The Artist as Transcendence

  • Fazl illahi
  • Publish Date: Aug 25 2017 10:02PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 25 2017 10:02PM
The Artist as Transcendence

What makes Arshad Sauleh’s art so spellbinding?


He is struggling. He is running in the maze of life, jostling to discover his true potential. Hidden somewhere inside him it lies. Painful, as it is, to live a borrowed life, and stand at a station that does not belong to him. He explores to find his course, rather to create one for himself. He seeks freedom to wander, to roam, to search. Once he zeroes in on what he is, he wades through to reach the acme, the art he is born with, the art that is the true “him”, the art that makes him “true”. This art makes the artist; and this artist makes the art. While doing this, the realms of the art, and the artist himself, rise to the heights of beauty. The beatific vision becomes the artist’s treasure, and the beauty’s fragments sneak into his artwork. He finds in beauty what he loses in his artwork. This way the artist is a conduit for beauty, gravitating from the material to the immaterial, at once in communion with the loftiest and the earthly, suckling at the bosom of beauty and losing it, with the stroke of a brush, on the canvas. The artist thus stands at the precipice between “what is” and “what is not”, creativity incarnate. The artist finds himself in the state he reaches, loses himself in the art he creates. It is in this “state” that our personalities get integrated to the extent of fulfilment. Being an artist means being able to touch the highest states of self. It’s a moment of living to the utmost, creating and approximating the ideal. The artist delves into his ideal “state” to pluck from the enigmatic realms of beauty, for we cannot pluck from beauty until we reach a “state of beauty” within ourselves. It is like immersing in the ocean of beauty and tracing its feel on the canvas. The aforementioned sketch depicts the artists’ daily trials, his excursions into the world of splendor, which are arduous yet fulfiling. As such, you find them creative and simple at once.

In this philosophical backdrop of art, I now bring the artist, in flesh and blood. I have in mind Arshad Sauleh, one of Kashmir’s leading artists.

I believe artists are known by their work, they live in their work, and their work speaks for them. For Arshad, too, his work makes him known, doing the talking for him, affording him to live in his immortal artwork. That is no exaggeration. Take his artwork and you will feel transported to a different realm.

Sauleh was encouraged to hone his artistic talent by his schoolteacher Mohan Lal Raina. Raina, the drawing teacher at SP School, Srinagar, was delighted to see the budding artist’s drawing book, full as it was with many portraits and landscapes. He organised an exhibition of Sauleh’s drawing work in the school. Later, in 1992, Raina would persuade Sauleh to pursue a course in fine arts. Sauleh’s joined the Fine Arts College, and there has been no looking back since. While at the college, he was afforded the opportunities to display his paintings in public galleries.

About his early artistic yearnings, Sauleh says, “I remember once in my teenage I saw a full moon. I was so much disturbed I stood motionless for some time. My friends surrounded me believing there was some problem with me. I still can’t forget that night, and those beautiful moments.” It is the kind of experience that an artist cannot do without. Unless a person is gripped by such feelings, he is not an artist. I call this condition “bracing up”. All true artists experience “bracing up”, which enables them to be transcended into a different creative realm.

Indeed, it is why Sauleh’s strokes suffuse the canvas with the colors of immortality. It’s only the artist who knows what it takes to create an artwork, and an art lover to tell you how it feels beholding an artwork. It’s a peak moment, a peak experience. Allama Iqbal describes it thus:

Rang ho ya khishat-o-sang, chang ho ya harf-e-soot

Moujizay-e-fann ki hai khoonay jigar say namood

Painting, music, poetry and carvings,

The miraculous arts are born from the blood of heart


Fazl illahi is a teacher at Institute of Advanced Studies in Education, Srinagar