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Is it not enough to be an artist? Why senior artist?

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

In recent past, an exhibition was conducted by some Lord Foundation of Fine Arts in Nagpur. The expectation was high. The organization is supposedly under the ministry of cooperate affairs of Government of India. Although a direct connection can not fathomed between the said department and art. The records show that it is a Non-government company anyway. However, that is not our concern.

Our correspondent paid a visit to the aforesaid exhibition with a lot of expectation. Undeniably, it was an exposition of some good pieces of art. What intrigued us was the display of a single painting that stood class part from the rest. We say class part because it was different with a strong flair of novelty and courage.

We wondered, why should such an artist display only one painting when others displayed several?

Moreover, many of the rest of the artworks, even if good, failed to claim any newness. On a little probe, our correspondence realized that the rest of the paintings were by artists who spent many years with paint and canvas. They titled such artists as Senior Artists. And the single artwork that brought a stroke of fresh wind was done by a younger artist.

Why only one?

The answer was disturbing. They felt safe with only senior artists. We contacted the artist of the single painting and realized that the organizers had put aside the remaining paintings of this artist in some store room. The senior artists did not want to dilute their senior-ness. They coined another curious term for the younger genius - hobby artist!

Now, we do not understand what hobby artist is! Of course, they used the term in derogatory note. The question arises if the so-called seniors do not consider art a hobby. Hobby means things done in pleasure and leisure. Obviously, these seniors do not enjoy art and hence do not get pleasure doing it. It is probably their duty like going to buy grocery or visiting the bank to withdraw some cash. We draw this analogy because old timers prefer the cashier over the ATM. Hence, they are not hobbyists. On the other hand, the younger artist supposedly created the unique piece of art in pleasure and during her idle hours. We wonder what she would do if she took it as a pleasurable act all the time!

It really makes us feel ashamed of the poor understanding of art among the organizers of shows and exhibitions. Lacking any conviction of their own sense of art, they look for bio-data or senior-ness.

In a way, we found it funny too, that an artist after growing old in age, is no more satisfied being just an artist. This means being an artist did not prove worthwhile. He probably ended up a failed artist and hence to give a facelift, he added a designation - 'Senior'.

And this incident also exposes another fault-line in our world of art. The sense of insecurity. Standing guard before a good piece of art does not make the rest of the canvases any better. After all, seniority has a downside too in terms of time left at one's disposal. Poor senior or very senior artists will eventually cease to exist unless they are good enough as just artists. And then the canvases they had been trying hide inside some dusty storeroom, will emerge vanquishing all the run-off-the-mill clichés done with great pride, ego and fear of losing what they never had.

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