Can art be more meaningful to a viewer if it were not visual art, but actually words?
“When a boat is drawn, it is a pictorial representation of a boat whereas when I write the word ‘boat’ you may visualise a green, white, small or big boat depending on your nature and current emotional state. The art no longer belongs to the artist but to the viewer; in a sense, the viewer is now the artist,” explains Equus Cabullus Gazing, an artist who practises ‘Writism’.
According to him, Writism is where words create the painting in the mind of the beholder.
This form follows the principle of synaesthesia — the production of a mental impression relating to one sense by stimulation of another, for example, just as smell could recall a visual image.
The art also takes an emotional dimension. For example, writing the word ‘mother’ would unconsciously evoke the image of one’s own mother, Equus explains.
His analogy for this art form that merges literature and painting is poetry, which synthesises word and music.
“The element of the written word in art is not merely a novelty, but an element on equal footing with the line, curve, colour and light. The essential stuff of art is emotion and imagination,” he says.
Equus Gazing is a pseudonym taken by the architect Thomas Abraham, in deference to his admiration for horses, when he started out as an artist 14 years ago.
Born in the West Asia and educated in India, he travelled across the world before settling in Bangalore.
“Every artist needs a different kind of air and soil; some thrive in the chaos and the crowds of Kolkata, and some in the violence and the ashes of Lahore. Bangalore is sometimes quiet, sometimes raucous, a party city burgeoning with the young and the beautiful, and perhaps not much of the intellectual,” he says.
Equus acknowledges that he is not the first to use the written word in painting. “But, every artist uses the line or the curve and it isn’t as if what they all do is the same thing,” he argues. To several art historians, ‘Writism’ would seem nothing but a rehash of the 90s fad of conceptual art.
However, Equus asserts that a careful analysis of 20th century painters’ usage of the written word in their art and his specific ‘Writism’ brand of art would accentuate the differences.
“When a new or unfamiliar element is introduced, human perception tends to notice only the predominant stimulus of newness and often the distinguishing details are not perceived,” he explains. “For example, to one unfamiliar with modern art, one Pollock would be just the same as another. In fact this adherence to stereotype is not particular to painting, but to every unfamiliar subject or media.”
“It takes maturity of perception and loss of novelty in the image for distinguishing features to be noticed. As familiarity grows, subtler nuances are noted,” he adds.
Equus exhibited his paintings at Alliance Française de Bangalore recently, as a prelude to the global premier of his show at the Kathleen Cullen gallery at Chelsea, New York.