Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thou Art Beautiful

Had an opportunity to take part in a sensory experience this evening, at a combined "performance" of an artist (painter) and a South Indian classical dancer. A very thought provoking session as we settled down to think of arts and appreciation in general.
On the way back, the Mrs started a spirited chat about how Indian classical dance forms are quite complex in that both movement and expressions mattered. (Gross generalisation alert) There aren't many other dance forms we know of that can narrate stories with as much detail and embellishment as them. That led us to discuss further on about the dance forms, and then came an "aha" moment for me - when I realised that to be a true connoisseur of, say, Bharathnatyam, you had to be able to appreciate:
- Dance movements and grace
- Expressions - face and body
- Language - to appreciate lyrical quality
- Classical music - to appreciate the arrangement of the swaras
- (Hindu) mythology - to appreciate the stories being narrated
- And a sense of "fashion" - to appreciate the clothes and ornaments
If that isn't a rich (albeit esoteric) treat for the senses, what else is!! I don't think I will ever find such a recital boring in the future. In fact, if anything, it's an overwhelming sensory offering that might make one sweat at the task of having to receive, assimilate, and appreciate all this awesomeness in parallel.
The more I thought about it, the more it hit me that this is yet another memory of India's exuberant past  - when people were fed, clothed and housed enough to be able to think beyond the essentials, and afford the luxury of nurturing such composite and complex art forms. And when one looks at the quality of our commercial artistic expressions these days, one wonders where we went astray in these past 1000 years, to end up playing to the gallery at this scale. When artists have started dancing to the tunes of audiences, as against taking the lead in sensitising them to more mature and advanced expressions. Beep songs make a lot more noise than December season performances - literally and otherwise.
As an allied train of thought, I began wondering what "beauty" really is. Why do any of our senses find something beautiful?
My dad often describes symmetry as a synonym of beauty. As a photographer who swears by the rule of the thirds, I couldn't take that.
My "Creativity in Arts and Sciences" prof at IIMB (Mr B Sekar) found beauty in contrast, among other things. As a big fan of high key photography, I couldn't buy that in its entirety either.
And as it stands now, my definition of "beauty" of any kind (visual, aural, oral etc) is: equilibrium / balance - which envelopes symmetry, contrast and any other definition I have come across.
What's your view on this?

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