Ignorance is bliss. Or is it really? For, can one ever be a doctor, cloaked in the ignorance of not having studied medicine? Or an accountant, after years of studying quantum physics? For that matter, can one ever be anyone at all, without being academically trained to be so?
Art, however, doesn’t play by these rules. Consider this standard scenario that plays out in every household — the critical moment when career paths of offsprings have to be decided with a finality that is absolute. The origins of this life-defining moment in current times, can be traced back to the crawling stages in a child’s development. Every random activity from then on is keenly watched and the mere act of building a sandcastle in the playground is often discussed in social circles by the proud parents as a sure sign of an architect in the making. With these observations by varied members of one’s clan steering the decision-making process at every level, it is not surprising that many of us miss the bus when it comes to finding our true calling.
It is especially so with art. All through school, art is assigned the role of an extracurricular activity, bowing out once the major subjects start flexing their muscles before completely invading every study period that precedes the board exams. The stereotypical impression of art being a hobby for after-school hours is so firmly stamped on the child’s mind from the early years that it barely presents itself as a career option during the crucial decisive moment of planning one’s college education. After spending many academic years, pursuing approved-by-the world courses and maybe even working in a related field soon after, what if one realises that this avenue of art is what truly excites you and that which you wish to take up seriously for the rest of your life. That is the precise moment when the all-important question arises from deep within — can one be an artist after deviating so far in one’s journey? Is it too late?
Rewinding a lifetime to choose art education at a university may not be possible. Fret not, being self-taught is also a virtue in art. The climb uphill may take a bit longer, self-doubts and insecurities may plague one all along, but soon, one would discover the sheer joy in not knowing. This spirit of enquiry, not bound by any theoretical knowledge or suffocated under volumes of logic, can prove to be a liberation too. Ignorance can be the start of finding one’s strength in experimentation.
As much as a formal training in art provides a strong foundation to hone one’s skill, to understand the history of art, and to be guided towards clearer horizons, it must be said that these horizons are not unattainable for the untrained amongst us. For those who missed the bus in the chaos of the traffic around, there are always bicycles and vans to bring you to your destination — the mesmerising world of art!
(Jitha Karthikeyan is an artist and curator, passionate about making art accessible to the larger public)