Krishna - The artiste's muse

Artist Keshav traces his Krishna journey

How does one approach an idea that has been represented visually for thousands of years? Artist keshav on his Krishna trail that began in 2002

Sage Vyasa is sitting on the banks of the Ganga after completing the mammoth task of editing and compiling the Vedas. He has also finished composing the Mahabharatha and other puranas. But he is not happy. There’s turbulence in his mind. Narada appears and reasons with him: “You have written about humanity, analysed every conceivable dilemma faced by the mind. But you have not sung the glory of the Supreme. Compose verse extolling the glory of Krishna. You will be at peace.” He briefly narrates the theme of Bhagavatha. And composing Srimad Bhagavatha makes Vyasa feel satisfied and complete.

The human mind is constantly longing for ananda (happiness) or peace (shanti). We do experience it in small measures. But the soul wants it in an unbroken stream — infinite. This wish for joy is symbolically represented by Krishna. He is joy and celebration personified.

Artist Keshav traces his Krishna journey

Indian art seeks to focus on the ideals conveyed in the epics. Divinity and spirituality are ingrained in the narrative. It is conveyed through a pattern of symbols. The narrative is conveyed to people through music, dance, sculpture and painting. For example, the mind is represented by the monkey (Hanuman Ramayana). Because it keeps swinging from branch to branch — a fickle mind. Dhritarashtra is attachment, Duryodhana is desire, Kalia, the ego, Arjuna, the mind, Krishna is the charioteer and the horses the senses. The Kurukshetra is a war within. (Bhagavad Gita). The parrot is the symbol of the scriptures (because it repeats). Bhakti is represented by Yashoda and Yamuna. Navaneetha (butter) is also bhakti. The cow represents the gentle nature of the soul and also the earth, according to the context. He plays numerous roles — an adorable child, a friend of the cowherds, charm of the gopikas, a saviour in times of distress, an ambassador of peace, a teacher for the seeker, an eternal companion for the soul, etc.

The epics convey an abstract idea relevant to contemporary society. Once we understand the idea behind the stories, the stories vanish. But how does one approach an idea which has been represented visually for thousands of years? He is described as one who is new forever. He is the central figure in all our epics. But how does one transform him to be appealing to the present generation? He has to be re-invented in tune with the times — like hitting the ‘refresh’ button.

Artist Keshav traces his Krishna journey

With this premise, my journey with Krishna began in 2002. What began as a joyful exploration, developed into a daily feature. The intention was to present Krishna afresh, without endangering the traditional thought of what Krishna meant to His devotees. Liberties have been taken while representing him, without distorting the meaning or altering the essence of the idea. It was also an experiment in the techniques of art — the language changed, new symbols evolved. Peace and happiness are universal concepts, represented by Krishna.

Restricting him to a specific geographic or ethnic identity narrows down the idea. He could be from any part of the Universe: Universal Krishna, A Chinese Krishna, a Kabuki Krishna, Kung Fu Krishna, Pharoah Krishna, Picasso Krishna, Eka Rekha Krishna (the style of drawing), to name a few. There are a few subjects which continue as a series: Vatsalya: a series on the compassion of Krishna. New Forever: on Krishna’s graceful Tribhanga form, conveying the aesthetics of music and dance. Dialogue with Arjuna: Featuring some aspects of the Bhagavad Gita. Ananya: where the devotion is expressed exclusively to Krishna. Krishnapremi: Where the mind, represented by the Orangutan (wise one of the forest) surrenders to Krishna with complete detachment to the world (represented by its saffron coat). Sometimes, there could be a re-interpretation of the story, based on the overall quality of Krishna’s mercy, as in the ‘Gajendra moksham.’ Another painting is where the fallen warrior Bheeshma extols Krishna ‘Bheeshma stuthi’ – where Krishna’s ultimate quality, that of being dependent on his devotee is expressed (‘Bhakta Paradeena’).

Various artistic styles from around the world are assimilated into the art, so that the connoisseurs will appreciate art along with the subject of the drawing. Following one particular style may become staid as the subject is being repeated. Every day begins with a new ode to Krishna.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 2:06:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/keshav-traces-his-krishna-journey/article24819665.ece

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