Art is life, not something to be placed in a shrine and substituted for life. Actually, art is an effort to create, besides the real world, a more human entity. Moreover, a true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. Indeed, even those who regard art as an ideal and artists as idealists cannot deny that art is a faithful mirror of the life and civilization of a period.
Everyone concedes what Nehru said that Indian civilization of the past periods was full of life; it created things of beauty, the arts flourished, and the echoes reached distant countries. Nehru was also stating the reality when he said that the art of a people is a true mirror of their minds. Both arts and crafts have indeed close connections with life; there is no line of demarcation between arts, crafts and life when the arts have really been an integral constituent of the people's daily existence.
Obviously, it is impossible to separate art, or the arts, from life; they are a part and parcel of it. The idea can also be expressed by saying that when life declines and the standards of living deteriorate, art also declines. On the other hand, when life marks an upward swing and shows all-round improvement, such a un swing inevitably gets reflected in the arts.
It is during the regimes of eminent influential kings and emperors, Maharajas and Nawabs in history, especially during the Golden Age, that the arts, such as painting, music, since and crafts of various types prospered. Who bothers about art and the artists when there is poverty and destitution all round, when the rulers are constantly engaged in internecine warfare or struggles for power during which art is the first casualty?
This is also true of the age of exploitation, colonial, imperial or other.
To say that art is only confined to the artist the painter, the sculptor, the dancer, the musician, the singer or other craftsman is to take a needlessly rigid and restricted view. Real art is all-round illumination and adds stature to life. The object of art, it has been well said, is to crystallize human emotions into thought, and then fix it in a concrete form.
After all, painter thinks, reflects for a long time, tries to imagine something good and great, has a vision or a dream, and then draws a picture, a drawing or moulds clay or metal into a figure he has dreamed or thought of. Since dreams, thoughts and visions are all a part of our life, art is also very much a part of our existence.
Even the illusions, which often get reflected in masterpieces of art, can be entertained only by human beings of talent and cannot, therefore be separated from life.
An unfortunate aspect of life in the modern world is that misconceptions about art and artists, and about their role, have been spreading fast. Anyone, it is said, who finds a way to make a lamp or some other artistic piece out of a Camp-Cola bottle gets more protection than a humble man who creates a work of real art.
There is indeed a distortion of values in the world of art; really talented artists often starve because of the lack of patronage by those who lead a life devoted to un artistic activity. An artist who revolts against man's fate in life may or may not get adequate encouragement. Moreover, what passes for "art" in today's world may in reality be fraud or cheap imitation of a masterpiece.
Again, is it not true that the measure of the creator is the amount of life he puts into his work. A real work of art has to be full of life; if it is lifeless and soulless or dull, it evidently lacks life.
Who can deny that a painting or a piece of sculpture has great appeal if it is life-like, emanating vigour and activity and if it inspires human feelings? Besides, the real artist is he who does not cater to cheap tastes or panders to the low, in human or base instincts of men and women. If an artist sells himself for the baser things, he is a traitor to art.
True art grasps, rediscovers and reveals to us reality which human beings tend to forget and from which we often seek to get away. Often the reality is harsh; even that serves as a reminder of what we are prone to ignore. When the reality is pleasant and artistic creations please, we begin to appreciate art, not otherwise.
Art, like most human beings, is temperamental; it is no secret that artists, poets and musicians work when they get the requisite inspiration. Dictation and imposition of authority are what art and artists firmly resent. In this sense art is an intense form of individualism. Even so, art should never seek popularity; on the contrary the people should try to value art and make themselves artistic as far as they can.
Life itself is an art, and though artists and poets may seem visionaries, they have a specific and distinct role to play. The irony, however, is that if art and artists continue to live in a world of their own, far removed from life, they may have to starve unless they are able to get permanent and affluent patrons.
Art and artists are now being patronized and encouraged by the Government of India and the State Governments. But official patronage alone cannot be a lasting guarantee of the prosperity of art; the people themselves must learn to appreciate art in whichever form it comes before them.
Life itself is an art. The swing of the pendulum may raise art to the skies or bring it down crashing to the earth. Experimentation is what art thrives on, and such experimentation, as in science, ultimately proves highly beneficial to society. The progress in art reveals the progress of a country and its innermost character. The relationship is, therefore, intimate and is becoming increasingly obvious.