Thursday, October 15, 2009

Speakspace: Thursday's musings

He laid his mittens on his knees, unbuttoned his coat, untied the tapes of his face cloth, stiff with cold, folded it several times over, and put it  away in his pants pocket. Then he reached for the hunk of bread, wrapped in a piece of cloth, and, holding the cloth at chest level so that not a crumb should fall to the ground, began to nibble and chew at the bread.The bread, which he had carried under two garments, had been warmed by his body. The frost hadn’t got it yet.


More than once during his life in the camps, Shukhov had recalled the way they used to eat in his village: whole pots full of potatoes, pans of oatmeal, and, in the early days, big chunks of meat. And milk enough to bust their guts. That  wasn’t the way  to eat, he learned in the camp. You had to eat with all your mind on the food-like now, nibbling  the bread bit by bit, working the crumbs up into a paste with your tongue and sucking it into your cheeks. And how good it tasted-that soggy black bread! What had he  eaten for eight, no, more than eight years? Next to nothing. But how much work had he done? Ah!!

  From the novel 'A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich' by Alexander Solzhenitsyn


I have been reading the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn over the past few months,and have been quite engaged with  the  way he describes the human condition and explores the very nature of survival in his works.The way Solzhenitsyn describes his protagonist Shukhov,the absolute necessity of a piece of black bread just for mere survival and the absolute fruitlessness that he then sees in  the extravagance of living,makes me draw comparisons  with the works of  Somnath  Hore(an artist I hold in very high regard).


Recently, I spoke to a few art students about the commonality shared between the starving  farmer in the drawings of Hore and the overworked camp prisoner in the novel of Solzhenitsyn…. both exist from one minute to another…for both of them,survival is of primeval importance and yet,they both do not know what the next minute might bring….


I feel that the practice of art making is not very far removed from the above condition. Two of my colleagues recently came to my studio and we had an interesting debate on how the feeling of fulfillment as an artist can sometimes be the death of the creative process….by this I do not mean that one needs to wallow in feelings of inadequacy  to make good art….

"I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences,even the most terrifying-like madness,being tortured,this kind of experience-and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed  and intelligent mind.I  think that personal experience shouldn’t be a kind of shut box and mirror looking narcissistic experience.I  believe it should be generally relevant.”

                                                               -Sylvia Plath

Sonatina Mendes

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