About the show

R

abindranath Tagore was a multifaceted personality. When considering him as a person we see that many aspects of his life were multi dimensional. He was constantly preoccupied by the question of truth, for example in the conversation he had regarding truth and the question of his own physical presence. A large part of Tagore’s existence was focused on the conflict with himself. Throughout his life he cultivated the dual idea of the Self and Me; these words surface constantly in his various writings and in his presence, depicted in images created by himself and others.

This show is a brief presentation of his presence through different types of graphics as well as his own thoughts on the ‘Self’ and ‘Me’. His portraits are not mere portraits but reveal elements of a wider India and the world. While all the representations of him add to the explanation of his identity, for this exhibition I have chosen some of his extra ordinary portraits that are marked by a strong vocabulary, they also help explain the dual preoccupation with the ‘me’ and the ‘self’ in the context of Tagore’s representations of himself.

These two words are intimately related yet Tagore was constantly torn between his own physical existence and the powerful presence of his mind, his inner self. We can see this in his letters, graphical representaions, doodles, in which he saw another portrait of Tagore. Despite his attempts to explain and justify his position, he was unable to adopt a clear approach to this inner conflict, and the constant shifts in his perception are evident to his readers. His son Rathindranath Tagore once said in his book that he found it difficult to understand a personality like his father, he questions what Tagore was as a father as well as an internationally recognised poet. He remained an enigmatic personality, who was constantly seeking intellectual stimulation. We could say that Tagore’s personality remained a mystery and this may well be one of the reasons he is still to attractive to scholars who are constantly seeking to better understand the different facets of his complex personality.

Tagore tried to express himself through words, to explain the conflicts that ran through his own perception of himself, as a person and as a poet. The way he depicts himslef in images, however, is different. We can perceive the unending conflict between his conscious mind and his inner soul, some of these issues are revealed in his own words, in essays and personal letters. A lot of the images of him depict him as an idol, this is particularly clear in the most popular images, the ones we see in every Bengali home, and he was probably largely responsible for creating the aura around him and this image of himself.

Dreams and reality were distinct worlds, each very powerful that certainly fed into each other and maybe even overlapped at times. In his writings, paintings and doodles, Tagore continued to explore the perception of himself and reinforced the mystery of the ‘self” and the ‘me’ as two sometimes opposing personas. This duality which is the fate of all human beings, was something Tagore felt very deeply within himself and discussed at length in his work, revealing the different layers of these questions and his fundamental questioning of existence.

Questions of emotional attachment and responsibility resurface constantly throughtout his life and his work and are never fully resolved. Every instant of his life was a process of cultivation, realisation, excavation and execution and these burning concerns that inhabited every moment probably led him to see his own reflection more clearly, forcing him to question himself endlessly.

Samit Das
New Delhi - 2013
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