Obsessed

I am part of an urban culture that is obsessed with multiplex, mall-going, shopping brands, lifestyle products, flaunts and talks about his/her lifestyle in online/offline social circles (mostly online). This disposable economic power or purchasing power comes from long hours of illogical working (that is perceived to be hard work) and gets rewards of self gratifying, ego-boosting products for a complete/fulfilling life at home or otherwise. In short, we produce at work and consume at home.

Consumerism has emerged as the ‘uber cool’ religion that is established itself at supersonic speed across the world and overthrows all others by objectifying human emotions, instantly gratifying with small fleeting ‘nirvana-like’ pleasures, and that teaches us to solely pursue economic goals at the expense of environmental, social, or ethical concerns and keeping us ‘Obsessed’. Unreasonably we are in super hurry with all zeal, energies and unwavering devotion to collect and possess as many things/products as we can in the shortest possible time and are ready to fight with our own psyche and defy conventional value systems in the pursuits.

As Wikipedia says – To those who embrace the idea of consumerism, these products are not seen as valuable in themselves, but rather as social signals that allow them to identify like-minded people through consumption and display of similar products. Few would yet go so far, though, as to admit that their relationships with a product or brand name could be substitutes for healthy human relationships that sometimes lack in a dysfunctional modern society.

I am not sure whether this consumerist culture that we see today is a development or a symptom. There may be debates that these are the signs of growing economy, expansion, advancement and shows the prosperity of a city or a nation. The cost for this according to me is human ethics, value systems, relationships and in my series of paintings, I have tried to mirror what I see and feel around.

Things

I am a keen observer of the current time and space which we live in and this series of paintings ‘Things’ are reactions to the observations, our relationships with man-made Things/Products/Brands. Our needs become ‘Things’ which in turn become desirables that forms the basis of the ecosystem of our living and behaviors.  All our intellectual, emotional, physical desires arise for the ‘Things’ that we create, consume and aspire to create more.

We have created a vicious circle and it is amazing to see our own behaviors arising out of this cycle. A consumer culture cannot survive simply on what people need. Instead, the market has to artificially create needs, and the creation of dissatisfaction. Companies are investing billions of dollars into creating desire for some new ‘Thing’ while also convincing what someone just bought is no longer valuable. This is an amusing interplay of human emotions and insatiable objects of desire.

‘Things’ become desires. Desires are multiple, infinite, abstract, repetitive and very much engraved in our social fabric. We aspire to have relationships with people who use certain desirable ‘Things’ or have more respect, adulation, admiration for them or wish to be one of them. ‘Things’ alias desires become conversation starters, gratification creators, intangible ways of feeling happy about ourselves.

This series of paintings is my attempt to express various layers of these thoughts, observations outlined above and in the process I realize that I have created more ‘Things’ !!

Manavatar – Man, Material and Spirit

These thoughts have been running through my mind for quite few years, from the days when I was involved in the rehearsals of a Bharatnatyam dance ballet Dashavatara which depict 10 popular avatars/descent of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology. Lord Vishnu who is said to be the preserver of the universe , seeks from time to time to redeem the world and as an avatar (incarnation) manifests his divine being into the life of man or a living being, whenever evil threatens it.

There are 1000s of views, representations or interpretations of the Dashavatar episode done by various traditionalists, modernists, filmmakers, writers, artists, groups, communities etc., I have thought of them in my own ways, with whatever modest knowledge I have heard and seen in televised visuals, calendar pictures etc., My granny explains these stories as if she has lived through the times and seen the episodes live. These are my reactions to what I see in everyday life and the mind divided over contradictions.

Dashavatara is the all-encompassing epic in Hindu mythology that celebrates the recurring triumph of good over evil – tenfold. The trade-off situations we are in, I find it difficult to recognise what is good and what is evil. Man is on both sides and he administers the proceedings multi-fold. The power and pursuit of man is such that it is easy to have a sense of disbelief in these super power characters or any gods. Nothing can stop man and he will stop at nothing.

I am neither agnostic nor religious or conventional. I have used the characterizations from the Dashavatar epic and in my thoughts; there is no place for the spirit called God. Everything is man – his life, material, equipments, products, relationships, ideas, desires, contradictions with himself and the spirit or character of Lord Vishnu’s avatar.

I would like to call my series of paintings as Manavatar (Avatars of Man). I see man as a self-appointed God or supreme power dictating the complete trial of the world. It is a cliché and yet surprising to observe how we behave and what we keep looking for. The most important thing that can make us humans happy is the sense of achievement! And we want to continue achieving something or the other. So I am and my works.

More paintings – Work in Progress……..

Manavatar

This is an online exhibition of my drawings. I plan to execute these drawings into large canvases someday whenever time and space permits. May be thoughts would evolve by then and something new could happen.

These thoughts have been running through my mind for quite few years, from the days when I was involved in the rehearsals of a Bharatnatyam dance ballet Dashavatara which depict 10 popular avatars/descent of Lord Vishnu in Hindu mythology. Lord Vishnu who is said to be the preserver of the universe , seeks from time to time to redeem the world and as an avatar (incarnation) manifests his divine being into the life of man or a living being, whenever evil threatens it.

There are 1000s of views, representations or interpretations of the Dashavatar episode done by various traditionalists, modernists, filmmakers, writers, artists, groups, communities etc., I have thought of them in my own ways, with whatever modest knowledge I have heard and seen in televised visuals, calendar pictures etc., My granny explains these stories as if she has lived through the times and seen the episodes live. These are my reactions to what I see in everyday life and the mind divided over contradictions.

Dashavatar is the all-encompassing epic in Hindu mythology that celebrates the recurring triumph of good over evil – tenfold. The trade-off situations we are in, I find it difficult to recognize what is good and what is evil. Man is on both sides and he administers the proceedings multi-fold. The power and pursuit of man is such that it is easy to have a sense of disbelief in these super power characters or any gods. Nothing can stop man and he will stop at nothing.

I am neither agnostic nor religious or conventional. I have used the characterizations from the Dashavatar epic and in my thoughts; there is no place for the spirit called God. Everything is man – his life, material, equipments, products, relationships, ideas, desires, contradictions with himself and the spirit or character of Lord Vishnu’s avatar.

I would like to call my series of drawings as Manavatar (Avatars of Man). I see man as a self-appointed God or supreme power dictating the complete trial of the world. It is a cliché and yet surprising to observe how we behave and what we keep looking for. The most important thing that can make us humans happy is the sense of achievement! And we want to continue achieving something or the other. So I am and my works.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Narasimha Concrete Mixers

Title: Narasimha Concrete Mixers, Pencil on paper.

Lord Vishnu emerged as Narasimha (half lion-half human) from a pillar of the palace to save his ardent devotee and killed the demon king. Narsimha is the embodiment of valour. In my version, the simha(lion) merely becomes a designed utility of a concrete mixer which is helplessly on the other side of making a concrete pillar.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Title: Varaha Earth Movers, Pencil on paper

A demon had taken the earth and carried it to the bottom of the cosmic ocean, the Lord appeared as a wild boar, killed the demon and lifted the earth out of the flood waters in which it had been submerged. He lifted the Earth between his tusks and restored it to its place in the universe as a symbolic representation of the resurrection of the world from the deluge of sin. We see a different kind of picture in the nook and corners of our homes. A boar/pig like creature with an insatiable hunger to eat the earth from both the ends and smartly creating cultivated/civilized areas for us to live.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

ambrosia stay young forvere

Title: Tortoise Brand Ambrosia(Amruth) - Stay young forever! Pencil on paper

Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as the Kurma (the tortoise) in order to support the mount Mandara, which started sinking during the churning of the ocean. Thus, the Kurma sat on the bottom of the ocean with a mountain, being placed on his back by the other gods so that the gods & demons could churn the sea and find Amrit – the nectar of life and immortality.  Vishnu also appears as Mohini the female fatale, an enchantress, who acquires the pot of Amrit from thieving Asuras (demons) by trick, and gives it back to the Devas (demi-gods), helping them retain their immortality.

Mohini still remains an enchantress who sells all kinds of so called immortal,colossal, attractive products to us and helps us maintain a consumerist state of mind throughout.  The insatiable word “More” bears the brunt of  mountainous desires and keeps the products life cycles alive.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

ram kris tagged

Title: Ram and Kris are tagged, Pencil on paper

Rama and Krishna avatars are well-known to many as in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata respectively.  Both the characters are the center of all human relationships in the epics. The purpose was to ensure that justice and peace (dharma) ruled when there aroused family disputes, ego clashes, wars, gluttony etc., I am part of a similar world that is more individualistic but casual in interrelationships for a change. An ironical situation in which we are in – we are neither connected nor left alone.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

fishy kiddos

Title: Fishi kiddos play school, Pencil on paper

As Matsya the fish, saviour of srishti or creation, Lord Vishnu saved the four Vedas(books of knowledge) from destruction by flood. Quality education was dictated and savored by the mighty Brahmins and Kshatriyas in the older world . Even now, we see a similarity with the capitalist classes (the affluent) only having access to qualified training and accepted streams of knowledge.  A priced commodity as it has evolved to become, knowledge or education is a mere means to make more commodities.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The Dwarf

Title: The Dwarf, pencil on paper

Lord Vishnu’s incarnation – as a dwarf was to show the people that they should live in their own places and should not be greedy to occupy the other lands. The dwarf man in my flex poster drawing doesn’t seem to be in his place, publicizes a larger than life figure of his and claims responsibility of  things that happens for the betterment. We all can recognize the dwarf man. He is within us as a narrow, corrupted  and dwarfed mind – who can be neither be got rid nor lived with.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

CD available

Title: CDs, DVDs available at all leading stores, Pencil on paper

Buddha is also considered one of the incarnations of  Lord Vishnu.  Today, every other person on the road, his uncle is an enlightened person and a self-appointed Buddha.  Of all the things in the world, I am confused whether this spiritual pollution renounces the world or embraces with all it’s riches/luxuries.  It is simple. Man makes and makes products. He needs a break and some peace. Hence he practices meditation, makes peace related stuff in his free time and returns to make more another things. You see, mediation gives you the power to do ”More”.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

auto tree feller

Title: Automated Axe, Pencil on paper

As Parashurama or Ram with axe, Vishnu annihilated the demons in their battle with the gods. The axe becomes the automated tree feller in my version and the human omnipresent in the barren lands.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

horse power

Title: The immovable Knight , Pencil on paper

The Kalki Avatar is the only avatar of Vishnu that is set in the future. It is believed that at the end of the present age (Kali Yug), there will be a deluge when Kalki – the tenth and the last avatar of Vishnu, will ride forth on a horse (half horse-half man) to redeem humankind and re-establish righteousness. The cynical mind ceases to believe. Such is the power of  man that the Knight(horse) cannot move in any direction despite being powerful and mighty. Everything would go as is and man will still keep achieving.

On the Dark side!

This work was inspired by the 18th century master painter Goya.  Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters etching may show the artist himself, asleep, plagued by mythical monsters and other creatures of obscurity, possibly pecking at him to awaken and work. They might be symbols of his own pressures with commissions and the desire to be successful in life, and the reminder of what lies on the other side of ambition. Even if a person goes to sleep, their mind unveils emotions they may not even have known that they had, and morphs them into creatures sent to become pestilences. I used to dream weird  and I couldn’t disagree with these emotions, thoughts, did my own copy of it and titled “On the Dark side”

On the dark side

This is drawn/etched on an X-Ray film and printed B&W on paper.

“Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746–1828) is regarded as the most important Spanish artist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries” (Francisco de Goya ). He painted cartoons for royal palaces and etchings as well as paintings in the circles of royal patronage.

Machined!

Machines and machines everywhere,

Machines to fly, move, run, eat, drink, flush, sleep

Machines on my right, left, top, bottom, center

Machines here and there,

Machines within and outside

Machines are what makes us, without em we are nowhere!

Machined!

A mystery!

Mystery

A celestial being in the form of a mortal

An embodiment of grace and beautiful form that created symphonies with lines and shapes in the air

A carrier of the celestial dances within the soul who conversed to the dumb-founded me through each part of the form

The movements stroked resemblances to the beautiful things in nature

A heavenly being in the form of a modern damsel superior and that deserved premium unlike me

A sweet-painful reality then, an unresolved mystery gone-by and beautifully forgotten as is

Unable to express, thus took refuge in lines, colors, forms and shapes which reflected my joy!

I am a commodity!

Who is not? If one is not a commodity, then he/she is useless, unusable, not worth living or probably dumb!!

I always asked this question to girls whom I dated, to wife and friends. “If  I did nothing in life, probably didn’t have any talents, didn’t contribute to anything productive, didn’t go to work, sat at home, roamed around for the heck of it without any money in my pocket, just lived…would you get closer to me? would you continue the friendship? you would have married me?”

The then few prospective chics who were ignorant and courageous enough (or probably dumb enough?) to say they would stick on to me and will do anything to be with me!! Probably they would have, but I know, not for a lifetime for sure!! Friends would probably would meet me once in a while, keep in touch which would deteriorate once they get busy with their respective lives.

The Wife was smart enough to repeat back the question to me in a similar fashion something like this: “If I were ugly looking, unbelievably overweight and did nothing…you would have married me?” I didn’t have a convincing answer either which made me retrospect into the marriage market.

Be it arranged marriage, love marriage, matrimonial marriage….ultimately everybody looks at each other as packages, products or commodities. Mr. Right or Ms. Right happens first on the basic factors like money, property, looks etc.,. then comes family, behavior, interests, hobbies as value adds to the whole package. And then conversations happen, castles are built in the sky and Love happens! Then the deal happens between two packages (which we call marriage, engagement, seeing someone etc.,)!  After reading this statement, definitely there would be some who are ready to violently argue on this  and kill me right now! Well, there are exceptions and they are very marginal. Also, the exceptions also have some hitch associated with them.

I  have few examples to cite on this. There is a guy (aged around 28-30) near to my place where I stay. He is handsome, speaks well, well behaved and spends his time roaming across the streets, watching movies, a favorite  among kids (coz he is always free to play with them). He doesn’t work, has done his 10th, helps the aunties around with domestic work and is generally always happy.  Why don’t girls love him? He is such a nice guy to be with!  Similarly there is another girl in her twenties who looks dark, raised teeth, skinny and takes care of her mom and sister. She is smart, intelligent, works in a school and is a bread winner of the family. Why don’t guys fall in love with her. There are many the so called eligible bachelors around her. Why didn’t I myself get attracted before I got married?  Because these kind of persona (the guy and the girl) are not the right packages!! or the right products!!

Needless to say, Even God is a commodity in our generation. Live Telecast of poojas, aarthi at famous temples are available on TV and Internet. There are various sponsorship issues within them and fights for air space which we often hear or see. These initiatives are again to polish the spiritual side of us being products so that we get some shine, some relaxation so that we can unwind, get refreshed and get ready for the next produce!

This is even more obvious in the corporate world or the job market which I don’t think I need to elaborate. Ultimately  we are sophisticated human commodities or products producing new products for our own fellow human products to sustain our productiveness!! This is the real Product Life Cycle (the term IT companies use invariably left, right , center, up, down..in all possible angles).

For ex: I brush my teeth with a toothpaste in the morning. Someone makes the toothpaste, another markets it, someone sells it to me. While I am myself involved in the digital marketing of these kind of products designing  E- commerce websites and selling it. So I am marketing it to myself in a way. Now If I don’t brush my teeth, I would get ridiculed by colleagues and my unimpressed seniors at work  wouldn’t  recommend me to higher promotions and I would become a stale product.  And I get paid well by being a good, sincere and useful product/commodity producing more and more products! That completes the PDLC (Oops! i.e Product Development Life Cycle)

Friends, this is how I think when I am cynical or probably practical! These are just my personal thoughts and not intended to hurt anyone. Feel free to comment or discuss.

Why Should I paint?

It has been years I haven’t touched my paints, brushes or canvases and they lay on the lintel shelf at home dry and covered with dust. The last time I  painted on canvas was for my solo exhibition way back in 2002. Few people whom i knew and had invited did come for the show, appreciated it pretty well and wished the very best for my future. I did get some good reviews & criticisms in reputed dailies and the event announced on the radio!! (wow, I thought I am famous!!). A few seniors (or pragmatic uncles I would say)  asked me questions like “Is the show a success?” “Did you get something?” “How many did you sell?” etc “Did you get back what you spent?”. For all these my answers were in the negative.

herd, handgestures

Herd, Acrylics, 2003

Yes, I had quit my first job, spent quite a lot (for me as part of a middle class family in India 1 lac is a lot) and took 3-5 months in working and organizing the exhibition.  I did sell few small paintings which totaled around Rs.5000!  It is quite obvious that I was bankrupt, had no job in hand and my parents, sister looked unto me to change scenarios at home and having a secure, stabilized future. I was too ignorant of the real world out there.

I realized that the art world isn’t as rosy as I had fantasized it to be. I had my whims that there are rich and famous people, who would want to have unique art pieces to decorate their homes, they would see my exhibition details in the dailies, would come for the show and buy it!!  Well, there is a lot more that happens in the world of art business. I realized it is not important What I Know, but it is important Whom I Know to sell my work, sustain myself  and make a living out of it. I should have lobbied around journos to write more about me, my work, invited celebrities, hosted cocktail parties during the show, have a professional promoter with me etc., etc., etc., Basically, I should have done my social networking homework with a strategy. Nevertheless it was a great learning experience for me and gave me lot more insights into the future nuances of living an artist’s life!

I neither had the courage to take my art forward nor I had the essential moolah (back up money) for existence.  I wanted to see my family smiling and happy as well. Having this in mind, Down! went the brushes into the box and the canvases rolled up, frames broken.  I searched for a designer job which would give me a stable income, held the mouse again and have never turned to my imaginary world till date. Every effort of mine to practice it during weekends and holidays have turned futile and I have almost given up on it.

Meanwhile over the years, I have been thinking and questioning myself  “A work of art is successful only when it is sold?”, “An artist is successful only when his works gets sold for high prices and he is talked about much in the media?”. After pondering over and over with the same thoughts in the mind I also finally arrive at the question “Why Should I even paint?”, “For whom should I?”. Probably I should get along well with the sponsors of my show and work according to them, so that they get their revenues in return. Who would even listen to me what I have to say? Why would someone take notice and absorb my ideas, thoughts unless it is of any use to them.

It is a busy world out there and every single thing in life is turning into an object, a commodity which is a reality everybody knows. Even If I start painting again, exhibiting again (of course now with better marketing strategies, networks, promotions etc.,) I guess I would end up being a producer of particular kind of commodity (a canvas with some figures, attractive colors etc.,) which will hang on few walls across few affluent homes.  Am I not doing the same now being a Designer in the IT industry? Producing good looking software products, websites etc.,

My thoughts in this post are around… If I have to measure success in life in terms of money, material and luxuries in life, then I don’t have earn a living by selling an art piece! Art has no purpose and it is just an expression without any restrictions, fear and no qualms.  A work of art has to come from within, may be without a purpose and just for the sake of it. Only then, I think I would call it successful, free and genuine. Just like a 5 year old kid, who paints without a purpose. The child is happy seeing the colors and goes on filling up the spaces as it chooses. It doesn’t care for people’s comments, doesn’t care if it would get sold and also doesn’t care to preserve it. It is the moment which is enjoyed and forgotten. I think that is where real art lives:-)