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Art Today wrote to the painters:

“If posterity went to the studios of Indian painters and sculptors, what would it select? Ideally, the artist should have a say, even before the others do. For, it is always the artist as creator, through his persistent daring in the act of creation, who remains of constant interest. It is, therefore, very important that we first put all our faith in the artist.

“We at Art Today take pleasure in asking you to choose that one painting by which you think you would be best remembered. For different artists, the considerations of choice will vary. For some, it may be a painting they will not sell at any price, for others, it, could, regrettably, be a painting they had sold in innocence for a song and so it will have to be loaned from its owner. Some painters we are sure are actually just about to create such a work, and they will not mind putting it on the market. After all, the best art should remain on show!”

QUESTIONS TO ARTISTS
1. Even before you saw yourself as a painter, what was it that you had an urge to draw?
2. Of the different phases and subjects, which one remains in your memory as the most alluring? And can you say why?
3. Why is this chosen painting among your finest works? What did you enjoy painting the most in it?
4. What, in retrospect, do you think has remained your greatest shortcoming?

Ramachandran responded by writing:

Once upon a time there lived a lion with pepper and salt mane, in a private jungle of his own. Since he was a recluse, other animals had serious doubts about his IQ level. So they sent a hare with a questionnaire to him. The hare presented it to the lion and said, “We are making a survey to find out how intelligent animals are. “Interesting,” the lion said, “What are the questions?” “The first question,” the hare answered, “is: Even before you saw yourself as a painter what was it that you had an urge to draw?” The lion answered modestly, “The urge to draw started from the urge to scratch, which is one of the most pleasurable sensations in life. There are many kinds of scratching. You can scratch yourself, you can scratch each other’s back or even scratch someone’s eye out. I chose to scratch on the canvas. But since I have the habit of biting my nails due to nervousness, I started scratching with the brush. When I finish scratching the canvas, people call it ‘a painting’, and me ‘a painter.”

Not satisfied with the answer, the hare read out the second question. “Of the different phases and subjects, which one remains in your memory as the most alluring? And can you say why?” To this the lion apologetically replied, “I am nearly sixty and my memory is failing.”
Convinced that the lion had become senile, the hare asked the next question. “Why is this chosen painting among your finest works? What did you enjoy painting the most in it?” The lion answered, “Since it is basically a scratching activity, it is also a pleasurable activity. You enjoy as long as you scratch. The moment you stop scratching, you feel like starting it afresh.”

By this time, the hare became thoroughly disgusted with the lion and wanted to give him a shock. “Do you know that there is another lion living in your jungle?” the hare asked. The lion was so shocked that he wanted to meet the other lion immediately. So the hare took him to a well. The bewildered lion looked inside and saw his own reflection, but could not recognise it, as told in the old fable, He asked the last question to the lion in the well for a better answer. “What, in retrospect, do you think has remained your greatest shortcoming?” The lion in the well echoed back, “Stupid, don’t you realise that this question is drafted to make you jump into the well, as told in the old fable?”

Enlightened, the lion with pepper and salt mane receded deep into the heart of his private jungle.

The Moral:
A genius cannot participate in an opinion poll

*Art Today inaugural exhibition, 1995.