Expressions of Art

Michael Bansode sdb

I can tell you that art plays a large part in making our lives infinitely rich. Imagine, just for a moment, a world without art! Art gives us insights into our being, fills our emotions, and helps us understand reality. Art gives us a way to be creative and it is through art that we express ourselves. For some people, art is the entire reason they get out of bed in the morning. Therefore, you could say that art makes us more thoughtful and well-rounded humans.

On the other hand, art is such a large part of our everyday lives that we may hardly even stop to think about it. Look at the desk or table you are sitting at right this minute—someone designed it; it is art. Our shoes are art. Our coffee cup is art. All functional design, well done, is art. So, we can say that art is something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Art is in a constant state of change, and change is a very important element of our lives. To change is to grow. Our culture changes and our language too, keeps changing. Such constant change is part and parcel of our lives.

It can also be said that art is subjective, and means something different to each person.

While all the above statements contain elements of truth, they are largely based on opinion. And my frank opinion is that there is art in everyone’s life. But I must say this—many things that were originally necessities have now been developed into forms of art. The desire to create something special is characteristic of the artistic process.

What is the connection between beauty and art? Art is not just beauty; it also emphasizes reality. Sometimes, art may remain inaccessible because it requires some background knowledge in order to be understood. In fact, not all art can be considered beauty—it may not always be ‘pretty’. So what does art do for us? The answer will be different for each person. But it is important to know that art requires no language in order to be understood.

Why do I talk about art? That is because it has fascinated me all my life, and in a way, it rules my life. Whenever I see the paintings of other artists (e.g., Ravi Varma, John Fernandes, Sr. Claire) I learn a lot from them, and they have inspired me in many ways. Artists like Angela Trinidade, Marie Pinto, Sr. Genevieve, Jyoti Sahi and Sr. Claire have contributed much to the popularization of Indian Christian Art. I too, feel that it is my responsibility to contribute something to the church through my art. I have realized that paintings can handle many subjects that would otherwise leave us mystified.

There are many types of paintings, but personally, I prefer realistic art, and I find the life of Jesus to be the best and most enriching subject. I am constantly trying to create realistic pictures of Jesus and the context he lived in. I believe that realistic art is an easy book to read, and an exhibition of such paintings that I once held in Bangalore was well-appreciated. On the other hand, I also believe that abstract art can convey broader ideas and perspectives, and I have created a few pieces in this style.

Much of my interest in and love for art developed in the Salesian congregation, and many Salesians have encouraged me in this field. Today, whatever I do invariably contains art in some fashion; art adds meaning to my life and is an integral part of it. I try to convey this through my paintings, some of which are as follows.

The painting of the Nativity depicts the new-born Jesus and his parents in the foreground, with the eyes of Mary and Joseph focused on the child. The vast expanse of the city of Jerusalem is in the background, seen as if through a window. The moon shines bright over the pillar and post where the new born King is born, showing that this is his house and home, not the manger which is popularly depicted by other artists. We are forced to contemplate head-on the primordial event of the birth of the creator.

The scene is awash with shadows and hues of dark purple and grey, indicating that Jesus is the birth-light of creation, the best fruit of God’s masterpiece. Jesus wrapped in white swaddling clothes is the center of the scene, while the landscape conveys meaning and also serves as an attractive component.

Shyla Coutinho, a mother and catechism teacher, declared that this painting expressed ‘caring and concern’. The magic of Christmas and the arrival of the Saviour is conveyed to the entire nation, which is seen in the background. Paradoxically, a tiny baby comes to rescue the whole of Israel and the Jewish Nation.

Similar to this midnight vision of Christ is the painting of the Last Supper, which takes place in twilight. Normally, supper is eaten at sun-down, unlike what we see in many paintings of the Last Supper. I am trying to depict Jesus and His apostles reclining in the hours of evening sunset. There will be lamps to illumine the faces of the relaxing apostles celebrating a memorable meal before the Passion commences, before Jesus enters the Garden of Gethsemane to prepare His chosen ones for the agony of His crucifixion.

In conclusion, I feel that even today, art is one of the most powerful means of communication. Unfortunately, many of us have an attitude that sidelines art. There are quite a few in our province who have been using art to communicate, but there are others who don’t. Let us start trying to enter and understand the wonderful world of art.

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