Commentary: Is art necessary for life?

People say, “A picture is equal to one thousand words”. I am not trying to defy this, but sometimes I feel a picture well written in words can show all dimensions of it better than the picture itself. To me, a picture seems incomplete sometimes, just like some writing. If only a reasonable balance could be struck, by way of a picture supplementing a writing or vice versa, the communication, perhaps, could be more meaningful.

Man has come a long way, from the ages when he did not have a language to communicate. But history proves that even before any language evolved, he used to communicate with the help of pictures, drawn inside the caves. This perhaps proves that pictures are an easier way of communication.

Several centuries later, when both art and language have undergone a lot of improvement by way of evolution, we are in an era, where man cannot live without either. Art has become as essential as language, and perhaps both are working in a synergistic manner.

There was a time, some centuries ago, when pictures were more or less serving the purpose of illustrating the texts in prose or poetry. Then, there came a time when pictures were used as decorative objects. Visual art, predominantly used as a vehicle of expression, was the next stage. But the definition of art (I am presently limiting this expression to visual art only, not taking into consideration various liberal arts like music, dance and other performing arts) has undergone several changes in the last few years.

There was a time when most of the pictures were easily understood by everybody. This type of art could be grossly and categorically called ‘Realistic Art’. After this, perhaps the artists decided to tease the imagination of the viewers, with the result paintings became more and more ‘less realistic’ ! Sur-realistic pictures were in vogue, which eventually gave rise to paintings which did not have any motifs possible to decipher at all. Totally formless, abstract pictures started dominating the art scene. A stage where the art created by an individual was expected to express some feelings of the artist, gradually gave way to a bohemian situation wherein the artists started telling they need not communicate anything through their pictures! Well then, what is the purpose of art, if it need not convey anything?

‘Art for Art’s sake’ will perhaps allow such a situation. But where art is used in many other fields, the purpose of use of art is to communicate some message, this attitude will not do. Art, in such a situation, has to communicate something. Most assuredly, it has to communicate a definite message. Commercial art, by and large, doesn’t leave much to the imagination to the viewer. It is to aid the sale of any commodity in question.

If a painting need not convey the feelings of an artist the same way he feels, if its purpose is not to communicate any expression, if the artist is creating a piece of art not to communicate at all, what is the purpose of art ? Perhaps thinking in this direction gave birth to different isms of art like ‘dadaism’, kistch, decadent art etc.

Personally, being an artist, I feel that every piece of art has its own story to tell. Any painting, according to me, should, at first sight, make the viewer happy. Or, unhappy at least. If the viewer deliberates further more on the painting, then it should unfold gradually and surprise him with many more hidden details.

The joy one experiences when a work of art reveals its secrets, incrementally, is immense. The viewer will relate to the painting more intensely and look for meanings in different dimensions. It is at this moment, perhaps, the artist strikes a chord in the heart of the viewer.

Can you agree with the great writer ‘Oscar Wilde’, who said once “All art is useless” ? Perhaps not.