On Monday morning I went to the post office as I had to send two important documents to the India Art Foundation. The counter is usually operated by a white, middle-aged woman with flamboyantly painted fingernails. He is a German speaker, although he is also fluent in Italian. This time, however, there was a younger man I’d never met before, close to my age, clearly an Italian speaker. When he heard me speak English with my partner and child, he instinctively made changes so we could communicate more freely. After asking routine questions related to my document shipping business, while he was processing my order, he asked if I was an artist.
He must have guessed so after catching a glimpse of the addressee of the envelope, an arts outfit. I fell silent for a moment. I usually refer to myself professionally as a writer. I felt unsure about claiming ‘artist’ as a profession, especially given how badly I paint or the fact that I failed even once at drawing. But my conscious mind reminds me that I have successfully created art on several occasions.
I later realized that I also currently have two artistic works as part of an important exhibition at Kunst Meran, designed by Adrian Piper, one of the most audacious and exciting intellectual and artistic minds working within contemporary art and philosophy. Was placed in view of an artwork by. I told him that I am an artist. “It must be difficult being an artist in such a small town,” he said. I agreed. Then he asked if I had been a part of any exhibition somewhere. I told him that I had last seen something in Innsbruck last year. I asked if he was perhaps also an artist. He looked shyly at the register he was handling and explained that if friends asked him to draw, he would, but he did not pursue the art. “I lost my artist soul a long time ago,” he said in the manner of a confession.
The exchange reminded me of a conversation I had with Alexia, who mans the counter at Hofstadter Winery. My father-in-law introduced me to her soon after we moved here as she speaks German, Italian and English fluently. She was also my point of contact if ever I needed wine for cooking, as her job mainly involved recommending bottles of wine for customers to sample. Once we had a conversation and I told her the kind of work I do, she was excited. He told me that he had studied art in Vienna. I remember feeling jealous, as I have always held myself back from exploring art because I am unable to draw or paint. When I meet someone who has enough talent to be accepted into an art school, I always wonder what stopped them from pursuing art full-time. Alexia admits she doesn’t feel inspired enough to create art. He anticipated that he would need to be outside Tramin for some time in order to find a subject or muse. Had he also lost his artist soul? I wondered.
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Then I thought about a column I wrote recently in which I theorized that being a writer is about living in a state of consciousness, not necessarily publishing bestselling books or even It is not even necessary to write books. If you were primarily or only a spectator, that was also enough for you to qualify as a valid author. But is maintaining an artistic consciousness linked to maintaining a certain practice? And what is the meaning of practice? I really love the term riyaz, which is so deeply ingrained in the Indian classical music traditions, the notion that you are expected to use your instrument daily, to make it stronger or better, or its ability It takes exercise to build up. How might this translate for artists and writers? I wondered, too, whether a significant part of holding a creative occupation had to do with feeling seen by others. Which is not necessarily the same as external validation. I imagine that it is helpful to be able to relate to other people who may be practicing the same occupation. But then again, how does this translate to people who operate from the margins, and are therefore forced to befriend some forms of isolation along with solitude?
I tried to imagine the artist’s soul as a kind of colorful aura that surrounds a person with creative instincts. Does it diminish or disappear when one refuses to acknowledge its existence, or make gestures to nurture it adequately? What happens when the aura dissipates, does it leave behind a certain gloom or gloom or emptiness? And if so, how many of us are walking around with aura scars that our bodies have forgotten they once bore?
Rosalyn D’Mello is a distinguished art critic and author of A Handbook for My Lover, discussing the life and times of the Everywoman. She tweets @RosaParx
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The views expressed in this column are those of the individual and do not represent the views of the paper.