Today we discussed Guernica in class. A video describing various elements in the painting, a lady and her dead child, a horse, a bull, an evil eye and we students pointing out what all elements we could see. Trying to understand what Guernica is about. This somehow made me restless. I remembered the museum, silent and red, in Spain where I walked as I saw Guernica. Second year undergrad in chemical engineering, no concept of art appreciation or western art in my head, I walked into this space where this painting stood, stretching across an entire wall. There was an energy so strong, it encompassed me wholly. I felt drawn into the scene. I felt something in me screaming with the people in the painting, something felt that hopelessness with them. As I walked along it, saw the painting unfolding, my insides were stirred, but I searched for no horse, no bull, no dove, no labels and no terms came in my head. It left me with a heavy feeling I took away with me. When today, sitting in an AC auditorium, such an experience being reduced to labels and finding symbolism and deriving sense of accomplishment from identifying elements in the painting as a form of appreciating it, this hit hard in my gut. It felt wrong. That magnificence of feeling, that enormity, that encapsulation that I felt where no words entered, cutting this out as this and that felt wrong. And we are happy to say we understood Guernica? But is understanding only dissecting, understanding is also feeling in full form, the whole.
Another video explaining the background of the painting, saying Picasso was ready to paint a masterpiece this time. After hearing the news of the bombing in Guernica, did Picasso think to make a masterpiece out of this mishap? He would have simply felt this unexplainable urge to express this ghastly truth, only to express. So I find the use of this way of words very polluting, it is so away from where I look at it, you do not meddle up your feeling with your justifying, and derive pleasures from it, you never understand by knowing alone. Thinking can follow a feeling or trigger a feeling or stand along with feeling, but only thinking, separate from feeling, I feel only serves a set purpose, and I believe not of understanding, it is maybe serving a purpose of jumping to the conclusion that we ‘know’, it is polluted, to begin with. Thinking going hand in hand with feeling, supporting it, understanding it, can and is the only way leading to seeing clearly.
Appreciation of art. Art does not need your alms of appreciation. Please do not reduce it to that. What needs appreciation if you think art needs appreciation is the inside of you. It is screaming at you to know itself, it seeks to know itself, to see itself. Look at an art. Listening to it, in silence, you will see you impose a meaning on it, you will see you think it does not say anything or it says rubbish, but maybe you are poking it with a stick to make you feel something and it simply refuses. Give it space, a little space to dance. Give yourself a little space to dance. And see yourself dancing with what it tries to say. Every piece of art is a challenge to yourself, if you can accommodate it, if you can make way for it in your head as an entity. A work made out of the need to be appreciated is not art, but if made out of the need to communicate, connect, it is. It can be in highly abstract ways. Art is an emotional mirror, if you cannot read it, maybe you cannot read yourself, maybe you are afraid to dwell on the questions a painting makes you think and you say it says nothing, because it hits against a wall in you which is not ready to fall. Please don’t appreciate art, it is demeaning. Try to feel it just by giving it the honour of your attention, and not judge or justify if you cannot feel it. If you can feel it once in a while, your understanding would have grown. Please do not reduce art and life to a matter of labels and claim that you know them. If you can feel it, running inside you, if a painting can make you fall on your knees and cry your eyes out, if a new thought can make you ecstatic, if it can sweep out from your brain all your thoughts and command you to a state you entered not on your thinking brain but flowing in a river and you don’t quite know how you got there, stay there for some time, with that painting, with that thought, with that music. It is here you are understanding, feeling, art, and it is here you are alive.