Dhruva Mistry

• What, according to you, is art? What is the place of art in the world? Does this role change with time or does it remain the same? How do your answers relate to Indian art? To art today? To your own work?

Ans: Art is result of a pleasurably conscious pursuit to find truth from an active engagement with the real and visual world. The work is an outcome of an individual persistence to unveil hitherto unseen images from the loft of imagination. What an artist finds may be likened to some one emptying the sea with a seashell as if to discover the invisible from the mind’s eye. The work is an embodiment of transformation of incessant changes in the tide of life. An artistic inquiry sparkles with a feeling of being alive, aware and able to express oneself with the confidence dictated by the truth of experience.

Artistic pursuits and creations have shaped civilizations and mankind. It is a unique vocation offering possibility of making a particular contribution with the freedom for being alive and kicking in this world. Art as an activity is a philosophical perusal for the truth it evolves within the given environment in relation to an individual ability to respond and relate to one’s intrinsic need to express feeling and experience. Hence, most definitions defy what art is. It offers an ever expanding world of possibilities, depending upon the given point of view. It enhances and refines experience of the visual world. Art as an activity is an evolutionary approach to the life of an artist and the world.

An artist’s world is made and built of specific exposure and particular experience of interaction with his environment, depending on his origins. An artist is born out of one’s specific need and necessity to express oneself through work which is based on one’s exposure, ability and skill to manipulate available materials, means and imagery to an intended effect. Indian-ness and related values are as varied and difficult as each Indian in the sub-continent. However Indian art offers visible signs of semblance through color, form and content arising from the vast reserves of signs and symbols specific to the reign, region and religion of each artist and their relative awareness of their worlds.

My work, comprise of various ideas and forms in the path of an individual evolution of growth, knowledge, understanding and skill to work with the materials and environment.

Role of an artist in an urban society is part of an increasingly organized venture where critics, curators, dealers, collectors and fans have their own network of interests to manage and define matters of taste and issues in the art market.

I think, it is possible to manage to work without expectation of reward which is in proportion to one’s desire to succeed. An artist’s pursuit is like setting fire to oneself and he should know best how to deal with it and transform it into a flame that illuminates life.

• What made you decide to be an artist? What are its satisfactions? Its problems?

Ans: From early on, an idea of being able to transform thoughts into actions, to make them visible through its material form and to reveal the quality of experience has led me to explore the real and the actual with more than three dimensions. The need to express ideas through form interests me. My involvement with the immediate surrounding to understand, see, learn, interact and communicate with the outside world remain central to my activity. It relies upon the depth of experience of feelings of pain, pleasure and delight while reflecting upon the nature of human existence. It has become a way of life to understand, comprehend and interact in order to express with a view to encompass factors that enrich my world of experience. The word and meaning, the given and the imagined are seen through the gamut of experience, pulpit of reason and seed of intention. To reach an independent destination, one has to miss boarding the popular train even if it creates tremors of dissent.

• How do you arrive at a decision about what artwork to make? Its formal aspects? Its content? The process you will use? The context you will relate your artwork to?

Ans: On the basis of exigencies of the situation within given time and space, I believe that there is more than one way to reach to the summit of an idea. I make my choice as an individual within the objective of achieving results by taking a course of action that might produce the best result to actualize the glimpse of the vision.

At any given time, several ideas simmer in my mind, like different trails leading to the concept through a terrain of clarity and pleasure of experience. Each path is a different process, involving use, application and process to realize the promised glimpse of a vision. The process of making a work is made of checks and balances evolving in course of time to gain and improve an insight of the vision. The content is the visual outcome of an investigation of forms, norms and possibilities which make it actually visible and enduring. The object and its relationship to space, use of material and its relation to an onlooker should lead to the content of the work by offering visual interest to look into, relate, refer, reflect and perceive the work. It is like reaching to the core of enigma of a much loved fruit; to be relished with delight again and again.

The work may begin as a simple query, an innocent inquiry leading to an investigation over time, leading to a discovery of its formal aspects that aid its visual and cultural structure in the emerging context of time and space. There is little desire to match, join or follow like-mindedness of artists and their vision in relation to individuality and expression. The work on hand, becomes a small area of success within the ambush of several ideas that await for better openings of being.

• What role does nature play in your art? How do you think of nature?

Ans: An artist as a part of nature seeking to reveal the world of feelings, thought and experience. The work as an image and reflection of nature reveals intention, function and a hidden order and relationship which it beholds. Nature as the prime cause of existence provides inspiration through an incessant world of transformations affecting consciousness.

• How do you see the relation between art and reason? Art and emotion? Art and philosophy? Art and science? Art and society? Art and politics? Art and commerce? How does your own work relate to these things?

Ans: Nature does not offer reason. Art and reason often negate one another, yet there is specific logic that governs an artist and his work for the most part of his life. However, an artist’s pursuit to relate to the whole relies upon the order of the world, the human life, time and space, reason and rationale. Emotion can play a preliminary role of awakening parts of the soul and of revealing frontiers of tolerance in the life of pain or pleasure. There is no particular philosophy and ideology that governs my thought and action. What is learnt is tested on the anvil of experience as I grow. A search for philosophical thought (more likely to be an after thought in practice) may color one’s art as in the case of Oriental and Occidental theory of art apart from other works. Scientific thought has affected human endeavors including art. Artists as individuals do get affected, as they look for the real in their work. Society plays an important role in the life of an artist from where the ideas are born, nurtured, admired and appreciated. One can study from history that a work of art in the form of an object does not deny its value as a commodity.

Politics can play its role, depending upon disposition, inclination and affectation of one’s ideological premise. In the age of globalization, ideas of cultural identity i.e. ‘Indianness’ based on political necessity can be difficult for the growth of public institutions and art education at the university level. As a Professor and Head of Sculpture, when I did not see possibility of growth of the Sculpture Department and the Faculty of Fine Arts, the M.S. University of Baroda, I sought to clarify my position as a Dean. Response and attitude of the authorities was less than encouraging. I further clarified the issues of minimum qualifications for teachers and appointments, unfinished accounts, curricular and other matters. With a view to arrive at a time bound response, I served 90 days termination notice of my Professorship. There is no response by the University for the issues raised in my notice even after 160 days by now. Accordingly, my work had come to an end on 13 November 2002. They were reminded to make necessary arrangements and clear my accounts. However, the authorities waited till mid December, until the end of state assembly elections. Meanwhile they misinformed everyone, and then they used all to stage meetings, petitions, protests, processions, effigy burning, memorandums and strike to oust the Professor and Head. By 24 December, the Vice Chancellor ended the strike. In our age, self interest of many and enlightened self-interest of an individual seems incompatible with institutional enlightenment.

• How does your art relate to reality?

Ans: Reality is based on what I consciously can see, feel, touch, hold, play, study, understand and perceive to comprehend the very existence of the self. It is all in one, affecting an all out perception of the world. Working with earthly materials, understanding of nature and working within the given possibilities in order to explore the medium define my reality. To be real, one can always explore possibilities of imagination in art within the given limits of reality. Like looking into a mirror, art is real only so far as it explores the bounds of the given reality in order to offer a glimpse of the other; the true and the real that engulf us.

• What is your conception of modernity? In the world? In India? How do you see the relation between art and modernity? Indian art and modernity? Your own work and modernity?

Ans: Modernity arose out of desire for change brought about through mechanization, industrialization and modernization of Europe and the West. It can not be followed like a science fiction as it fails to bear real fruit, and it cannot be desirous without its necessity being established on the path of progress and change. How far it becomes a way of life in the evolution of humanity depends upon the country, culture and people. It’s entry, growth and flourish in select pockets of the metropolis does not quite establish its currency to be real, until it transforms the life of most people. Art can free itself from the confines of modernity as a free expression and not a fashion statement. Modernity cannot be acquired by travel abroad, simulating effects and mimicking trends. It should be based on a real reflection of strength of ideas and concepts. In India, life has not hit the buffers of an industrial boredom that results in bleakness in galleries whispering progress.

Emerging trends in India perhaps ill define our strength of a multifarious comprehension of life. Those who seek the Indian find it in the bizarre aspects that one cannot consider to be the best of our endeavors. No unifying school of thought has dominated the Indian mind on the basis of cultural, religious, geographical and political realities of the time. The ephemeral in contemporary art in the form of installation, often with the objects of commodity and editions thrown into it are close to Hindi cinema, offering a packaged product under a local brand name; popularly known as cultural kitsch.

My outlook and attitude is progressive for what can be learnt and explored, since I believe that work should be a first hand product of the artist’s mind, capable of incorporating reflection of universal beauty of values based upon sound richness of one’s cultural history and heritage local and at once universal.

• What art of the twentieth century do you think will remain in the public consciousness at the end of the twenty-first century? Why? What do you see as the emerging trends in contemporary art in India? In the world?

Ans: Picasso’s work possesses individual genius, skill, vigor, contribution and artistic dominance through sheer output in the public consciousness, even at the end of 21st century, when most artists might be exhausted by technological advancements and its psychophysical impact on the people. The human resourcefulness of working with bare hands and channeling positive energy and engagement is an asset for mankind.

One can see that contemporary art is inclined to catch the trail end of the trends like installation and conceptual art. Which, the curators find interesting to import into their own culture in conformation of their view of art as popular, multicultural and a kind of non-commodity value. Merchandising of experiments remains the prime motive of a successful exhibition. Many Indian artists have felt obliged to be part of it, perhaps to explore possibilities of their own limitations with the gestures of internationalism in the absence of a dominating national cultural identity. Trends like this reflect enthusiasm and an impressionable curiosity for a fashionable taste in the race for globalization. As far as longevity of art is concerned, what surpasses itself beyond time and can extend and inspire values of self development is known to have survived to inspire human consciousness.

As change and continuity in transformation of a society are inevitable, one should look for the kind of images, experience and values that enhance, affect and inspire people to see, think and feel about the little changing aspects of life, preciousness of the finer moments and quality that an artist can offer to become a touchstone in art.

• What, according to you, are the three most pressing problems facing India today?

Ans: Hunger, illiteracy and half lettered views from the educated are among the main pressing problems in India. Pressure of educational success and bookishness fails to enlighten most individuals to read realities and face life and nature. India’s transition from traditional to the technical society is peopled with the rural mass of real India. How they belong to the air of the global life, art and culture will prove the strength of our civilization.

• What, according to you, are the three most pressing problems in the world today?

Ans: Poverty, lack of individual enlightenment and greed at various strata of life, weakening the governance of nations are among the most pressing problems in the world.

• What, according to you, are the three most pressing problems in the artworld today? In India? In the world?

Ans: Among the most pressing problems in the art world today, is its lack of comprehension of originality against the background of (socially, politically and commercially) successful trends, hegemony of self proclaimed groups and self styled elites working with general lack of awareness, knowledge, understanding and connoisseurship and lack of public interest and response to visual arts.

In India, groups arising out of armchair ideology and backpacked ideas, political fashions i.e. Progressives, Modernists, Narrative Painters and Post Modernists, aspire from oil painting to installation art with claims of contribution in a self written history of art.

Art auctions are flooded with whispered names without which an art auction would be considered incomplete. One can observe a dominance of names regardless of isms, time and age like seasoned politicians of the land.

• What type of art criticism do you like? Why?

Ans: Art criticism should be readable, informative and relevant to the artist and his art. It is about the artist’s work, intentions, ideas, belief, environment and life to reveal relevance of an artist’s work for the critics and public alike. The critic should be well acquainted with methods, materials, history and philosophy to comprehend his subject. It is an art of separating the artist and his work from the world of myth and its maker. As a good writer, a critic should not slip into merchandising personal power, prowess and visions. Unreadable criticism reveals the proximity of the critic to the artist than to his art. The best critic remains comprehensive and readable to sustain the interest of the reader without deviating from the objective that it is written for others; to reveal the nature of creation in art.

• Who are some of your favorite artists? Why? How do they affect your art?

Ans: Picasso, Matisse, Michelangelo, Pierro Della Francesca, Brancusi, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucian Freud, Frank Aurbach and Rabindranath Tagore and like seeing contemporary artists and their work. Other than the work by artists, their life, interests and artifacts from the world civilizations offer their visual wonders to the eye and mind. There are other artists and works by individuals and traditions that I like as they make me aware of things and inspire me to look at the world with an improved vision.

• Who are some of your favorite writers of fiction and nonfiction? How do they affect your art?

Ans: I do not consider myself an avid reader. Apart from reading on philosophy, art and religion, the writings of Ghandhiji, V.S.Naipal, Mark Tully interest me. Their descriptions, observations and comprehension of the matter interest me for their reach of perception based on experience, study, travel and research. I like to read Indian and Western philosophy. I believe Sculpture to be closer to life for the fact of it being real and present in space. How its presence can affect the mind and body depends upon the ability and involvement of its maker. Its reality can create within the world of objects.

• Are there activities other than art that you pursue? How does this affect your art?

Ans: I like photography, walking, films, television, music, travel, seeing people and looking at nature at work on the canvas of the sky. Experiencing and observing nature beyond a realizable motive can be a tantalizing goal for an artist.

• Can you identify a single unified way you adopt to view the world?

Ans: To live and work, think, eat and sleep, in order to understand oneself in relation to the world of ideas and intentions so as to relate to the most salient aspects that can contribute to my work.