Sunday, February 08, 2009

The "naturalistic" or "illusionistic" is no less subjective than the "expressionistic"

Re: Corrections to textual excerpts of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs
by Debashish on Thu 16 Oct 2008 09:24 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link the issue of cultural representation is more important and interesting. There seem to be accumulated responses of taste here.

During the period of the Indian nationalist struggle, this in fact became one of the major stakes for distinction of identity. The Greco-Roman Gandhara Buddha was preferred by the western critics for its naturalism. Coomaraswamy would argue that the less naturalistic, more "ideal" Mathura images were more authentic to the Indian consciousness. Sri Aurobindo's response to Archer is also keyed along similar lines. In fact, this becomes in some ways the cornerstone of his argument for national freedom from colonial rule - the right to express its own subjective tastes free from the standards and constraints of alien subjection. [...]

It's interesting though, that in the genre of portrait painting, I have yet to come across a "subjective" interpretation of Sri Aurobindo or the Mother. It seems here that the closer to reality the painting, the truer to the "divine image." But then, if this "reality" betrays any "physiological blemishes", it is not considered satisfying. If there is anything to these cultural histories of taste, then we have to ask the question as to whether these are unchanging essences and "never the twain shall meet" or whether they can be related or even synthesized? And if the second is possible, is there only one way to relate and synthesize them or many?

Contemporary western art practice also grapples with issues of this kind. The mid-19th c. saw a wholesale rejection of "naturalism" in art in favor of "subjectivism." But contemporary practice has come to assert that the "naturalistic" or "illusionistic" is no less subjective than the "expressionistic." The photographic signifier hides and discloses the subjective signified. Our practices of reading have tuned to an objective-subjective taste as a result. This indeed is one kind of synthesis... Perhaps our friends with the so-called "Indian look" can try to do the same in their own way, instead of this sad rejection and aggressive hostility? DB Reply 7:32 PM

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