I can never be a painter, let alone good or bad, since I singularly lack one fundamental quality of that art—patience. By extension of that logic, I can never be good at any form of art because arts by necessity demand the state of being anchored that is missing from my life.
There is a congenital sense of hurry to finish the task at hand, be it painting, writing, shaving or eventually living. My mother Snehlata gets upset while frequently hearing me say in Gujarati ‘Chalo patao’ or ‘Jaldi khatam karo’ (Let’s wrap it up or Finish quickly). When the predominant purpose of any endeavor is to somehow finish it, life loses its many charms.
These thoughts come to me every time I see a great piece of art. In recent weeks, I have discovered the legendary Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt. I first wrote about him on August 3. I visited Google Art Project again this morning to explore more of his works. He did not disappoint at all. There are many works to choose from but for this post let me just focus on two, one titled ‘Women Outside the Church of Ruokolahti’ (1887) and ‘Boys Playing on the Shore’ (1884).
Like his ‘Conveying a Child’s Coffin’ (1879), these two works too abound in astonishing little details. I am sure there are many other painters who capture human moods as effectively but for my money Edelfelt takes it to a different level. I have sliced down some of the details.
Look at the two women on the left from the painting above. They are obviously immersed in discussing something they seem to have a great stake in, particularly the one on the right. Notice the details of her slightly agape mouth revealing eroding teeth and slackening jaw. Then look at the other two women on the right hand side of the frame. That they are not particularly part of the conversation is so well captured on their faces. The woman with the red scarf has an expression of polite disinterest. She seems zoned out.
In the painting depicting three boys on the shore, one of them set sailing his toy boat and the other waiting, their body language is so evocative. Look at the boy in the middle and how his toes curl for a firm grip on the rock he is standing on or the way the boy on the left is holding up his shorts. The third boy, gently pushing his boat into the water, has been painted with perfection in every sense of the word.
All these details require a great deal of patience. Of course, it goes without saying that this level of painting requires preternatural talents. If Albert Edelfelt spent his life wanting to ‘Chalo patao’ or ‘Jaldi khatam karo’, he would not have been able to elevate his art to such extraordinary height. As for me, I will continue to assault my digital canvas with my digital brushes smearing them with digital paint in the hope that some of it may resemble a piece of art some day.