Some of you may have seen (or been a part of) the recent Facebook experiment. The status message that asks your friends to dig up a memory of you that is at the tip of your brains. After only a few bothered, it seems my memorial ethos (pun, accidental), would be: conversations, and having them, under the influence or not.
Mighty chuffed, I was, after I read through the memories. There are a million others, which didn’t make it to the experiment’s venue, which however, I treasure with all my might.
These days, it is difficult to have a conversation going; haven’t had one for a while now, except with my artist friend. I don’t quite count IM chats as good conversation, though they tend to be interesting if you can manage the multiple threads caused by the delay, and suffer the typos caused by the difference in the varying speeds of thinking and typing. One such good conversation ensued a couple of days ago, unfortunately on an IM chat.
He and I usually talk of movies. We have had other conversations, like “ethics of prevalent business models in the mobile communication services industry”, but, he fails miserably at those and it usually becomes a lecture series from us after a while, when he gives up, and we continue to talk of movies. So, after a moot argument about identifying a movie that excelled in (a) the art of film-making, (b) the presentation, and (c) the story-telling and wafting though elements of photography, lesser known Marathi film directors of yore, influence of critics and analysts on art, we ended up at “The Execution of Lady Jane Grey“
It was a lazy Saturday, three years ago, in London, alone, when, with the intention of spending the autumn afternoon at Trafalgar Square, I gingerly made way to the National Gallery that overlooks the square. I always thought of myself as a misfit in art galleries. I don’t understand art a lot (the technical parts), and I have a peeve about critics and analysts who usually tell us what to look for in it. I usually don’t see the way they do, if, I can extract meaning of the words they use to describe what it is all about, i.e. I like things because I like things. But being with an artist for long, certain thoughts and knowledge permeates through and sharpens your vision. In the aimless wandering around the Gallery, I was suddenly flush in front of this huge painting:
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, Paul Delaroche, 1833. Source: Wikipedia Commons
It was overwhelming, to say the least. It told a long and intricate story in a single still image. When I wrote to her about this, I could not tell her anything about the painting. How big it was, the play of the light and such details. I could only tell her what I felt — and that I couldn’t explain it well, either. I only wrote that I was stuck on the bench looking at it for a very long time, and I cried.
This is a life changing painting for me. I am still the same as I was on that Saturday afternoon, however, what I have always believed about art became true that day. Art has a very personal meaning and good art is that that touches your soul. To be able to travel to 1553, the painting becomes a portal of sorts. Since then, I have been able to brave an entry into museums more often than I would have. Willingly. This painting opened a world of experience to me. I read a lot about the British history, especially Lady Jane Grey. I saw many other paintings, and found many, from different times, that made meaning. At the same time, I found many that didn’t.
I discovered that a painting or a photograph or music or a book doesn’t do anything to you, as such. It doesn’t do much to change the world, acting as an external force. It only provides an option: to you, to allow it to relate to you, if you will. If the connection doesn’t exist, you will feel nothing about that piece of art. You will only see its colour, brush strokes, and the artist’s intention, if at all.
If the connection exist, it gently evokes a feeling that you need to experience to find a little bit more about yourself.