I grew up in an art environment in the 70's and 80's where the idea of exhibiting one's works was thought of as the natural progression of sharing an idea to someone other than yourself! Perhaps this rather simple understanding of presenting oneself to public scrutiny allowed many of us not to view the act with any great intimidation : and as a result the soft boards of the class room where K.G Subramanyan would sneak a peak at our work each afternoon or the pavements opposite our college gates or the canteen walls, all became sites and spaces for us "to exhibit".
Today the buzz words are pressure and stress, and I see many melt downs that occur when young artists get opportunities to have exhibitions. Though compassionate to the ideas of human fragility, I still find it difficult to understand why doing what you really delight in doing should make a basket case out of you! Many times the finished works of these frantic artists are bizarre in uncomplimentary ways, and not up to the standard one expects of them. Without blinking an eye validations pour forth to prop up such works, where the litany of excuses always comprise of "how stressed I was whilst doing these works"!!!
It seems an odd cycle: the desire for an exhibition but then the fear that paralysis ones abilities. Art must hold confidence if it is to be sustained by the interest of others. I tried explaining to one of my students today over lunch what an imaginative world could encompass. Because if you possess this vast space that has no beginning and no end, you are always going to discover a joystick that can take you on a hundred different rides.
But perhaps much of the anguish is self imposed, because the seeking of answers is too often from the wrong pockets of life. There is certainly no singular conformity from where we dig within our intellectual selves, but what must be remembered is that the trigger that provokes the specific direction for one person is not necessarily going to lead another to a space of significance. But our herd mentality often obscures this simple truth. Feminist Fables and Russian authors are not the only books on a shelf and it may well be Japanese manga (a language of illustration used for comics to pornography to subjects like science) or pulp fiction, from which worlds of elusive discoveries can be made in abundance. The choke-up for many seems always over "the idea". I believe an idea only comes to one if we sleep with your eyes and ears open!
We often bury our heads in the sand when our schedules get hectic, talking about "not being able to cope with life", and then we let the genie of "Fragile: Handle with care" pop out like a pesky cousin who is both intrusive and bothersome to boot to all around including ourselves! We need to review the way we look at sharing our work. Alternative spaces MUST be where young artists get together and make shows that are about the delight with which they engage themselves with their mental worlds. One more vacuous and boring exhibition that tries desperately to 'be different" and I swear I will wear an arm band in protest at the death of creativity!!!!
I love the works of Nicola Durvasula. Tiny and yet which makes you stop in your tracks because they are so preciously magical! The early photographs of Pablo Bartholomew where despite the grainy blur you are taken into a world of intimate spaces. The shimmering blue of Rajan Krishnan's huge landscape painting from the exhibition Earth that stays with you in its absence, because it has a mesmerising infinity. My first interlude with Shilpa Gupta when she was still a student and the grasp and command over a conceptual territory she exhibited, when others twice her age were still tip toeing around in hestation, floored me in an instance. These are people who hold their fears at bay. And there is many a lesson to learn from these quiet people, who cope and deliver.