‘Since there are no longer any priests or philosophers, the most important people in the world today are artists’. Gerhard Richter
When I started on these paintings, I thought of them as pathway icons, like a handprint on a wall, that reminds you of a presence, whether human or divine. Tamra Rudra was the first of a series of 8. I continued on to do two more series of 13 and 8 paintings. I kept returning to this theme over many years. It felt like I had just had one idea and it was not clear exactly what the significance of it really was other than a mark.
While writing the book Yogasutracintamani, I came across a sutra in Patanjali’s yoga sutra, rtambhara tatra prajna. This sutra says that the knowledge level reached is ‘bearing of truth’. The word for truth, rta, is an old word that was used in Vedic times and has more or less gone out of use in Sanskrit. It does not refer to an objective truth, but the truth in relation to the whole moving cosmos. In other words, it is an intuitive truth that does not necessarily correspond with objective truth. The level of knowledge referred to is that which comprehends both objective reality and subjective reality. In other words, it indicates objective and intuitive knowledge or specifically, knowledge of one’s own consciousness. This word rta is the etymological source of our word ‘art’ as well. This gives a position to artists as people who share in that intuitive consciousness. This is in distinction to being ‘entertainers’, a category engendered by our own political-economic world view (these two words used to be united) which robs them of the dignity of participation in something more. It makes Gerhard Richter’s statement eminently understandable. He said ‘Since there are no longer any priests or philosophers, the most important people in the world today are artists’.
With the research for the book Yogasutracintamani, I came to feel that these paintings represented something else. I felt that the inner portion was a representation of limited individual consciousness in a larger field of unlimited consciousness. Indeed this understanding was a revelation for me, especially as I felt that I had been working on the same theme over, indeed, the length of a lifetime in many different languages and had originally given them no more significance than a reminiscence. The years of study of Indian metaphysical schools of thought had, unknowingly to me, contributed to these visual representations.
As for Rudra, he is the primeval mind born god who refuses to procreate, the lord of yoga – he is a howler who cries tears of silver in his stories, sung to in the majestic Rudradhyaya. His story has been summarily told by Wendy O’Flaherty in Siva the Erotic Ascetic and Stella Kramrisch in The Presence of Siva.
The paintings are what they are.