& occasionally about other things, too...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


Guest Post

By Fraser Sutherland

I taught myself to read before a school taught me the alphabet. This happens to children more often than one might think so I make no special claim to have been some kind of autodidactic prodigy. From a very early age reading became a way of life; it was in fact another way to live. Apart from helping my father milk Jerseys and shovel manure on the farm, and helping my mother set the table and look after my crippled brother, I was a solitary child. But someone who reads a lot is never truly solitary. A book is always company.

Only in recent years have I come to realize just how much reading has dominated my life.  I married someone, a children’s librarian, who read even more than I did though, unlike me, she had a penchant for rereading her favourites. For her, reading, like eating or sleep, was one of the essential functions.  Ultimately it did not save her from suicidal despair, but on many occasions it’s saved me. To read is to enter a parallel world in which, as an absorbed onlooker, one is always welcome.

When I told someone I wanted to compile a list of books that in my lifetime had impressed me in some way he said I’d do better to list really  bad books, giving them the equivalent of a skull-and-crossbones poison symbol. Some books haven’t just been tedious, they’ve made me want to do physical damage to them, like the time an Andy Warhol film, Chelsea Girls, once made me want to rush up and stab the screen. Overwriting or logorrhea, as in John Cowper Powys’s swollen novel Wolf Solent will do it.  One hazard of travelling is to be trapped without suitable reading matter, and it’s almost as bad to be trapped with execrable reading matter.  I still remember an overnight ferry trip I took from Barcelona to Palma, Majorca  in which the only thing at hand to read was Jack London’s dreadful novel Martin Eden.  Nightmarish.

Realizing how reading has consumed so much of  my life, I embarked on the dusty, laborious task of listing all the books that have in some way been meaningful to me. It’s part of my ongoing project to make  sense of my life.  Surely reading all those books, all those days and weeks and months chasing letters of the alphabet across a page, hasn’t been a waste of time. Surely. Now, to slide one’s eyes down the rows of the spreadsheet I set up for the titles of notable books,  makes me envious of the writers who were famous during their lifetimes. True, most didn’t enjoy the celebrity. A few  got rich, but riches brings problems too.

Typically I voluntarily read between 120 and 150 books a year, two or three books a week, and have maintained that pace for many years.  Most have come from a public library. Toronto’s public library system is so good that alone is enough of a reason to live in the city. I record the author and title at the back of my daybook (I won’t dignify it by calling it a diary.) Only a few are rare ones that I think deserve rereading or somehow belong to the permanent furniture of my mind. Miguel de Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life, for example. Or Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

Titles can also come from the legacy lists of university English courses I took  in my early 20s, or at least the ones that stuck. I’m happy to omit Joseph Conrad’s dreary Nostromo and Henry James’s baroquely affected  The Ambassadors maybe I’d feel differently if I read them now, but I don’t think so. I have a weakness for diaries and memoirs. Titles can also come from  lists that I seemingly made for the sheer joy of making lists. I follow up book reviewsthere can never be enough book reviewsand other readers’ recommendations. They give me a book, I read it for better or worse. Skimming and scanning used-and-antiquarian bookshops, fund-raising or charity book sales, books spread out on a newspaper or in cartons on a sidewalk all are resources.  I’ve read almost all of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark,  Anthony Powell, Ernest Hemingway, and my longstanding American friend Elizabeth Spencer.  I’ve extensively read far too many poets to mention but their number certainly includes Sylvia Plath and Philip Larkin.

Yet there’s always a chance I will find something invaluable that I haven’t read, such as another Donald E. Westlake novel starring Dortmunder, his accident-prone thief, or a P.G. Wodehouse dealing with Lord Emsworth and his adored prizewinning pig the Empress of Blandings. Or maybe a similar comic triumph such as the Grossmith brothers’ Diary of  a Nobody. I know I will never find another Wind in the Willows, which is unique. To my childhood mind it was the greatest book ever written or illustrated. Kenneth Grahame wrote it, Ernest Shepard did the illustrations.

I’ve neglected to mention one vital source of authors and titles for my lifetime spreadsheet, which now numbers about 3,200 titles, and growing by the week. I refer to books already on my shelves.  After all, they wouldn’t be on my shelves if I hadn’t already favoured them. It’s a motley assortment. It includes not just masterpieces, far from it, but books that have some geographical or generational connection with me, say, the Rev. J P. MacPhie’s Pictonians at Home and Abroad (1914), a compendium of local boys from Pictou County, Nova Scotia where I come from who made good.  Sutherlands related to me were not among them.

On the shelves, too, are books whose titles or contents charmed me, such as Barbara Ann Kipfer’s 14,000 Ways To Be Happy: I keep trying to find useful pointers toward happiness in it. Or the books have a vocational link: dictionaries, reference works, or other books I consulted, edited, or contributed to. I have an 1821 edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, though I can’t say I’ve used it much.  Cookbooks are found in my kitchen, logically enough. History, philosophy, psychology, and general nonfiction populate the dining room, novels the living room, reference books and biography the office, poetry and crime fiction the bedroom. No books in the bathroom.

I close with a quotation taken from, fittingly, a book, Maggie Ferguson’s fine biography of that wonderful Orkney writer, George Mackay Brown.  I like to think the sentiment applies to me. Ferguson: “The biography of an artist, George once wrote, is really a pattern of those experiences and images that enter deeply into his consciousness and set the rhythm and tone of his work.”

Books are both experiences and images.

  • Fraser Sutherland is a poet, editor, and lexicographer who lives in Toronto. The most recent of his 17 books is the poetry collection The Philosophy of As If.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 33


 Che’s mental health struggles continued and yet he steadily made progress. He completed his high school but had to drop out of the college program in broadcast journalism. 

Much to his parents’ surprise, he began working at Blue Jays on 8 April 2017. He was still a few months short of 20; and he found this job without anyone's assistance, applied for it and got it. It was a minimum wage job, but it was a proud moment for his mom and dad.

Our house was slowly become a home. Mahrukh single-handedly transformed it by adding bits and pieces of furniture, house plants, home appliances and a million other things that gave it a distinct identity that was a reflection of her personality.

By 2017, three years into my second job in Canada, I was in a dilemma – whether to continue in a steady employment or look for something that better fitted my abilities and aptitude.

My colleagues at a baseball game
in a playing field behind our office
What kept me in the job was the company of my many colleagues. I enjoyed my daily interactions with all of them, especially with those with whom I could talk about issues of contemporary relevance. 

In particular, I cherish the memory of debating with one colleague who read my novel with interest and eagerly discussed critical aspects of the story; she gave me a memoir of a pious Muslim’s decision to convert to Christianity.

I continued to supplement my income by doing freelance for Anand Raj Giri, a publisher based in the Middle East, and content writing for the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce.


In 2017 Jagmeet Singh was elected leader of the National Democratic Party. He is the first non-white person to lead a political party in Canada. It is unlikely he will ever be the Prime Minister because there is a glass ceiling that non-whites will not be able to breach for a long time to occupy the Prime Minister’s post in Canada.

Jagmeet Singh’s ascension opened old wounds and created new ones. Singh is a vociferous critic of India’s record on human rights, especially of India’s treatment of its minorities. On this issue, Singh finds broad acceptance from different segments of Canadian and Indian voices. 

However, his refusal to unequivocally condemn the terrorists responsible for the 1985 Air India bombing continues to rile the political establishment in both the countries.

In 1984, I was in the Punjab for all summer, living with the family of my friend Rajinder Singh Bhelley, a Sikh, in Mandi Gobindgarh; that visit and prolonged stay changed forever my perception about the Punjab situation and gave me an insight to understand the incidents that changed India’s history in 1984.

There is no denying the significant impact the anti-Sikh riots in India in 1984 have had on the Sikh psyche globally, including and especially in Canada. Surprisingly, the impact is palpably noticeable even on a generation that was born in Canada and after 1984 and did not have any firsthand experience of the crisis that engulfed the Punjab in the 1970s and the 1980s.

The Indian state imploded politically, allowing the Pakistan-backed extremists to take control of the state, leading to an unimaginable carnage of both the Hindus and the Sikhs. India’s Indian National Congress party is to be held responsible for fomenting the problem, if not creating it.

But a lot of water has flowed down the five rivers of the Punjab, and the separatist sentiments that were ingrained in the Sikh psyche have all but evaporated. At present, and for at least two-and-a-half decades, the demand for a separate country for Sikhs – Khalistan – is only heard outside India.

Over the last decade in Canada, I’ve often been surprised to see some prominent Sikhs identify themselves on the basis of their faith, and distinct from Indo-Canadians. Canada gives right to its citizens to hold an opinion and express it freely even if it is at variance with that of the majority.

This freedom is politicised. In the name of free speech, a vocal section of the Sikh population has turned the legitimate campaign for human rights of the religious and caste minorities in India into a political weapon to influence the outcome of Canadian elections.


The Harvey Weinstein’s case exploded in 2017 and unleashed the #MeToo movement globally. This is a political movement that has changed the power equation in favour of women, especially in the workplace.

Nearly all men are guilty of impropriety in their interaction with women colleagues in the workplace.  And for men to behave properly is the least that a constantly changing work environment requires, especially when women are constantly proving themselves better at everything that men do.

As in any revolution, the changes that the #MeToo movement will bring about will unfold over the next decade or so. The first and the much-needed change will be the end of discriminatory pay structure and implementation for equal pay for women. But for the revolution to make any meaningful change, it will have to become truly universal, and not be limited to the socially developed western democracies.


At the Toronto International Film Festival, I saw Anurag Kshyap’s Mukkabaaz and Hansal Mehta’s Omerta, and I saw Sachin – a billion dreams on a newly-installed Android box at home, a technology that welcomingly subverts the stranglehold of cable television on home entertainment. Shabana Azmi came to Mississauga to perform Broken Images (written by Girish Karnad), and SWATRI group staged GRAMMA.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

A decade in Toronto - 32

All photos in this post are with my relatives and friends clicked during my 2017 visit to Bombay

In 2017, I went to India for the third time since I immigrated to Canada. Unlike the previous occasions, when Mahrukh and Che accompanied me, I was alone. Durga joined me a little later because she wasn’t sure her 55-year-old son could take care of himself.

I've lived a lifetime in Bombay - 46 years to be precise - and I thought I've had enough when I decided to abandon it for Toronto in 2008. I've yearned for it almost constantly during the last decade that I've made Toronto my home. Every time I've returned for a brief visit, I've felt besieged, assaulted by the unending chaos that the city has always been. But I've always wanted to return, and have been sad that I couldn't return sooner and more frequently.

In 2017, for the first time, as I bid farewell to my home and return to another home, I felt relieved, happy to be back with Mahrukh and Che. In the last nine years, Bombay had changed, and so had I. My city and its people, while familiar, were less relevant to my life. To my friends, I was a person from their past. They had to extract time from their present to reacquaint themselves with their past. 

That didn’t just require an adjustment of their calendar, it required a mental adjustment that wasn’t always easy.

I met a number of friends, acquaintances, associates and relatives – many of them after many years, and some whom I probably won’t meet ever again. These encounters evoke a warm feeling of nostalgia but only briefly; often the overwhelming feeling is of a sense of loss mixed (strangely) with relief. Perhaps, this has to do with my inability to build lasting relationships or perhaps it has to do with my high expectations that these encounters with people from my past would be more meaningful.  

On every trip that I have made to Bombay, I remember Salman Rushdie’s essay Imaginary Homelands (in Imaginary homelands, Essays and Criticism 1981-1991, published in 1992). Although he is describing the angst of a writer, its every Indian in the diaspora’s emotion when returning home.

Rushdie observes, “Writers in my position, exiles or emigrants or expatriates are haunted by some sense of loss, some urge to reclaim, to look back, even at the risk of being mutated into pillars of salt. But if we do look back, we must also do so in the knowledge – which gives rise to profound uncertainties – that our physical alienation from India almost inevitably means that we will not be capable of reclaiming precisely the thing that was lost; that we will, in short, create fictions, not actual cities or villages, but invisible ones, imaginary homelands, Indias of the mind.”


Creativity is subjective and it constantly changes. In 2017, I was fortunate to see creativity at its peak in diverse fields – theatre, arts, cinema, literature. In retrospect, I realise that 2017 was the last year when I was able to actively take part (always as a member of the audience) in such creative endeavours. My kidney disorder began to impede in my desire to be everywhere. Although there were no physical manifestations of my illness; it sure was mentally debilitating.

One the most awe-inspiring art performances was ‘Breaking the Waves’ by Daisuke Takeya, the -Canadian artist of Japanese descent that my friend Yoko Morgenstern introduced me on one of her visits to Toronto. I interviewed Daisuke on my show on TAG TV (it was one of the last interviews that I did).

Daisuke invited me to the concluding performance of Breaking the Waves at the Christopher Cutts Gallery. I admit that I’m not educated in contemporary art, but the concluding performance of Breaking the Waves was spectacular; I hadn’t seen anything like it ever before (or for that matter, since).

To read about Daisuke’s exhibition, click here: Breaking the Waves.

Another avant garde performance was Sharada Eswar’s The Draupadi Project, a contemporary retelling of the tragedy that was Draupadi’s life. Sharada’s solo performance brought alive the desolation of the character. The Theatre Centre-imposed limitation on audience numbers ensured the actor’s proximity to the audience, and the back projection added to the effect of claustrophobia that the woman (Panchali) experiences inside the prison. (Read the blogpost here: The Draupadi Project)

Shakespeare in the Park began in New York more than six decades ago. Since we came to Toronto and I learnt that Toronto had its own version of community theatre experience, I was keen to experience it firsthand. However, circumstances prioritize life, and we couldn’t find time to go to Toronto’s High Park to see a Shakespeare play. Finally, after determination and planning, I managed to reserve tickets for King Lear (actually, Queen Lear; read about it here: Shakespeare in the Park). I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Joyce Wayne’s daughter Hannah was enacting the role of one of the daughters – Regan.

In 2017, Shakespeare in the Park in Toronto was celebrating 35 years. And looking at the number of people in the audience, it is obviously popular among Torontonians. The informal format makes Shakespeare accessible to everyone and the presence of fine actors makes the experience remarkable. The trees, the slowly darkening sky and the occasional sound of a bird’s chirping creates an ambience that is completely different from a regular theatre experience inside an auditorium. Sitting on the grass for two hours is a bit hard on one’s posterior; except for this minor discomfort, it is an experience that one should have annually.


By 2017, our lives had stabilized. Both Mahrukh and I were holding on to steady jobs and Che was also working. Stability breeds dissatisfaction and disaffection with life in general. In an immigrant’s life, stability is a sign that nearly all the basic lifegoals – livelihood, shelter, food, entertainment – have been taken care of. When that happens, the newcomer begins to examine his / her life minutely to see what can possibly be changed. And throughout my life, stability leads to exploring career options that’d be more satisfying. That process began once again when I became increasingly dissatisfied with the limited avenues available to me in my present job. I’d accepted the position because I didn’t have a job, but after three years, I was looking for an opportunity to return to bilateral trade promotion, and marketing and communications.

The noise of living with others - Poems by Ahmad Marouf

Real Star

White screens are blinking, in my closed eyes.
Flames of wild flesh,
are scratching me inside.

I need to recognize myself, at least for tonight,
at least for one night.

Should I stay here, peering, at sexy TV stars?
Should I listen to their crazy, breathes?
and enjoy their artificial, kisses!

I need to recognize myself, at least for tonight,
at least for one night.

My eyes are covered, with images.
My mind is full of illusions, and my heart is deserted, it is completely deserted.

Turn off all screens Baby. I keen to be a real star.
Turn off all lights Baby.
I miss the holy darkness.

I need to recognize myself, at least for tonight,
at least for one night.


The Walking Man

At this stage of my life, I've finally recognized, that all my setbacks, started when I announced:
Hey smart guy! It is not your business,
anymore to change the world around.

The world shrunk down very soon. The globe shrunk down to my town. The sun rose from my bedroom.
The moon shone on the walls, of my bathroom.

Look at me, here I am: a walking man,
a drinking man, a sleeping man.
Someone, something like a dead man.


Secret Rumble

The world listens to me as I am revealing, the secrets of my life.
My mind sounds the alarm:
Stop talking or you'll lose, the magic keys to survive.

My heart replies:
If you don't speak out today, you will keep silent forever.
Your red and white cells will explode, as they get the spark of fire.

My mind shouts:
Look at the 99-year-old woman, with seven daughters and a son.
She has a talking mouth but nobody, knows about her first love.

Till now she feels the electricity, of his 82 years old touch.

My heart cries:
Don't listen to all these lies.
When you don't share the feelings, they will die.
Be clear like an open page.
No fears, no tears, nothing is to hide.

The world is still listening to the secret rumble, of my heart and my mind.



The empty blue wooden chair, announces my absence,
for the third time in a row.
My stemmed glass sits in the middle, of the tray by itself, alone.

Dear old friends:
Don't ask about my whereabouts. Don't search for me anywhere.
I am here everywhere.

I'm hiding around the big crowded city, in the walls' micro holes.
All the drawings and graffiti, I've made. All of them are my own face.

I broke all your cozy frames. I've chosen to go by myself. Don't wait for me.
Don't save my place.
You can pick up my lonely glass, to drink the toast of an absent, Old friend.


Close to The Moon

the three of us were meeting, night after night, In the forgotten room above the roof,
so close to the moon.

I was the inspired dreamer, you were the believer,
and he was watching with approving gestures,
playing the role of the amazed repeater.

It's been twenty years.
We are complete strangers.
I am here. You are there... so far away. He is somewhere in between,
asking all the time when and where, the next Rendezvous will take place.

How many delusions do we need, to relive one of our old nights?

Would you believe my words when I read, my poems again like old times?
Would he watch with approving gestures?
playing the role of the amazed repeater?

I wonder if the forgotten room above the roof, is still there... so close to the moon.


The Turtle Meets the Butterfly

Two words were enough to pick me up. The tone of your voice pulled me forth, and back to the version land.

Talking to you is kind of shaking the old trees, and sending the boats to a stormy sea.

You asked me:

Are you one of the earth's residents? I don't know... simply I've answered.

I keep moving through multi layers sky. I am thinking of adopting a turtle,

or getting a butterfly.

I couldn't stop rewinding our lines. Are you one of the planet's residents?

Do you think of adopting a turtle

or getting a butterfly?

I'll reach you behind the walls, under the rocks, Our union is a Must.

Don't think of hiding in the rain drops. I'll be the earth's dust.

Do you think of adopting a turtle or getting a butterfly?

I am your turtle.

You are my butterfly.



It is the time,

to leave your old world. Sell your safe nights, to cold wind and go.

You aren't alive anymore. The ghosts surround you, and yellow smiles.

You eager to be a fresh man.

You played all your cards,

You waited lifelong for the sun, but nothing new has come.

It is the time,

to leave your old world. Sell your safe nights, to cold wind and go.

You should admit that, you live alone.

You don't belong,

to any tribe, to any soil. Your soul is your home.

Don't be afraid of tomorrow. you will never feel sorrow.

The world is longing for, your fresh smile.

It is the time,

to leave your old world. Sell your safe nights, to cold wind and go.

Ahmad Marouf is a Syrian-Canadian poet, broadcaster, graphic artist and designer

All rights reserved for the poet 2019

The naked me

Guest post by Meena Chopra

(Art in dialogue)

Nudity, Sensuality & Sexuality in Art -
Connecting Skin to the Corium and the Corium to the Centre
“We know that the nude form, more so female nude form is inherently sensual, specifically to the male eye, but an experienced artistic eye of any gender, caste or creed would surely perceive much more in it, which would complement the skin and the corium of the art with its inner core”.

The materiality of unclad, bare human body has been close to the imagination and interest of almost every artist down the ages, substantiating the core of multi layered timeless cyclic continuity of life, depicting the energetic static naked reality at the base of the ever flowing life stream.

The dauntless, gutsy and determined effort of un-layering and uncovering has more to do in coming to terms with the hidden reality of the self, claiming, confronting and accepting the starkness beneath and showcasing it to the world while searching the eventual reality as the intrinsic purpose of any art.  

Either consciously or subconsciously, at some stage of any artist’s career, this reality surfaces to the foreground. This is certainly true for any other art practices or forms such as, realistic, abstract, still life, nature study, or any other creative form such as creative writing, music, dance, and theatre, as all these rise intuitively from the same unchallenged and undeniable substratum of the mind. 

The question that recently came up, on the semi abstract nude series of mine, from some authoritative entities in arts was, whether sexuality was on my mind when making this semi-nude series? While for some the first reaction to my series of paintings was that these were ‘hot’, for some others it was ‘sensual’ which was understandable.  Some even suggested categorising this series as ‘Sexual Art’. 

It surprised and puzzled me. We know that the nude form, more so female nude form is sensual specifically to the male eye, but an experienced artistic eye of any gender, caste or creed would surely perceive much more in it, which would complement the skin and the corium of the art with its inner core. 

This led me to analyse how a North American art viewer is viewing, perceiving, discerning and reacting to ‘this nude figurative series of my recent work’ named SHE! The Restless Streak, and, for that matter, any art in general.

Especially so in North American settings where the art and its exposure are developing and it is still in its nascent stage, even now in the first quarter of the 21st century, in comparison to the other European and Eastern civilizations, with a history of mature artistic sensibilities. 

It’d be pertinent to point out at this stage that a semi abstract nude sculpture of mine was also denied entry into an art exhibit in 2005 at Novotel Hotel by Mississauga Arts Council. At a later date, the then Executive Director of Mississauga Arts Council – MAC, specially arranged to put a show of my smaller works of seminude series as part of Culture Days/Doors Open Celebrations at Sampradaya Art Creations in 2014.

This was an individual and personal effort from her, because she felt that this series needed a display and an audience even though they were semi nudes. At present, it is being showcased at MindSpace in Erin Mills Town Centre, again through MAC).  

Even in 2015, a curator refused to display these paintings even in a gallery setting in Heritage Mississauga, but later when I showed these works to the gallery in charge and the historian of Heritage Mississauga, he seemed to have no objections at an individual level.

The entire series of SHE! The Restless Streak, when brought to the Mississauga library’s display gallery for the final showcasing in September 2018, the newly appointed art coordinator seemed shocked and the reaction was that these cannot be displayed because nudity is not accepted.

She was new and unaware that one artwork out of these series received 1st prize from Visual Arts Mississauga in 2017 and was already displayed in the Mississauga Library Gallery previously.  Only when she confirmed it with senior management about this approved show, she permitted the display.  She commented that the government funded organization in Canada, where she previously worked, had strict rules and such art could not be displayed.  

My question is: Is this mindset able to really reach to the art beyond the certain dermal levels?

This provoked my thoughts further about the how a North American viewer is grasping and reacting to the art in general with its quintessence inherent spirit?

To the question of whether the sexuality was on my mind while making this art, leads to a few more questions that have little to do with art and more to do with preconceived notions. Does that mean to the viewer that, if I or anyone else, when painting a fully clad ‘Virgin Mary’ or a ‘religious figure’ should be having devout feelings and thoughts?

The fundamental question then is: Does the artist always have to compromise with the pressures of the market, the forces of social prejudices and state generated institutionalized rules supporting these prejudices, instead of bringing education and true understanding of arts?
I know of many artists who have their nude artworks lying or hidden in their studios and do not display them, merely to avoid the unnecessary controversies that may arise from such displays. But at the same time, some of them do take a chance of displaying such works wherever it is possible. 

I believe it is the responsibility of the ‘state’ and state funded art institutions and organizations to play an active role in giving arts a mature direction for homogeneous development of arts in the present social structure. I’d even lay special emphasize on the state’s role in creating the right atmosphere for young to better understand and accept art and self beyond its surface.

Art rises from the restless and veiled inner creative impulse that desire to be unveiled, to be expressed at the conscious levels of life. It then adorns itself with the rich skin of the artistic language of forms, colours, gestures, sound, or voice using various mediums and outlets, while embodying the expressions rising from the extreme depths of profound experiences.

It is a condition, where the subject (the inspired mind) and the object (the creative outcome), come close to each other and an experience is generated, where the artist gets synchronized with the art created in a totality and unity of the inspiring moments.  Creativity comes out of certain areas of madness where nothing else really matters but that moment needs to be expanded in the time zone.

The impact of the art created, draws the spectator towards the profundity of the artistic vision and takes that spectator beyond the ephemeral. (the spectator can be the experiencer of the ‘beyond' through the artistic object as much as the artist).

During the creative process, the artistic journey of the artist is upwards and outwards from the centre, seeking the light of the day with the heat of internalised creative fire, thereby giving art an authenticity and credibility to the revealed reality from beneath or the centre core while down reaching within.

This occurs through the creation, re-creation and resurfacing of images, motifs and symbols by the artist. Concepts and themes at the dermal level can vary in one’s art and creative work but what gives it the innate quality and validity, is its ability to draw the deepest unconscious hidden value behind the object of the art.

This process can be highly instinctive and can come through deep meditative gravity and at times through cryptomnesic fleeting moments. 

Here I would like to point out and stress upon the known fact, that historically, nudity in art is common in to Eastern and European cultures. This includes, Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, Italian and French pre and post renaissance, impressionism.

Nudity in art is prevalent in ancient and modern art of Indian subcontinent and other Eastern countries. Even gods and deities in chapels and temples are artistically sculpted, carved, drawn and painted in nude much earlier in time, even before Christ and centuries back. Do we then call all that art sexual? 

In general, the origin of these questions and statements being genuine and spontaneous from the viewers, perhaps significantly show and corroborate the perceived notion of North American society’s firm belief in its ‘claimed and persistent linear progress in its evolutionary stride’ where the ‘product and its consumption’ is the prime reality of life and becomes a standard to be lived by and is being extended even to the fine arts to most cases.

To discerning minds, fine art remains to be a way of ‘search’ and therefore a way to ‘rich life’ beyond the essentiality of capitalism and consumerism and more so as subjective unity of the artistic vision, union and its experience.  Whereas, the very foundation of North American society, is based on the production and its consumption.  This is highly contradictory and contrary to the artistic instincts and experiences and is paradoxical in general to the art world and to the value and worth of  ‘fine arts’ beyond the notion and scope of the convergence of popular culture and fine art. Fine art gives you a pragmatic rounded experience, which has no parallel to the consumerist materialistic values.  

Process of understanding arts comes through delving within and then rising from the deepness, while creating a union and a bond with the artistic work. I feel this exercise happens spontaneously, both for the viewer and the artist, even though not acknowledged and felt instantly.

There is a little scope of ‘linearity’ in ‘fine arts’ as art is not a ‘product’ but a ‘consequence’ of the inmost and the unfathomable.   It is a complete rounded experience. I must admit that it has made me a little cautious and prudent now of the environment around even after my seventeen years in Canada. The only satisfaction has been that, at least, these artworks were evoking certain feelings and interest even though at a transient and preliminary levels.  

I also felt that it becomes necessary to generate a feeling to develop an attitude which goes beyond treating art as not just a product but more as a way of life, right at the basic levels of education.

I feel it is important for us to observe the life not only as the linearity of the existence but also going beyond and observing it in a cyclic mode of time as well, which is already set by the law of nature.

This is imperative if we in North America are ambitious and have to come in near comparison with European, Asian and Eastern artistic cultures, also in becoming and claiming ourselves as an artistically developed society in the future.  If this could be achieved only then we can claim that we are in a position to truly advocate and to be true proponents of arts in North America. 

As an immigrant artist from developing world of Indian subcontinent with its ancient artistic civilization where ‘nudity’ in art is of little consequence, ideally my expectation is to have a better acceptance and a broader attitude of any such artistic practises in Canada.

The truth remains that the artistic vision, its expression and evolution through the ages has emerged and caused by the play and dynamics of two subtle formative energies of life (male and female). Art is an outcome of cause and effect, the negative and the positive.

These cosmogenic energies, which are the basis of artistic creation, rotating the world around us, are fugacious to the conscious mind. One must be sagacious and daring enough to delve into them and live with them to understand them. No art or creative effort is complete without sexuality in broad terms. Same is true for the religion also. As said earlier, nudity in art is not new and a lot has been said and written about it. 

As for me and for my personal journey as an artist, it is the dynamics of subtle female energy that continuously fascinates and captivates my mind for some unknown reason. There is an internal need and pressure to explore it. The mind at that point in time, when creating an artwork, gets totally engrossed and preoccupied with the mediums, form, strokes and colour etc. It is a meditative mood, rounded with pensive moments.

The same is true when the mind gets immersed while creating the abstraction and any other type and forms in art. The underlying thematic idea continues to be ‘genesis’ in all my styles, with a predominant undercurrent of subtle and evolving female energy. 

This truly gives a definite meaningful condition and determined direction to my art and life as a whole. I find all creation in fine arts to be related to instincts with the unquestionable and undeniable prevalence of sexuality in nature because of its roots in the interplay of positive and negative spiritedness but not necessarily only in its physical, corporeal and fleshy level but in its firm and solid roots in the genesis and in evolution and dissolution of the entire cosmic dance. 

Your clothes conceal much of your beauty, yet they hide not the unbeautiful.
And though you seek in garments the freedom of privacy you may find in them a harness and a chain.
Would that you could meet the sun and the wind with more of your skin and less of your raiment,
For the breath of life is in the sunlight and the hand of life is in the wind.

Some of you say, "It is the north wind who has woven the clothes we wear."
And I say, Ay, it was the north wind,
But shame was his loom, and the softening of the sinews was his thread.
And when his work was done he laughed in the forest.
Forget not that modesty is for a shield against the eye of the unclean.

And when the unclean shall be no more, what were modesty but a fetter and a fouling of the mind?
And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair     --Kahlil Gibran

Meena Chopra is a frequent contributor to this blog. She is a Toronto based author, artist.  She writes poetry both in English and Hindi. Born and raised in North India, she now lives in Mississauga, Canada.