Spirituality in Art

This post is a bit difficult to write; rather, difficult to start. I’ll make it simple for myself.

A very good friend shared a documentary on Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Kabir and the concept of Nirgun (without form, quality or attribute) Bhajan. View the documentary at Culture Unplugged (90 minutes). It may help to visit the respective Wikipedia pages, if you are not aware of Pt. Kumar Gandharva and Kabir.

This documentary is fascinating in the sense of how it has attempted to look at spirituality – in the context of a singer and a poet and their themes, lives and influences. In the Indian (visual) art scene, spirituality is a recurring and a common concept – almost every art show has at least one presentation of spirituality – usually a symbol. This is still representation only – and an image of the Buddha, for example, (the most common piece in an Indian art show) is just that – the image of the Buddha – which only points to a sense of spirituality, if you have it in you and if you are willing to travel the path in that direction, with so little a stimulus. It is not an experience of spiritualism, only a symbol of it.

Art’s ability is to traverse, penetrate and reside in those gaps which cannot be filled with words and other plebeian tools of expression. That’s one of the things that has been explored well in the documentary – the experience of the spirit which is beyond the range of the letters and words.

And each such experience is unique – one of the reasons why Pt. Kumar Gandharva did not want an “-ism” to be formed out of what he had discovered for himself. And though the experiences may themselves be unique, the truth may be common. How does an artist express the same truth without copying the predecessor? How does on express the authentic experience of spirituality, without the crutches of symbols?

For any artist who may be keen to explore these and similar themes, this documentary is worth a watch.


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