At a recent gathering of fellow artists, someone asked if our art practice is authentic and seen as such. It made me wonder if too much importance was given to how others judge our authenticity or are are we the observer and judge of our own truth?
How others see and what they think is totally beyond our control, so why be concerned with that? On one hand there is intention of the artist and on the other hand its people at the receiving end. And if we were to consider our own truth, our truths are formed, sublimated over time, informed by our experience with others and it’s a work in progress. Complicated! And then of course there are fine lines to tread between, beg, borrow, steal, plagiarise…. though cultures would’ve never enriched each other if those were not in place (more on this another time).
However the question on art and authenticity directed me towards self, and kept me thinking. I feel, an expression intended with authenticity is a time based and contextual expression, the essence of which changes with the person creating it. Can one always guess the artist by looking at the mark making or work? One needs to have a forensic eye to chart the changes and ascertain the themes, typical motifs, colour, technique, subject or style that become recognisably the signature of an artist. And with time all of us change and so does the expression and work. May we regard the signature as no more important than a verification of identity institutions that require that sort of proof.
Krishna Murti was once questioned in his talks by a disgruntled member of audience, who pointed out and quoted something that was in contradiction to what Krishna had said a few years back. To this, he answered, “I am not what I was then. What I know now, I didn’t know then.”
We live, we un-learn and we evolve.
If we get trapped in a cycle or a pattern within our lives, then our expression/art will reference that over and over again. However, if the development is a trajectory of one’s authenticity, then the expression will change as we a mirror our evolution. At times, looking at older photographs of self, I wonder and struggle to recall who I was then. Certain nostalgia creeps in. And as some one said, we get nostalgic when we cant appreciate the present or don’t have the spirit to look forward to the future. However, visiting places or meeting others after a long gap, in the spirit of nostalgia, I wish them to remain the same — in the context that was once familiar. But it’s disingenuous. In the same way, if we like the work of a certain time period, we wish to see more of the same, because we understand the context of how it came about. Similar to that mythic first kiss that we once raptured over — we get nostalgic! And the artist is after all human. We receive appreciation or the work sells and instead of using our own inner filter and voice, we relish the idea that since the work was acknowledged, we continue to reproduce variants of the same. To stay true to one’s enquiry is one thing, to get attached to it is another. Best observed in most television series, or films, where actors/storylines become a cliché of themselves. Robert De Niro is a great actor, but when he plays/is required to play De Niro, joy and authenticity are lost. Being authentic is knowing your truth, the development and evolution follow its own path as we mindfully continue to grow.
Art is an expression of life and at this juncture of my life, I am only attracted to life drawing. What do I seek in people when asking them to model for me? Each person emanates certain energy. What we see is a reflection of us after all, and, I seek beauty in all its manifestations. Certain vibrations attract me, same way that bees have a heightened sense of colour and smell. I enjoy drawing those those whose potential is visible to me, but I can see they need a little nudge to be in total balance. Often it is the need to be seen for who they are, in their wholeness. In giving the nudge, they provide an insight to me that’s much needed in my own journey. And when I am true to my intentions, the exchange of energies is just sublime. The drawn or photographic portrait is a result of our energetic exchange and is authentic in that given moment in time. The pleasure is mutual!
As an artist, at times contradictions tear me apart. Do I continue to make work which gets most Instagram likes and appreciative messages on FB, or follow principles of what I once studied in the art schools, or to create works led by current trends or do what I can do best at the given time and follow my heart? In a seesaw of violent highs and lows, a reminder that life is not a competition. Be gently buoyant and keep the feet close to the ground, and stay in dialogue with self. What is my authenticity? I try my best to unlearn that which doesn’t serve me any more, detach from past interpretations to experience the world afresh with what I know now, disrupt my trends, and most importantly continue to play.