The objectives of professional education in art can be formulated only in relation to the meaning we give to the two words ‘art’ and ‘professional’. The history of Art Education of any country shows that these objectives change according to the social needs and the interpretation of the word ‘art’. These needs and the interpretations have changed at different times and in different places. However, two attitudes of the human mind, broadly speaking, have all the while controlled and guided production of art right from the pre-historic cave dweller to the present day occupant of the sky-scraper. These two attitudes were called by the Swiss psychologist Verworn as Physioplastic and Ideoplastic.
Physioplastic or representational attitude produces art to imitate as nearly as possible the appearances of things in nature. It gives pleasure merely through recognition of objects with which one is familiar. While the ideoplastic art attempts to suggest meaning with the least possible representation. It depends for its fulfilment on the provocative power of pattern and design. In fact the art history of the world is the history of tension between these two attitudes. Though they are not mutually exclusive, one or the other has dominated every known epoch of art. Byzantine and Gothic art, in this sense, was ideoplastic and the art of the Renaissance was physioplastic. The art of the orient, until it was influenced by the Western thought and Western science, remained dominantly ideoplastic. Imitation was never its forte. Even in Europe it was the new Humanism of the Renaissance, the new faith in reason and science that was responsible for the establishment of Bottegas and workshops. In these workshops a student was trained not in the art of painting and sculpture only but, under the new impulse of revival of learning, he was also trained into the Platonic philosophy and Aristotelian logic and Democritusian science. This analytical view of art and art training was ultimately to lead to the establishment of art academies all over Europe. Thus were formulated the objectives of academic art.
These objectives even to this day, are found to be influencing the thinking mind. The confusion in the art world of today can be attributed to the fact that the fluid nature of the objectives is lost sight of.
The word academic now has come to mean a cold, calculated logic of art which overpowers the personality of the artist and over-emphasises the representative and imitative character of life and nature in art. There then started a slow reaction against this academic view of art. The present, is, in a sense, a revival of pre-Renaissance ideals of life and art which lays emphasis on the emotional, ideational and ideoplastic nature of art. This attitude is sustained by the widening horizons of physical and mental sciences. Freudian and genetic interpretations of mind and its reaches have now given us a new language of vision. This language of vision is structural and synthetic unlike the old academic and analytical. In passing we may note a semblance between modem art and modem logic. This modern logic is now known as symbolic logic as against the formal and discursive logic of Aristotle. With this advancement a definite emphasis is put on what you may choose to can ‘Symbolic Form’, ‘Significant Form’ or ‘Aesthetic Form’. Formerly, the emphasis was on the make-believe, imitative, representational or academic form of the 19th Century.
This, in short, seems to be the interpretation of the term ‘art’ in relation to Art Education and the present day problems. The questions now naturally arising are: (I) are these two views of art completely mutually exclusive? (2) Can the present conditions of the world art in general and art in India in particular demand an allegiance to one of the views only? (3) Can India through its glorious traditions evolve a synthesis of these two (physioplastic and ideoplastic) apparently contradictory views? These considerations, in addition to our idea of professional artists, must guide us in formulating the objectives of professional Art Education.
Now, Jet us turn to the word ‘professional’ and its meaning. I may say, even at the risk of over-simplification, that, at present, there are only three kinds of professional artists. One is an art teacher who generally does not live by his art work. The second who produces the works of art to order or on commission, like a mural or a portrait painter or an industrial and advertising designer. Incidentally, I may mention that now is the time to abolish the loathsome distinction between the ‘fine’ and the ‘useful’ arts. This distinction was not made in India till it was forced on us by the West which now has realised its mistake. The third, is the artist who produces work without any order or commission and yet expects to live by it.
The case of a teacher is a little different from those of the commissioned artists, who are conditioned by the terms laid down by the client and to this extent their freedom is curtailed. They cannot claim art as an autonomous activity. It is related to the condition of life, while non-commissioned artists consider art as autonomous, whose sole criteria happens to be self-expression. They expect a consonant person to come forward to appraise and buy their works.
With these classes of professional artists and the interpretation of the word ‘art’ in mind we must try to formulate the objectives of professional education.
Formulation of Objectives:
If we look at any recognized masterpiece of art of any period or country we should be able to resolve it into what I prefer to call ‘Three Art Energies’.
In a work of art these are:—
- Non-Personal Energy.
- Personal Energy.
- Super-Personal Energy.
Let me explain in short what these energies are. Non-Personal energy is that power in the work of art which organises plastic material like canvas, paper, pigments, ink, pencil, etc., with the help and under the principles of visual means like line, colour, mass, volume, etc. In other words, it is the technique of using the various mediums under certain visual and psychological conditions which are basically common to all human minds.
The personal energy is that power in the work of art which stamps the personality of the artist in all its aspects on whatever that is done under the impulse of Non-Personal Energy. It can be called the style or an individual idiosyncracy of an artist.
The third, the Super-Personal Energy, is that power in the work of art which, apart from the technique and style, adds life values to anything that is created as art. To illustrate still further if we look at a painting say by a master like Raphael and compare it with a similar subject by a lesser artist we may find that as far as the Non-Personal Energy or technique of handling plastic means and plastic materials is concerned, both of them may be equal; just as in the case of a poem by Robert Bums and the Paradise Lost of Milton. The first Energy which we have called the Non-Personal Energy of pure art and pure poetry is on equal level.
But what makes Raphael and Milton the greater artist and the greater poet is the power of the third energy that is the energy of enhancing life values which we have called the Super-Personal Energy.
If we are to train professional artists they must be equipped to generate all these three energies, may they be artists who work for a commission or for themselves. The fostering of the first energy demands their training in mediums and methods of expression. Let us call it the grammar of visual language. In the case of Personal Energy it would be their manner of doing a work of art—their style. Here our objectives should be not to force one view of physioplastic, imitative or realistic art on the training of the student who may be inherently incapable of drawing and painting the world as it is but inclined to draw and paint as he wills and feels, that is if he were always ideoplastic in his conception and expression. The vice versa is equally injurious. Therefore the subjects or the contents of Art Education like anatomy and perspective and drawing from the casts will have to be reconsidered in the light of the new theories of Art Education. They should be so formulated as not to hinder the creative abilities and the final elan of artistic expression. For the achievement of the third energy there can never be a hard and fast set curricula. But the personality of the student must be sensitised through the study of cultural and art history of the world in addition to the understanding of the elements of the philosophy of art. This would help him to be alive to the life around and to be ready to echo through his art the funded experiences of his particular civilization and thereby through the mysterious power of creating new forms and new symbols he would be a visionary to enlighten his fellow-men on the upward march of human evolution. If we agree to these interpretations of ‘art’ and ‘professional’ then the objectives as I have indicated in this short paper would be:
- To train an art student in the grammar of the language of vision.
- The methods of training in this language should be such as to suit a particular psychic personality without injuring the personal ego of the student.
- The promotion of art forms in consonance with the needs of the time through acquainting the student with the ideals of human race and the mission of man in his visual experiences.
Let me close these tentative suggestions with the humble yet very wise words of Pacheco, the worthy teacher and father-in-law of the great artist Velazquez—“All that is here said, and might still be said and proved, by no means claims to tie down. … those who are striving to reach the summit of art. … There may still be other methods, possibly easier and better. I write only what I myself have practised, without wishing to impose burdens and yokes on good heads”.