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Art, profane and pure
  By Joshua John  
 
A STUFFED donkey lying on its side with an overturned cart greeted us as we entered the India Art Summit held in the Capital last week. The price for that installation? A cool Rs 21 lakh!

It seemed as though what qualified the dead ass as an 'artwork' was its price tag. Any cheaper and it would be frightful to most of the herbal tea drinking vegetarians who were gawking around.

Inside, the place was abuzz with everyone jostling to see and be seen. By the end of the third day, a whopping Rs 40 crore worth of sales had taken place and it was applauded as another victory for the cause of art in India.

Credible creativity should be celebrated and that could mean paying a price for it, but when the art frat finds the extremely bizarre and the absurd as the benchmark for true art, we cannot but question their insight.

Our current trends seem to dictate that for an artwork to be appreciated, it must be fundamentally incomprehensible and the more the illusion of mystery, the more the artist is glorified and his work worshiped. Any suggestions towards the contrary is labeled as 'conservative' and quickly dismissed as sentimental and simple.

When we believe that there is no divine creator who made us and gave us the gift of creativity, then we release ourselves from the responsibility that comes with our power to create and the long-term consequences for our actions.

We are obliged to merely gratify our flesh and thus neglect our soul. We begin to prefer whatever pleases us and reject what challenges or corrects us. Eventually, the artist throws together the profane and the pure onto their canvas or film without even knowing the difference between the two.

Left to our own devices, none of us is capable of completely differentiating the innumerable lies from the truth. Anyone -- artist or otherwise -- when independent from their Maker will begin to create selfishly, keeping paisa and publicity as their prime goal.

In the beginning, God celebrated and called whatever He created as "good". How much of our work can we really call 'good'? We can only bring out what we fill ourselves with and the reason why we get so much garbage in the name of 'art' and 'aesthetics' is because the creators themselves are feeding on lies and licentiousness.

A relationship with our Maker ensures that we do not abuse our abilities by creating trivial trash. He who 'fearfully and wonderfully' made us entrusts us with gifts to enhance our world...some receive the gift to generate wealth, some have the gift of writing, some cook, others sing or paint, some come alive when they lead their nation or serve the poor and needy, and so on.

He not only gives us these abilities, but because He loves us, He also allows us to choose how we use it; either to gratify ourselves or to glorify His name, either to poison people or to preserve what is good.

When our heart chooses to love and please God, only then will we be truly fulfilled and rewarded. Our reward will include being a blessing to others around us. So the next time we look at art or any form of creativity we should keep the following standard as the benchmark for what is good. "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things."

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The writer is a painter, drummer, biker, documentary film producer and pastor.
 
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