Om Prakash Sharma, ‘Bringing Indian Philosophy to light through modern abstraction’
Om Prakash principal at the College of Art, New Delhi bring exotic paintings filled with delightful colour intensities and cosmic symbolisms to Darat al Funun, in Amman. A well traveled and well rounded artist, his talks on “Neo Tantra” and on the “Journey of Art” have been turned to film. Interested in Music and Dance, he plays the sitar and his concerts in Amman were highly enjoyed and appreciated.
His paintings are the result of deep meditation on Tantra, an ancient Indian philosophy. Tantric philosophy is a cult of ecstasy, focused on the vision of cosmic sexuality. It includes images and ideas from the oldest strata of Indian religion, from Aryan, Veda and Upanishads, often re-interpreting them in visual terms by diagrams and personification. Ritual, magic, myth, philosophy and a complex of signs and emotive symbols cover the vision.
Tantra says that instead of suppressing pleasure, vision and ecstasy, they should be cultivated and used. Accordingly, in the paintings of Om Prakash one can see an interplay of colour intensities that are tantalizing because of the wisdom of putting them in harmony , where one color enhances the other, allows it to go forward or withdraw. Om Prakash is the master of colour, with him colour talks, sings and even screams in ecstasy! Prakash looks at Tantra icons relating the structure of the world with faculties in the minds of men, at Yantra, the visual symbolism and Mantra, the sound symbolism. They compliment one another to create patterns of formulated energy. Yantra uses reductive methods to create optical effects, concentrating on emotive content, refining abstract relationships..
Diagrammatic Yantra center on a single point on which meditative concentration can gradually gather and fix itself. Although Prakash uses these elements in his work, one can see that he wants to escape from traditional confinement. “I use Tradition as a natural source to express my own individuality” he claims. According to him, artists can best learn from artists, like Bernard Shaw claiming to sit on the shoulders of Shakespeare, “I jumped for help on the geometrics of Tantra art, the flat spaces of Indian miniatures, the hard edge, and Minimalism.”
Om Prakash uses geometric Tantric symbolism such as the inverted triangle for male spirit and the downward triangle for the female spirit. He uses this duality in conveying the image of both their union and complementarity. For in a painting the positive space is as important as the negative space. And in our mind’s eye we can make the one dominate, and at another instance the other. In arches walking forward in a landscape, the eye runs around with the colour intensity of the arches till it sets itself on the central one, standing with a highly intense red area that shimmers, holding one’s attention, until at another moment he is made aware of a fervently bright cloud in the back ground becomes meaningful and dominates one’s attention.
The cosmographic circles of Prakash are other graphic manifestations of Tantra, where the duality of movement versus the static, the inner and the outer, positive and negative are in constant opposition. A centralized circle with a great number of small, undulating commas of energy emanating from a lit area behind the circle. Other seems to give the same exponential energy within the otherwise static circle. His work reminds one of the statement of Philip Rawson, keeper of the Gulbenkian Museum of Oriental Art and The Archaeology in the University of Durham, “Because sensation and emotion are the most powerful human motive forces, they should not be crushed out but harnessed to the ultimate goal. Tantra equates the human body to the cosmic body, it has mapped the mechanism of currents of energy through which the creative impulse is distributed at once through man’s body and the world’s.”
The Tantrik tries to assimilate his body to higher levels of cosmic body pattern in order to reach a vision of the cosmic bliss which is an all-embracing love, sexual, familial and destructive, all at once. Tantra, the cult of extreme feeling, entails meditation, aesthetic experience, sex, magic and social action. Of these Om Prakash drops all evil and controversial issue. “I want to offend no one, on the contrary, I want to touch people with happiness.” About artists who paint shocking subjects in order to sell, he says “A touch is better than a slap! A soft touch can be remembered far longer than a slap.”
Prakash is not the only artist practicing Neo-Tantra. It is rather the school of first generation of post-independence artists that started in the 1960’s to explore new figurative styles based on their indigenous environment. Soon they reverted to the traditional two-dimension aesthetic of Tantric diagrams. The exhibition of Om Prakash exhibits a high sense of discipline, a deep knowledge of color, its intensities, the effects of neighboring colours on each other, it is a feast of aesthetics that is much yearned for in this region.
Om Prakash adds a pleasant, familiar note to his exhibition, a huge blue painting with mosques and minarets circumambulating the Tantric Yantra with a central meditation point. Asked about it Prakash explains “ When I was a little boy, I heard the sound of the Muezzin. This remained with me even after the emigration of Indian Muslims to Pakistan. I lost contact with them but the sound kept resounding in my head. I wanted to recreate that Feeling of prayer. It took me forty five years to mature my boy’s idea .. and before getting to Amman, I decided the time had come to solidify my idea. It took me four months to do this big painting that I called “Allah Ho Akbar”
Nelly Lama, Published in: Arab Daily, Amman, Dated:- 27 May 1999