This is not one of my long posts. In fact, at the advice of experts on blogging, my posts are becoming shorter but more regular.
Today, I just wanted to encourage anyone who is a devotee of Krishna, and who is also an artist, to please continue using your art to share Krishna to others. I’ll say something about musicians on another day, but today its for all the artists, OK?
The reason that artists are important is because the founder of the Hare Krishna movement thought they were important too. He wanted his followers who could draw and paint to use their skills to illustrate his books, thereby creating ‘windows’ to the spiritual world. At one time we heard that he wanted a minimum of 32 paintings in each of his books so that readers would be immediately attracted.
And he wanted paintings in his temples – and on the walls of his temples – so that visitors could appreciate the beauty of Krishna, and the teachings of Krishna.
There is an incredibly long history of paintings and sculpture being employed to uplift and enlighten the spiritual pilgrim. Go into any Orthodox Christian church today and you will find brightly coloured and well-executed murals of religious stories and themes. The art extends all the way up to the ikon or the very object of worship within the church.
India is well known for its lavish temple paintings and sculptures – and the vivid colours. Thousands of years of history can still be seen in the religious art of India.
Unfortunately, the churches in my own country, whose interiors were once covered in rich Biblical paintings, suffered a lot during the Reformation of the late 1530s, when much beauty was ripped out of the churches, regarded as too sensual to help people with their world denial. Russia and the non-Roman world also suffered during the period of the iconclasts, when it was expressly forbidden to depict the form of God. It was considered that to depict Him in form was to reduce His position to a material substance such as paint, stone or wood, and could thereby border on blasphemy.
India never went through such a period, and the work of the artist – of whatever degree of sophistication – was always encouraged as an act of devotion in itself. When painting Krishna, for instance, no painting is considered ‘not good enough’ because it is the devotion with which it is executed that is accepted by the Lord. To this day there are many ‘tribal’ or ‘primitive’ images of Krishna, in both painting and sculpture, that are worshipped by hundreds of people.
Srila Prabhupada once chanted his rounds while gazing at a picture drawn for him by a three year old child. He could see Krishna there.
Now, when all of his books are illustrated; when many of the Hare Krishna movement’s original artists are no longer painting scriptural themes for that purpose as they did before; now, we need artists as much – if not more – than we ever did before. All types of artists are valued and needed. Through your work, and your devotion, you can introduce an entire new generation of devotees to Krishna.
So whoever, you are, how ever you think you can paint, ISKCON still has a great need for your talent. Your devotion will increase as you paint – in whatever style – and those who view your work will understand something of Krishna’s beauty and message through your artistic expression.
So here’s a few samples of British Vaishnava art that have reached my ivory tower over the past few months:
Jereme Crow painted this Sri Chaitanya Kirtan scene and you can see more of his work here.
Steve Smith executed an attractive mixed media portrait of Sri Sri Radha Krishna for his local devotee group altar. Of course, there are many more devotee artists and I’ll willingly promote them too.
Unfortunately, and perhaps rather ironically, my computer is having a hard time uploading images. Which kind of proves a point about the importance of art. Now, thats an artistic statement…