The great masters
To me the great masters in the west are as inspired
as any great master from the east. So I don't find any difference
in their work and in our work. I feel that they are fantastically
inspired and they have made such beautiful pieces of art. Like what
is his name, the most well known artist here
I have seen the work of the person who made the Mona Lisa, what
is his name
Leonardo da Vinci, and I also saw the work of Vincent
van Gogh and in America where I lived I went to all the museums
and saw their collections of all great masters.
When I see their work I feel really inspired and I
feel really that I have not done even a fraction of what they have
done. They did so much work with so much labour and so much exactness
and so much beauty and such beautiful use of colours, that I really
feel like adoring them, worshipping them, and feeling how great
these persons were. How could they create such great things. So
that way I feel that they have the same patience, they have the
same emotions. And they use colours and things.
Beyond the senses
You said: "Our art goes beyond life itself
And that is something which an artist always tries to do, but the
way we do it in the west, we maybe never get really beyond life.
Well, if they do it with copying something outside then it is not
like a meditation. And then they transcend the age stage and they
get very deeply absorbed into what they are doing and then they
attain one-pointedness and all the things that one attains in meditation.
And that is why in India the art
I am not talking about the
modern art, which is coming now, because of all the influences of
the western art
but the arts which are still existing in India
were actually all portraying religious feelings. And so their art
was taking them beyond the real life and was giving them away into
a higher sphere of life.
I think that in western art things are very beautiful
but the symbols are not really beyond the realm of sense perception.
And so it does not take you beyond that, It keeps you in the world
and most of the time it is a nice apple on a nice plate or a chair
or things like that, which are man-made objects or objects present
in nature. They are only portrayed in a very beautiful manner, and
very close to nature like a good coloured luxury photograph. But
it has not that much of symbolic meaning and communication value
and that is why that painting only absorbs you for a particular
time and then you lose interest in it and you go to the other thing.
Conceptual art, which is living art, becoming a model,
becoming a painting themselves and not making a painting; not putting
out on canvas what you feel but through your action, through your
behaviour becoming and living it. Which is a different type as our
form of art, but it has also its own things. But this art is working
with the consciousness of the people who are there and after the
performance is over, it only remains in their mind as memory but
we can not show it to the coming generation as to what it was all
about. So that is a different form of art and this is a different
form of art. This art tells history, and most of the history that
is recorded in the world becomes art work, from sculptures, from
architecture and from those things which are telling how civilizations
were and how people lived and what they thought, rather than recorded
history in the form of books, our recorded language form telling
about the past history. So art has been forming a purpose of telling
history and transferring tradition and carrying out lots of things
from the past. So it is a medium that comes from the past and goes
into the future and connects the past, future and present. Whereas
with conceptual art it lives at the moment and after that moment
it disintegrates, it only lives in the memories of people and is
no more to be seen, except if you have photographs of that action
or a movie of that then you can show what people were doing as they
have now video-tapes of it. But that is something very different
and also there is limitation. You have to think in the same work
of what you are. I can make an engine flying and let the same thing
sink deep into the mud, but if I want to show it as a conceptual
art form, it will be very difficult. But in paintings it is very
easy. I can paint twenty hands and twenty heads and thirty feet.
In conceptual art it is very difficult. So there are certain things
which are only for painting, certain things only for sculpture,
certain things only for movies, certain things only for poetry and
in the same way certain things can only be done best in conceptual
art, and certain things can only be done best in painting.
About the approach of the artist I would say that
the approach of the western artist in the past was very much similar
to the approach of the artist of the eastern countries; they were
all trying to portray the principles of life as told by the religious
saints and seers and taught by the religion and the highest philosophies
of the world and they were completely following those things and
coming out with their own way of reaching people to adopt and understand
the philosophy present behind the works of the saints and seers.
But now people have gotten more egoistic and they
want to come out with their own individual egos and their knowledge
is not as vast and their symbols are not as universal. So they come
out with individual platforms and patterns, sometimes though those
platforms and patterns have a universal appeal
for all people from all cultures, from all places of the world.
And sometimes they have only a certain appeal which is very timely
and after a particular time those paintings lose their meaning.
One thing with the new way is fantastic, because you
are creating new avenues and you are creating new ways, and you
are creating new expressions and new mediums and new manners and
new techniques and that is very good. So I think it is also very
And this (his own work) is also very good; sometimes
for some people to devote their lives and to work steadily, very
softly, very gently, very slowly and work on the things which are
universal, and which are very much based on human nature and portray
human nature in a right way; classical things. So, I think I like
And I also find in the new art, in new western artists
very much a religious element. So people have their own moods and
their own ways. Sometimes they are able to put them together in
a right form and they are nicely knit together. Sometimes they are
very scattered and they look like riddles and puzzles, but sometimes
they look like a big paste where lots of garbage has been stored
and sometimes they look like a great shop of a jeweller where things
have been arranged in ornamented forms and they are very beautiful.
So I find that whatever people are seeing they should do.
Art does not mean that you should express in a certain
way. Art only means a particular way to be able to see things outside
and form it and bring it out from inside; communicate it with the
people who can understand it and who can know it. Art is an expression
and expression has got to be enclosed by the time, by the age, by
the problems of the age. And I think they are justified in doing
whatever they are doing, whatever way things come together, whatever
I think a basic honesty behind all these things is
the honesty of the artist. If he likes to work honestly, treat his
paintings as something very right that he is doing, love his paintings,
spend time with his paintings and do it in a way that he does not
want to get rid of it, but he is involved in it, he is absorbed
in it, then his sincerity and his faith, and his love and his devotion
comes. And if he is sincere in his work, I think it can be any expression,
any form. Art is art. Art is art.
Texts extracted from the interview of Harish
Johari with Louwrien
Wijers, called "Shri Harish Johari talks about his work
as a painter", taken 27 oktober 1978, published in Bres.