Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Steady Erosion of Artistic Merit – III

Author’s note: I don’t know where this is going, but I am plodding on.

The problem with instant reviews via tweeting and facebooking is that no one is really listening to you or paying attention. They are all giving their own versions of the condition of their life, such as how they puked after the third drink, how the are lonely after their boyfriends ditched them, and how tired they are after the day’s work. They are too self-absorbed in their own geniuses to be bothered to listen to what you are saying. Nobody is reading your messages for its meaning but are judgementally dismissing it as another “sample” or “type.” They are looking to stereotype the author of the message and maybe think, “so-and-so is upto his tricks again.” That can’t compare to the joy of reading an in-depth review of a movie, an art opening or a book.

Look at art criticism. Times were when newspapers had dedicated art critics. They used to dissect the paintings, write scholarly articles about them, compare them, build up artistic merit. So I felt at least we are getting somewhere. I don’t know where all these writing has been jettisoned and the pay for review trend began. No longer. I am talking of the sixties and seventies when I grew up. Once I rather naively put an artist friend in touch with a journalist-friend of a leading newspaper boasting that he will surely cover the art exhibition. The artist came back to me and told me that the friend had given him the short shrift and told him that if he could pay he could get his pictures published. So one great myth that newspapers exist to review and to comment and, maybe, in the process set things right in the country were proved a fallacy.

In my youth, as an aspiring artist and as an aspiring writer, too, I thought Indian artistry is going place and that I would be a great artist, but it never happened. I somehow got sucked into space selling, writing for magazines, writing content for websites and corporate sort of writing. When discouragement and apathy from friends and well-wishers is so strong one tends to drift away. Some of our noted artistic icons left India and went abroad to settle down, seeing as to how little art is encouraged here. Souza went to Paris, so did Ara and Raza. Hussein, who steadfastly remained patriotic and struck roots in India, has been unceremoniously banished to the kingdom of Qatar. An artist’s iconoclasm should be countered by strong review and critical methods not by physical injury or banishment. Or, so I feel. Nowadays only those artists get covered who have influence, or, can pay to display his/her art. They appear regularly on the social pages, wear ethnic clothes and glasses and party hard and pay for their pictures to be published in the social columns. Everything has become corporatised. There are artists who concentrate only on painting and selling to corporates. No they didn’t paint and then considered if corporates wanted them, they drew exclusively for corporates. Visit any corporate head office and you can see plenty of badly drawn and painted canvasses on their walls, atrocious in their imagery, cheapening the very pretentiousness they are seeking by displaying the paintings. Being an artist (I mean the artist who drew these paintings) is like being an employee of the corporation.

More of this later. I must pay attention to my novel. “Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard” awaits my patient editing.

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