What would life be without art?

What would life be without art?

Ritu Kamra Kumar

Often, social consciousness defines the very credo of an artist’s practice, because artists, their work and aesthetics are shaped by the times they live in and the reality that surrounds them. An artist, whether behind an easel or writing on a laptop or playing the piano — brings out a multitude of socio-political or cultural facets across generations and genres. Their objective is to bring out experiences of a lifetime before the world.

I am assailed by a plethora of such thoughts, as being a teacher of English literature, I encounter a question from students what would life be without Shakespeare or Picasso! What role do these works of art play in human life? The thought of a banal existence, deprived of art, makes me shudder. Reading Shakespeare, I believe, is like the first step to discovering a treasure trove of varied emotions you never knew you had. As I discuss the relevance of art, books, movies, paintings and music with my students, I make them realise that art is a constant reminder of historical times. I often think that history is perhaps the best recorded fiction, because it is ‘his-story’.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature, which is but the mirror of his times, into his books, pictures and songs. Sometimes, caught between poetry and prose, painting and music, he builds a world of his times with his own words. Life would be prosaic without creativity of intellectual minds. Many a time, literature comes to my rescue when I am faced with a dilemma of ‘to be or not to be’. Poems and stories, read as a youngster, guide my wandering ship of mind and prevent it from getting lost in the whirlpool of life. With no Shakespeare or Wordsworth, not only literature would have been left poorer, but also our own lives much less explained or understood. Picasso said aptly all art ‘washes the dust of daily life off our souls’.

Reading a book, I often move in a timeless zone and get purged of my emotional baggage, and when I find the same book being read by a stranger at an airport, I feel the book is recommending me to converse with that reader. Such is the power of art that it brings together people of diverse backgrounds and culture. As I explain this to students, suddenly many of them start relating how they too have experienced moments when art and life converge. How their mothers too become interested in a particular novel and read it passionately relating to it with their own lives. All art is an artistic rendition of emotional lows and highs that help us understand our obscure lives. True are the words of Tolstoy, ‘The activity of art is based on the fact that a man receiving through his sense of hearing or sight another man’s expression of feeling, is capable of experiencing the emotion which moved the man who expressed it.’

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