Tuesday, 15 May 2018


In some traditions of Indian image-making the image-maker (shilpin or shilpini) has to purify and prepare themselves in order to make themselves into a suitable vessel for the activity they are about to perform.

Shilpa (शिल्प) refers to any art or craft in ancient Indian texts, while Shastra means science. 
Together, Shilpa Shastra means the science of art and crafts. The ancient Sanskrit texts use the term Shilpin (शिल्पिन्, male artist)[6]and Shilpini (शिल्पिनी, female artist)[7] for artists and crafts person, while Shilpani refers to works of arts of man.[1]
Shilpani, works of art of man,
imitate the divine forms,
by employing their rhythms,
they metrically reconstitute,
and interpret the limitless knowledge,
of the sacred hymns,
from the limits of being human.
— Aitareya Brahmana, Rig Veda, 6.5.27[8][9]
The meaning of Shilpa, according to Stella Kramrisch, is complex. She writes that it consists of "art, skill, craft, labor, ingenuity, rite and ritual, form and creation."[1][10] The range of crafts encompassed by the term Shilpa extends to every aspect of culture, includes sculptor, the potter, the perfumer, the wheelwright, the painter, the weaver, the architect, the dancer, the musician, the arts of love, and others.

All of the arts were/are one with each other, part of the same thing, and all of the arts were/are one with daily life and living. Indians do not, even to this day, naturally recognise a distinction between what we separate into 'secular' and 'religious'.

When you wake in the morning, you might do a ritual that makes you listen to the early morning sounds, which helps to remind you that you are breathing, and calms your mind before it starts to make lists for the day ahead.

If you're a woman in a village you might step outside your hut and make a pattern in your doorway with ground white rice, with the intention of inviting auspicious forces to come towards you for the coming day.

video link in text above image

People in India perform all kinds of alignment practices as a way of grounding themselves in their ordinary day to day lives.

Many of these practices act to intensify the sense of everything in the world (and its generative forces, however you understand these - the laws of physics or God...) being connected and embedded into everything else. The practices act to bring the relatedness of everything into the field of awareness, an awareness that includes all of the sensations of the body.  For example, a person may feel that God is everywhere and that He/She can be seen and worshipped in any form in any place, or indeed in the formless. That person may still on some days go to a temple rather than worship at the altar in their home, if they feel that they need some extra-concentrated awareness of what and where they are.

In this context, anyone can make an image. At the same time, there are people who have the specialised  task of making images, which are largely made to serve other people's 'helping you to connect up' intensification practices.

I am one of these people. This is why I think of myself as a shilpini (image maker) rather than as an artist in the 21st century AngloAmerican sense.

In order to make images that will serve my purpose, I need to be aligned.

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