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.
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:-)