Randhir Khare: Art is now a commodity

Granted – we have a lot of budding artistic ‘talent’ in our city. Granted – we are home to art academies of various shapes and sizes. Granted – we are (or send our children off to be) at the mercy  or in the aesthetic careof  art tutors. Granted – every second or third spanking new ‘café’ has a gallery of sorts to display and sell art. Granted – there are people out there who are taking the artistic experience  into virtually every public space and having one helluva ball encouraging anyone who has even a pea between the ears to try their hand at making their own ‘work of art’ and carrying it home. Granted – there are adventurers out there who can teach you how to create your own work of art from tea, coffee, pudina chutney and a baffling number of edible and not so edible mediums. Granted – art residencies are popping up faster than mushrooms. Granted – more art loving denizens are finally putting their hands into their pockets and buying art. Granted – we are going to (somewhere along the line) give the Big M or B an artistic run for its money. Granted – a lot of artistic else…….I still maintain that  art is now a commodity, the act of creating art largely a recreational, fun, or snobbily esoteric activity…and in the end the product and not the process matters.

Let me give you an example, tangentially of course. A long time ago, the brilliant South African poet Roy Campbell, an iconoclast in his times, was addressing a bunch of ‘arty’ students and a smartalec raised his hand and asked him his opinion on the then SA novelists who were considered to be great stylists. Campbell, in his inimitable manner, replied in verse. It went something like this…

“You praise the firm restraint with which they write;

I’m with you all the way;

They use the snaffle and the curb alright,

But where’s the bloody horse?”

I think that this has a lot of relevance to my ravings and rantings here.  Campbell was taking about the lack of energy, the absence of flesh and blood and muscle, the lack of power – genuine power. The absence of the heart.

This is the point. Art without a heart is merely an exercise in aesthetics, in techniques, an expression of cleverness, a pretty game…a lifeless product. A thing on the wall.

It would do art a great favour if an emotive approach to learning  and practising art is encouraged and those who are tutored, taught or are learning or being trained (whatever word you’d like to use) or actually engaged in creating art are encouraged to use their skills to express themselves in an engaged way. But mind you, it’s not a desert out there. There are many who genuinely have a lot to express but are reluctant. It’s time to create spaces and courses and offer guidance to such people  through formal and informal art education  (not training!!!) and encounters that are extensions of art exhibitions or are offered as co-curricular activities/learnings. And there are specialists amongst us who can make this happen.

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Randhir Khare

Randhir Khare

Randhir Khare is an awardwinning writer, teacher, artist and storyteller who has mentored a few generations of creative talent. He is Director of Gyaan Adab, Pune’s Premier Cultural Centre. Randhir Khare writes every Wednesday for Pune365.
Randhir Khare

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