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The subjects of indian spiritual art
Harish Johari on the subjects of his art, extracts of an interview with Louwrien Wijers
Aum Gang Ganapataye Namah Aum
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Subjects of Indian Spiritual Art


 
 
 

Science & Philosophy

Actually my father wanted me to first study a science, physiology and body chemistry, so that I become a doctor. And then when I did my practical part I felt I was not able to do it. I did not like it. You have to cut up the animals and you have to do lots of things and I could not work in that way. But my father said when you don't want to study this, then you have to study philosophy. And I said "No, I don't want to study anymore. I think I have done my study. I want to finish. I am an artist."

And he says: "Artist is only half. You have to work with both sides. You have to understand philosophy; without philosophy no art is possible. All philosophy needs expression, needs to be drawn, painted, sculptured so that people see it as a visual and it is registered into their minds, slowly and gradually; then it leaves a deep impression on their minds and they bring it into their behaviour. They are like a child. So philosophy needs art and art needs philosophy. Without philosophy what is art going to portray."

So I studied philosophy and I did my masters in philosophy and as a poet I used philosophy as my expression and my thoughts were directed towards that. I was only thinking in that way.

Also science which is a very tough, rough subject is very beautifully explained in Indian iconography; the entire science of physics, the science of psychology, the science of sociology, interpersonal relationship… all these things are very nicely interwoven in Indian painting and in mythology.

No models

A main difference in art forms between east and west is that most of the time Indian artists are confronted with a problem: there are no models. They work purely with their imagination, with their memory. We don't ask anybody to stand in front of us and lean in a particular way: so that we sit down and we make all his body and curves seeing him, watching him all the time. So we don't do the modelling work.

We have basic lines in our mind and we see things in certain ways, so naturally we have work coming out from our memory from our imagination and we don't have the exactness of a model. And why is that? Because we don't think that the art is something to be copied from the outside world and the nature, but we think art is coming from within the mind. The mind has already been seeing all these things throughout his life and then he has to present his own image of what he is seeing, rather than asking somebody to stand with a spear in his hand, for seven hours, for twelve hours, two weeks and then try to be able to make that form. We see a man somewhere, we never ask him to stop. He was doing his role. We have seen him and that's all in our mind and whenever the time comes that we want to portray him, we just go inside of us and see the memory which is in our mind and then we make it.

I think there is no artistic, and no real, and no natural, and no close, to art in copied models. Then also you can take a picture, a photograph of somebody, as lots or artists now are doing. They take photographs of the landscape and photographs of everything and then they just make colour reproductions of the photograph. So they are not doing anything which is not present in nature. They are just copying the photograph and that is why they have come to techniques where they distort pictures and present pictures in different techniques calling it modern art, abstract art, this art, that art.

But in our art it is always abstract, because there is nothing concrete in front of us, it is only a very abstract idea that comes to the mind and then it becomes very slowly concrete on a piece of paper, or else a canvas. And there is no internal expression and whatever we have registered into our mind and not something which has been taken or copied from outside.

Hands

This Brahma is supposed to have four heads, which are facing four directions and that way energy is being spread all around. And then he has knowledge; Veda's in his hand, he has the purification device water in his hand, and he has a mala in his hand. And he has one hand granting a boone. Now, if you make twenty hands all alike it looks odd, so naturally the guy has to think of twenty different mudras, forms of hands, whereas a western artist is never confronted with that problem.

Dance

We have always dance, because we believe that when you have no body, when you have no weight, and if you come on this earth, you have to balance yourself. They are not earthly, they have no physical bodies, so they cannot balance themselves on earth being straight. Therefore they always have their feet and hands moving. So our gods are always dancing.


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.

 
 
 
 
Harish Johari
 
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Aum Gang Ganapataye Namah Aum