Art Must Always be Moving With the Times

Art that becomes merely imitative, instead of creative, necessarily decays because it lacks the stimulus of new thought

The stagnation of the creative faculties which is the root-cause of the decline of our art is not only due to the limitation of western fashions and taste, though the same tendency in modem times has operated to the detriment of indigenous art and handicrafts in all Asian countries, and has affected all classes of people. The administrative system in the country has aggravated the evil greatly by ignoring indigenous art, but even this is only a contributory cause, not the paramount one. The first and chief aim of all our reformers and politicians should be to restore the constructive powers of our minds to -our full capacity. This aim can be attained much more effectively and quickly through the revival of national art and culture than by agitation for political rights. The fact that Indian art has been entirely ignored in the modern scheme education has tended to hasten its decay only, because it has on that account led English educated Indians to regard it with indifference or contempt. But even this neglect of art by the universities may, in the end, prove an advantage by keeping our artists and craftsmen from being as much Anglicised and imitative as those of us who have joined the literary, legal or scientific professions —provided that the awakening of the national consciousness which is now taking place makes us realise, before it is too late, all that the country has to lose by the obliteration of our old artistic traditions. But the only way this can be brought about lies in giving back to Indian art its old place in life: in adapting it to the new conditions and the new mode of life. Art must always be moving with the times, for real art is the expression of the thought of the times. There is no finality in art in any age; it always needs the stimulus of new ideas to keep it healthy, just as the human body constantly requires fresh blood to be moving in the veins. An art which becomes merely imitative,instead of creative, necessarily decays because it lacks the stimulus of new thought. Indian art must be stimulated with new thought; but this cannot take place as long as educated India is content to be merely imitative. It would be a fatal error to assume that our art traditions are now too old and worn out to be capable of adaptation to modern life and ways of thought. That would be a confession of intellectual and moral ineptitude which a self-respecting Indian should be ashamed to make. India has in the past experienced intellectual, political and social changes as great as those which have been brought about by the advent of western ideas and western regime. Indian art has never failed before to adapt itself to new conditions and even to acquire fresh vigour by the change of ideas; and India stands now in a better position than any Western country for reconciling modern scientific ideas with ancient or modem art. The tendencies which have injured Indian art are those which must ultimately destroy all art, eastern or western; for they only go to substitute a sham art for a real one. If India, instead of merely imitating the West, would set up for itself that higher ideal of science and art towards which the best thought of West is aiming, it would value its old artistic traditions far too highly to wish to throw them away. Granted that in some ways Indian art has lost touch with modem life—the task which our reformers have to undertake is to teach our artists and craftsmen to adapt their art to the new conditions.

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