Feb 13, 2019

What is Art? What is Craft?

Art if defined in one word, is simply nothing but expression. Art can be defined as pronounced expressions of life, in any form. It does not matter whether you are a painter or a sculptor, a musician or a dancer. You can be a great artist by being a gardener, if you are able to express your passion for life fully and exuberantly through that medium. Not only that, art also has the power to move an audience emotionally and evoke a thought process in the viewer's mind. I believe that the primary goal of art is very emotional, not necessarily political or social, but mostly very personal. The moment it starts serving a social purpose or relates itself to a political scenario, it ceases to be art and turns itself into propaganda. Art is not propaganda, it should never be. Art is simply someone's emotional expression of how they've perceived and experienced life.

But yes, if this expression is mundane or common, there is nothing artistic about it. For any expression to become art, it has to be pronounced, or in simpler words, it should be overflowing with emotions. Any human expression overflowing with pure unassuming emotions, has the potential to become art. Most common people are either too shy, or too rigid to be able to express themselves so freely, thus making art so uncommon in our concrete world.  An artist's job is to express freely and fully, evoking real emotions in the viewer's heart. Art when perceived, essentially enters through the brain, passes through the mind and eventually ends up changing the heart. That, when happens is true art.

Yes, artists are different, because they cannot be mundane. Mere fodder cannot satisfy the hunger for their kind. They feed on the phenomenon of life itself. That is why most artists are always so full of life and eccentric by nature. They don't need to follow any discipline or a set routine made by society for them. They are free to make their own rules, their own space, and their own time. And that, they should be allowed to. Because a bird can fly only so much if you put it in a cage. And needless to say, a cage is not the most convenient place for a bird to spread it's wings.

You often hear about artists being so engrossed in their creation, that they forget to eat, drink, sleep or even respond to any external worldly stimulation. The process of creating art is so introspective and overwhelming that this experience itself becomes the food for the artist. This process in it's essence is totally inclusive, spiritual and meditative in nature. In this process, artists will often lose connection with ground realities, and find themselves connected to some higher realm of existence, which in a way guides the artist to create art through their humanly perceived skills. This connection to a higher energy field makes us artists realize that we are not really the authoritative creators of our art. We artists just possess some exceptional human skills, and are nothing but a conduit from a higher and more vast imperceptible realm to this tangible mortal worldly realm.

The reasons for creating Art, and the consequences of perceiving Art, are both very closely related to the existence of duality in our nature. Duality in simple terms means the existence of two sides in the same coin; like male and female, day and night, good and bad, so on and so forth. Duality in our nature establishes movement, which is essentially a journey from one place to another. The purpose of art is also to create movement. It is only possible for a piece of life as we know it, to experience this duality in some form. And it is only humanly possible to feel this movement, the journey that happens between the two extremes of duality. Due to the presence of you and me, a conversation can start. And this conversation which satisfies the bare necessity of human expression, when cultured, inevitably turns itself into art sooner or later - like a seedling transforming itself into a tree in full bloom.

I am glad and grateful that I am able to see this happening every moment of my life. As an artist, the ability to perceive this very happening is my true gift, neither my skills nor my creations. Thus in essence, Art can be defined as purely an individualistic expression which moves the viewer in some way, either emotionally, physically or energetically.


Craft on the other hand is often mistaken or confused with Art by the general mass of people. This misconception has prevailed for centuries especially in India, due to lack of progressive art related education in general. Indians for ages have taken pride in considering their craftsmanship skills as art. Generations of so-called artists have been replicating exactly what their forefathers had been painting for hundreds of years in the past - for example traditional art forms such as the likes of Madhubani, Raghurajpur, Kalighat, Warli, Tanjore, so on and so forth. Jamini Roy, for example created his own signature style of art drawing inspiration from these traditional art forms, but eventually our society has inevitably converted it into a form of craft. In present age there are schools who teach children how to draw in Jamini Roy style. Jamini Roy in his time did create art, but today's children replicating his works can be safely termed as a craft.

Replication is not Art. Replication is a skill. Replication is a Craft. The same holds true even for some European Renaissance Painters who could copy a portrait or a figure exactly how they saw it in reality, but often lacked in original expression. If a painting looks exactly the same or even quite similar to what it is being drawn from - either another painting, a photograph or even the reality, where is the individual expression of the artist? As a viewer where can I see how the artist is feeling while creating that piece of art? Yes, even when life or the real world can inspire most artists through some strong experiences and poignant moments, the artist has to find a way of expressing it in his own style. He has to find his own way to stroke his brush on the canvas. Then only it shall become art, not otherwise, not until he unlearns how to replicate from others. Till then he remains a craftsman but not an artist.

In hindsight, an artist does not need to be a good craftsman himself in order to become a great artist. An artist is an artist because he thinks in the language of art, and not because he does it. The idea in Art is more often than not, greater than execution of the piece itself. On the other hand, when it comes to the execution, the Craft is always greater than the idea of Art itself. There could be a thousand masons who built the Taj Mahal with their own hands, but they were not the artists, they were the craftsmen. The artist was Shah Jahan who thought about the idea of building it. But think about it, however great an artist he might have been, could he have built it with his own hands?

The artist is privileged to be endowed with the power to imbibe an idea of creation, and henceforth the craftsman finds his way to manifest this idea into matter and reality. Having said that, Art is not greater than Craft, neither the opposite. Both are essential for each other to survive and evolve together. Just like the ultimate truth in the concept of duality, one is nothing without the other. One cannot exist without the other. Art and Craft although very different in meaning and essence, will continue to be pronounced in the same breath by most of us till the time they both shall exist.