Interviews

An exclusive interview with Jatin Das

Jatin Das

Jatin Das – ‘Creativity is a Never-ending Process’

In which direction do you see Art in India moving? What is the future?

In our country, the very way of life has art in it – the very concept of painting, dance and music is art.

I grew up in a middle class family – where music in the form of chanting or pooja was a way of life. When I was a student in Bombay, I used to go in the evening to listen to concerts of Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and sit through the whole night listening to music. Today is different – you normally go to a concert for half an hour or one hour – with too many diversions – commercial, industrial and today’s plastic culture.

India – Art & Craft:

But India is a unique country – it is in the Orient – it is different from the Western world. We still have craftspeople and weavers – blacksmiths and gold smiths – people who can do embroidery, bidri ka kaam, basketry, jewellery, whatever you name. We have folk singers and dancers – and folk and tribal painters. But while we have folk, tribal, classical and contemporary streams of art – these rivers are flowing, but are still not inter-connected.

Traditional vs Contemporary Artists:

We contemporary artists have this feeling that we are more important – maybe because we have catalogues, feature films are made on us and we are written about and sold. But frankly, the traditional artists are much more talented than the contemporary artists. This is because they spend all their life dedicated to their craft – and also, there is a family history and trait. So if somebody was a wood-carver, then his children also did wood-carving – as his father and grandfather before him. And he most probably learnt his art when he was a child of 3 or 4 years old. So anything you all do, it should start from the beginning – from your early childhood. And then there is sanskaar – and the refinement comes by practice. If you look at Indian classical musicians, they all do riaaz of  6 to 8 to even 10 hours every day.

Expertise – Knowledge – Experience:

Ours today is a commercially driven society – which has learnt from the western world – kind of an American parody. When I was young, I used to do 300 sketches a day in Bombay – today, the young kids who are learning art are not sketching at all. They are all accessing material from the internet. It’s like when you start singing, you learn sa re ga ma first. Anything you do – always starts from the basics. And that practice – that exercise – that foundation has to be created in any discipline. If you are in need of a a doctor, to take your mother for an operation – would you go to somebody who has just completed MBBS  – or someone who has spent 30-40 years in the field and has been on a few hundred cases? That is expertise – knowledge – experience! So how can it be that you are 20 years old – and you want to sell a painting for fifty thousand rupees – and that too without enough of practice, without enough of foundation, without enough study?

Jatin Das

Academic Institutions:

Another reason is our academic institutions – in my opinion, the syllabus is very faulty – since it’s not rooted in our country or culture. In every art school they are talking about Picasso  – but very little input is there about the Indian arts – the fantastic paintings and murals and sculptures and architecture and miniatures that we have.

For Sale:

So it’s not the fault of the kids – it’s your syllabus – your curriculum – even your parents. Everybody is playing now – politicians, bureaucrats, professionals, artists, musicians. Everybody in the market is for sale – not only their commodity – but they are themselves also on sale. That is the actual situation in the country! The important question is – how do we reverse that process? It is very dangerous and difficult – because the gloss of the modern society has too many opportunities – too many lures.

It’s only my request to all the young people who want to become artists or dancers or musicians or poets – slow down. They are all in a hurry – without the base or foundation or hard work. There is no shortcut to success!

Painter vs Artist:

Manu Parikh, with whom I studied in JJ, used to say earlier that only after 20 years could he be called an artist. Today every moment, somebody calls himself an artist. Everybody calls themselves an ustad before they are even born! Artist is a very big word. I always used to say I’m a painter – and want to become an artist. You see, only now that I’m over 70, I think I’m starting to paint. Creativity is a never ending process!

Today’s Commercial World:

When we started, we had no facilities – but there were people who would come and see our work. Holck-Larsen of Larsen and Toubro was a friend of ours – when I was 22, he would come to my 8ft by 10ft studio in Bombay and sit there and look at 20 paintings and then buy one and carry it back himself. Similarly, when I lived in Nizamuddin in Delhi, almost every artist would come – we all used to drop in at each other’s studios and look at each other’s work at least 3-4 times a week. Now we only meet at exhibition openings. The human touch is going away – now it’s all very commercial. And auctions are one thing which have spoilt the art quality in India – where fake prices or manipulated prices are put up.

Jatin DasHas the commercialisation of Art helped ? and if so, how ?

No – it hasn’t. Somebody told me “Jatin – don’t grumble. We once sold at 5,000 – and now we are selling at 2 crores”. But I just think it’s fake. A friend of mine once said “carry on with your work – in the process if you get money and recognition, then that’s good –  but that is not your aadhar, that is not your main concern”. When I got the Padma Bhushan, I was happy for that moment  – and then I forgot, because I also knew many people had got it – many through manipulation also.

What I am saying is that the word ‘Art Market’ – we have never used that. Sometimes I’ve heard some artists say that I have a client coming – I think it’s very cheap. When somebody comes to my studio, and even before looking at the painting, says that I want 8-10 of your paintings – I say nothing is for sale! I don’t know how else to put it – but I think it is very cheap.

Jatin Das

People often use the word Art-Mart – your comments ?

Once there was a form I was filling up at some place – writing details of my studio. When I got it back from the municipal corporation, it was written “photo studio” instead. People don’t realise that the word “studio” started from Art – there was no photo studio then – photography came much later.

I miss the rasikas – the interest, the pleasure of looking at the painting is all gone. People today are buying names – and they aren’t even looking at the paintings. I have seen many people come and just say that I want paintings by so-and-so artist. That’s why there are now so many fakes being made and sold – of Rabindranath Tagore, Hussain and Souza.

Today – they are just copying art – hundreds of fakes are made all over the country. This is because when there is demand, there has to be a supply – and since everybody wants to just buy these 10-20 known artists – so there has to be a supply also.jatin dass

 

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