CHENNAI: Your masterpiece has been completed. You lay down your brush and step back to look at months of hard work. The wet paint on your canvas glistens and so does your pride. Your eyes move on to the remaining drying/dried canvases in your studio. Never mind that the two-year journey of working towards your forthcoming exhibition made you the mop’s twin. It was still worth it. Also, never mind those dark moon’s craters under your eyes, thanks to all the late nights, which has put you at the risk of being mistaken for a Frankenstein wannabe. Nothing matters, as you stand there in silence, knowing your art is ready for the world.
“But are you ready for the world? “ — the uncertainty creeps up on you, like an evening shadow. Your heart sinks as you know you are not and perhaps, never will be. The world of language unnerves you. Even more so, when it is a language you are unable to get a grasp on. Your school education has certainly equipped you to handle a short chat about the weather and your health. The English language requirements of your profession, however, are a different matter.
To start with, you need a title for every artwork. You could choose to call it ‘Untitled’, but most artists do prefer a title that’s intriguing. This demands finding the appropriate words in this alien language. A tough task indeed. Next comes the bigger hurdle to cross — the concept note. In contemporary times, it isn’t enough to merely create art. You need to be able to explain your creations in this very language that plays havoc with your thought process, There is some consolation that this could be managed by those writers in your circle (and mind you, they have to be art writers, as a certain language can make even a simple dot incomprehensible, and therefore, profound significance is mandatory ). You quell all doubts that arise within, of how another can ever translate your vision.
If that wasn’t enough, there are the media coverages of your show to be handled. Telephone and mail interviews, interviews in-person — the forms may vary but your efforts to untie your twisted English-battling tongue will continue. Just when you seek refuge in the knowledge that however broken your vocabulary may be, it will be stitched up and presented, comes the prospect of a webinar where you are subjected to a volley of questions and discussions that make you regret the days you chose to watch Regional TV instead of brushing up your English with a Hollywood blockbuster. At the end of it all, all stumbling blocks crossed, you know exactly how the champion of the Olympics hurdle race must have felt.
This disparity that exists based on your proficiency in English speaking/writing skills, renders the inclusive society that artists address through their brilliant works, a mere dream. Language should never be the shackle that binds artists who have found their own language beyond the confines of text. May words and forms walk hand in hand soon.