the new order beauty

January 2010

Palette Art Gallery, New Delhi 

Within the Indian tradition with its rich palette of varied disciplines, the aesthetic experience has been an altar of pleasure and a window to a deeper spiritual encounter, where the self dissolves with the vastness existence. Aesthetics in India are understood as swanubhava or self-experience, to be lived: not simply to be intellectually or imaginatively comprehended and appreciated. The experience of Indian aesthetics involves the body not just through the faculty of vision, but in its entirety as a habitus of the mind, memory, intellect and lastly the Self as the indivisible entity in the unending ocean of creation and destruction, the Brahman.  Such are the intentions invested in the practices of art in India. Indian art has shared an expedient intimacy with the tenets of Indian thought. The rich tradition of Indian philosophy, both rational and spiritual, has influenced and resides in all forms of expression. Elaborate ancient texts that span varied disciplines lay out the numerous rules governing the making of art including the preparations of materials used in different media. Through art the artist does not just bring fruition to his imagination or give it expression. Rather he allows prana, the vital force of creation to embody him while he channelises energy into form. Inverted, within, as pranantarik, art practice in India has functioned at the level of the abstract or that, which has no material existence. The strokes of a painter’s brush, the patterns emerging on a weaver’s loom, or the compositions of an artist-cinematographer… these are directed by the movements and of the flow of the prana shakti embodying the artist, to whose directions he offers his mind and reason. Through the ages the Indian artist has materialised this pranantarik experience and invited the viewer to participate through his work in that experience, and like himself be elevated beyond body and mind. Often, many analysts from the West are quizzed by the seeming lack of individuality in early Indian works of art. But Indian aesthetics has also emphasized the ‘modern’ element of artistic expression, in a detached and objective fashion. As the artist, in a pure state achieved through the rigorous discipline of body and mind by practices like yoga and pranayama, offers himself as a vehicle for divine expression; the formless principle manifests out of the particularities of the artist and the materials at his command. It is often said that if creation is an ocean, then forms are like waves on its surface. No two waves share equal dimensions. This subtle aspect of individuality and non-duality surface as fused in the object of expression.
Art and aesthetics have been understood as a means to traverse this distance and so the goals saundarya (beauty) and anandam (bliss) are closely associated.     
The spiritual vein in Indian art has continued unsnapped throughout history and has also found a contemporary voice. Through  the  last  century  from  the  birth  of  modernism  and  the  trajectory  of  the  anti  aesthetic  in  the  domain  of  Indian  Saundarya  Shastra,  there  have  been  specific  rites  of  passage,  from  the  colonial  to  the  post  colonial  and  the  subaltern  voices  in  visual  culture.  Contemporary aesthetics has re- assessed  the beautiful , Art is no longer interested in providing am image of natural beauty , not does it aim to procure the pleasure ensuing from the contemplation of harmonious forms , on the contrary, it aims at abandoning beauty, truth, invention and creation from the side of angelic spirituality and the aesthetic and is being replaced by notions of transformation, decay and development , drawing itself to the inescapable law of gravity. It teaches us to interpret the world through different eyes, to enjoy  a return to archaic or esoteric models, the universe of dreams or the fantasies of the mentally ill, the visions provoked by drugs, the rediscovery of material, the startling re- representation of everyday objects in improbable contexts and subconscious drives. Thus for the greater part of contemporary art, no longer is concerned with the body of work alone, but also its process , which becomes the object of creative discourse. This marks the  way of thought , which is concerned with the anti aesthetic in culture, or the beauty of provocation.
Our concern through this exhibition is to re- introduce  and re  interpret   notions of beauty in aesthetics of art. Traversing trough the ancient to the contemporary to arrive at a new synthesis.
Embracing beauty  and order  and celebrating collectivity. The exhibition aims at  re- contextualising the  richness of  Indian aesthetics  by re introducing elements  of the natyashastra as a starting point for appreciating beauty.   Incorporating   a tapestry of  multidisciplinary styles. The exhibitions aims to be viewed in a non-linear, time fractured mind frame. It is not related to any specific movement and characterised by its bringing together the rich tradition of – both the rational and spiritual - to the contemporary again . To renew beauty in a culture sick of the stench of death . A  time waiting and wanting  a renewal a rebirth .
Bharata’s Natyashastra, is the most comprehensive and authoritative text on art practice. While the four Vedas, the Rig, Atharva, Sam and Yajur Veda, are considered as the pillars of Indian thought, the Natyashastra is held as the fifth pillar — an extensive manual delving on the purpose and essence of creativity and expression, across varied media. Beyond the specificities of the era in which it was composed, the Natyashastra continues to inspire artists even today, including those working in modern media such as film and photography.
The exhibition then aims at  posing  questions to the artists -  Is  return to beauty an acknowledgement of art's limitations when it comes to social change?
Or, have artists come to a sense of desolation to which they themselves have contributed – given the lingering hope for beauty? Is a return to beauty a gesture of reconciliation with a world desperately in need of it after what it has been through in the intervening decades – a kind of aesthetic amnesty? Or, is the return a concession  - a futile effort to modify social awareness, and has art  sacrificed precisely that which gives it its deepest meaning?

Remen Chopra, Vibha Galhotra