what affects the great creativity of great art and artists? the article studies the role of Chance and Inner Consciousness in creating lasting and humane art.
Mona Lisa does not smile anymore
I present here a fresh journey I undertake in art that is based on the philosophy of inner consciousness, chance and humanity. I call it Chance-Consciousness Art or CHANCON Art.
The process of creative expression is quite involved and complicated. There are several factors that affect artists in different ways. There is no monotheism in art. The Painting or for that matter any form of art is not a physical automatism—you eat and then next morning you expel without choice. The preliminary to this kind of art creation is to change the way of seeing, feeling rather way of being. Artist depends on inner as well as the outer, on his feelings and on what he perceives, on fixity and on flux, on experience and on vision.
Memory, experience and Art
Memory is very personal more like your morning ablutions. The use of memory to create art work at times is the spiritual necessity of the artist. I would like here to refer to Henry Bergson for registering the dynamic functionality of memory. Especially the bad memory haunts and till it is transformed in a work of art the artist is in a state spiritual discomfort. I will try to reach the memory function in creating art by taking first the example of Primo Levi. Primo Levi was born to Jewish parents in Turin. Piedmont region is very beautiful, verdant nature, happy smiling people, Barbera wine Piedmonte food and very healthy air. But it was different during II World War; life was cheap and was worth nothing if you were a Jew. Levi was deported to the hell hole on earth the Auschwitz lager where two million Jews were diabolically killed. Even today when you reach this part of Poland there is glumness in air, the dry almost saline landscape is usually overseen by grey clouds and harsh winds and rain even in the summer months. The main gate of the lager has these words in German `Arbeit Macht Frei' ¬ Work Makes You Free! The life of a prisoner had only one freedom—death. It was here that Primo Levi was sent along with others on a cattle train. His was a miracle to survive for eleven months and saved from certain death through ‘long march’ the Nazis subjected the camp prisoners evacuated before the arrival of Soviet army. Most of the prisoners died unable to withstand harsh conditions. Primp Levi being taken ill was in lager hospital and was left behind by Nazi guards. He was found in a miserable condition when Soviet army liberated the camp. Almost ten month after being liberated he arrived in Italy travelling through many countries of Eastern Europe. After regaining health he found work in a factory near Turin and wrote memoirs of his time in Auschwitz called Se questo è un uomo (‘If this is a Man’). Levi used his memories of the lager to raise fundamental question about what makes us human and how the lager destroyed humanity of inmates.
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.
Meditate that this came about:
quiz commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.
—From If this is a Man
To use memory stemming from personal experience but by a depersonalised depiction of the Dantesque universe of the lager is what Levi achieves. He imposes no emotionalism on you of his suffering or of others but like a clinical scientist presents to you the world of death and inhumanity. Primo Levi does not make memory a servant of his personal pain and trauma; he gives memory independent life and she hovers above the ground observing like a grey cloud the goings on in the lager. Memory becomes an open work a la Umberto Ecco. You are free to construct your own world on the armature Levi creates. This is very different use of memory by an artist and has no less devastating influence on the reader.
But how we artists can use memory that is a collective societal memory and we are no direct witness to it. The memory is transmitted from past to us by those who were part of the happenings. No doubt second hand memory can not replicate the pain and suffering of the original memory, but as an artist I engage myself with issue of humanity vs. the beastliness and use historicity in an artistic dialogue with present day society. How effectively I use the indirect memory to create a powerful artistic edifice serving not the history alone but also art and humanity is quite important.
In early 90’s I painted Lost Hope that was based on the Holocaust. I did not use emotional element in the painting. I used a broken brush and filled a crimson grey sky with darkness and the ground ochre grey with a suggestive meta-hole in earth and a queue of verticals running across the canvas from one side to another unaware of the doom awaiting them. This was my depiction of the Holocaust. My indirect memory can not substitute the direct memory of sufferers. Art has another purpose—to effectively convey and to preserve memory as a repository for future society. History is without the play of feeling but art uses emotions more directly and on account of its ‘openness’ offers greater freedom to viewers to reach the memory and the art work in their own personalised way. Societal or civilization memory is a social collective and has to be preserved and transmitted to successive generations as history and art so that humanity uses this capital of memories to built edifices for future. What enters inside us in an artistic form is more durable and affective than the bare reading of history unsupported by emotive pain and suffering that comes even with indirect memory. The history has a habit of fading and the facts become distant as they do not generate emotions and attachment whereas art using memory brings greater immediacy and involvement of the viewers and response touching on strong emotions.
By Viktor Vijay kumar
An article based on the book on art of India Mona Lisa does not smile anymore (ISBN978-81-8465-512-4)