of a fine
conscientiousness. Without her, so to say, radical approach to matters
of art and craft, and indeed to the whole human context in which
things of beauty take their rise – the meaning of creative
making remains incomplete, socially unfructious. Art ought not to
become mere self-indulgence, but rather provoke us into being more
of our human selves. And thus the significance of Gopika Nath’s