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“The true painting aims at creating something more beautiful than the ordinary reality.”[1]

“Let beauty be your constant ideal.

The beauty of the soul
The beauty of sentiments
The beauty of thoughts
The beauty of the action
The beauty in the work

so that nothing comes out of your hands which is not an expression of pure and harmonious beauty.
         And the Divine Help shall always be with you.”[2]

“Nirodbaran: No wonder people won't read poetry after what the Modernists have done with it.
Purani: It is the same thing in painting too. I remember how Francois and Agnes used to cudgel their brains to find out the significance of some bizarre, grotesque pictures.

Sri Aurobindo: Perhaps it was meant only as a joke and no meaning was there. You know the origin of Cubism? Mother used to go among the artists. One day she found that two artists as a joke had made some queer figures but people began to find great originality in them and praise them. Then they took it up seriously. There was a postman who painted a green cow grazing on red grass. People began to remark: “How original! How striking!” and now he is an outstanding painter. I forget his name. (Laughter)[3]

“Cubism” and Other Ultra-Modernism

“If these painters were sincere, if they truly painted what they feel and see, the picture would be the expression of a confused mind and an unruly vital. But, unhappily, the painters are not sincere and then these pictures are nothing else than the expression of a falsehood, an artificial imagination based only on the will to be strange and to bewilder the public in order to attract attention and that has indeed very little to do with beauty.”[4]

“Modern art is an experiment, still very clumsy, to express something other than the simple physical appearance. The idea is good — but naturally the value of the expression depends entirely on the value of that which wants to express itself.
         At present almost all artists live in the lowest vital and mental consciousness and the results are quite poor.
         Try to develop your consciousness, endeavour to discover your soul, and then what you will do will be truly interesting.”[5]

“But does an artist feel at all any impulse to create once he takes up Yoga?

Why should he not have the impulse? He can express his relation with the Divine in the way of his art, exactly as he would in any other. If you want art to be the true and highest art, it must be the expression of a divine world brought down into this material world. All true artists have some feeling of this kind, some sense that they are intermediaries between a higher world and this physical existence. If you consider it in this light, Art is not very different from Yoga. But most often the artist has only an indefinite feeling, he has not the knowledge. Still, I knew some who had it; they worked consciously at their art with the knowledge. In their creation they did not put forward their personality as the most important factor; they considered their work as an offering to the Divine, they tried to express by it their relation with the Divine.
         This was the avowed function of Art in the Middle Ages. The “primitive” painters, the builders of cathedrals in Mediaeval Europe had no other conception of art. In India all her architecture, her sculpture, her painting have proceeded from this source and were inspired by this ideal. The songs of Mirabai and the music of Thyagaraja, the poetic literature built up by her devotees, saints and Rishis rank among the world’s greatest artistic possessions.

But does the work of an artist improve if he does Yoga?

The discipline of Art has at its centre the same principle as the discipline of Yoga. In both the aim is to become more and more conscious; in both you have to learn to see and feel something that is beyond the ordinary vision and feeling, to go within and bring out from there deeper things. Painters have to follow a discipline for the growth of the consciousness of their eyes, which in itself is almost a Yoga. If they are true artists and try to see beyond and use their art for the expression of the inner world, they grow in consciousness by this concentration, which is not other than the consciousness given by Yoga.”[6]

  1. On Education, p.233
  2. Ibid., p.232
  3. Talks with Sri Aurobindo (Vol. 2), p.824, 31 July 1940
  4. On Education, p.234
  5. Ibid., p.236
  6. Questions and Answers 1929-1931, p.104

See also