‘Art education has, over the years, resulted in limiting the creative abilities of artists as well as a wider public appreciation by formalising its language and syntax,” according to writer and teacher of art, Sudhakar Yadav.

Professor Yadav, who taught at the JJ School of Arts in Mumbai for 30 years and has written essays on art and artists, said formal schooling has meant that many artists no longer paint in their “mother tongue” with free-flowing sensibilities, but do so in an academic language that draws their work farther away from the lay person.

He said it has also resulted in the elitist notion of art literacy and illiteracy, with the so-called art illiterate deemed unable to judge or appreciate good artwork, while speaking on the subject of “figures in and of paintings” at the monthly Art Dialogue series organised by Raza Foundation in partnership with the Civil Services Officers Institute.

The visual language, like verbal, has its own grammar. But we cannot appreciate it through a prism of logic. You need a certain innocence to see its true beauty, because all figures depicted in a painting are lies, there are no realistic images. An object exists in its own space and surroundings, and a painting exists on a surface. Between the space and surface is the act of transformation.

“An artist transforms his experience of an object in its physical space to an expression on a surface; and the truly great artists are the ones who lend truth to their experience and sensitivities in this act. It is like asking what does ‘2’ mean. Words have meanings, numbers have values. The colours in a painting have values, not meaning. Anyone can extract a shape, form or pattern from nature, the value you add to it is what makes it a work of art,” said Yadav.

Raza Foundation’s Art Dialogues features expert practitioners from the world of ideas, literature, visual arts, performing arts and various other disciplines.

The Foundation, set up by the late artist S H Raza, provides support and platforms for various arts, publications and fellowships, especially aimed at young talent.