Ode to a Naked Beauty

By Farahdeen Kahn For Curate Magazine Issue 1: Comebacks

STAMPS, PHOTO COURTESY OF SIMON DAVIES.

The ode to a naked beauty. It was not on a whimsy that I had resurrected my fancy in collecting stamps — the Royal Mail Mint Stamps in particular. What drew me, besides the artistry that went into creating each of them, was how timelessly they had been delighting collectors, and retained the same appeal by whetting the appetite of the younger ones in the twenty-first century. As I watched my collection swell with immense gratification, it almost felt like I was living my youth all over again. While some thought of me as entirely barmy, I thought of them as equally barmy too, I mean why, why are some on this perdurable quest to dichotomise art when the purpose of art in itself is not to shock but to synthesise.

Hypothesising on art would lead one into narrow streets since the individual perception about art and its subjective interpretation is as unique as are our own fingerprints. So leaving it at that, let us embark on the topic of the timelessness of art instead, and whilst we are on it, I must tell you how a friend asked me, most recently, why I am this fiercely loyal to certain labels that have been in the market for the longest time. Why I spend enormous amounts on a specific make of a shirt, or a particular mark of cutlery or china. I smiled and knew for certain that if I were to spell out the real reason it would be considered rather snooty of me, and therefore I enlightened my friend that it was not the old world charm that beckoned me to items of my fancy as some presumed, or for that matter snobbery that indulges me in the life of refinement that I was born into, but that this urge stems purely out of personal preference, and that I am quite taken away by how everything that was being presented from each of those companies I endorse were firmly rooted in history, and yet made certain that they progressed with time to provide the marketplace what it fancied (not forgetting that the present ‘modern’ marketplace as some prefer to call it was lapping up the erstwhile patterns and designs of their clothing or china dating from as far back as the eighteen hundreds and even earlier). I made him understand that to me, once again, this was no less than making a comeback; as if it were a full-circle just like it was with my stamps.

At the conclusion of my explanation, I received a rather doubtful nod from my friend who then queried further whether I didn’t think it frivolous to be a campaigner of class and connoisseur of choice when we had far larger matters to tackle in this world. “If it may not be an impediment could you state just two of these larger matters that you might have identified that could help tackle the world?” I asked him purely out of mischievous curiosity. He cited city planning as one, and the depleting standards of the society brought about mainly by consumerism as the other. Communicating to him as gently as I could that I was not responsible, or even in the position to provide solutions to either of them, I put an end to his pondering, changing the subject swiftly to sports.

I feel that innovation has robbed us, in a way, of viewing and appreciating beauty.

When I was back home, it dawned on me that neither of us was wrong, and I say this because I feel that innovation has robbed us, in a way, of viewing and appreciating beauty. Beauty, it seems, has disappeared from our lives. Hardly anyone even uses the word beauty today. It is as if it has become archaic. In earlier times, art was what you surrounded yourself with on a day-to-day basis — it wasn’t something to be found merely on walls or in museums. There was a certain element of craftsmanship and skill that went into producing works of beauty, and in being encircled by such beauty added beauty to us inwardly, outward.

Coming to think of it, modernity has made it next to impossible to go back to making items of admiration, and that is why I think we require to educate a child of good design right from the beginning, just like we teach a child the letters of the alphabet, etiquettes and matters of propriety. We ought to inculcate a natural appetite for things of taste and this appetite must manifest itself in the child’s habits, and fashion that child as if it were a normal state of health. We have to bring in a kind of reform, and anyone is more than acquainted with the fact that ‘to reform’ is indeed a difficult process that does not come about easily. What further irks me is that the majority of people are happy with mediocrity, and would not volunteer to reform themselves by breaking down old habits and adapting to newer conditions simply because all this involves a conscious effort.

HERMÉS BIRKIN, PHOTO COURTESY OF LUKE MA.

At the conclusion of my explanation, I received a rather doubtful nod from my friend who then queried further whether I didn’t think it frivolous to be a campaigner of class and connoisseur of choice when we had far larger matters to tackle in this world. “If it may not be an impediment could you state just two of these larger matters that you might have identified that could help tackle the world?” I asked him purely out of mischievous curiosity. He cited city planning as one, and the depleting standards of the society brought about mainly by consumerism as the other. Communicating to him as gently as I could that I was not responsible, or even in the position to provide solutions to either of them, I put an end to his pondering, changing the subject swiftly to sports.

I feel that innovation has robbed us, in a way, of viewing and appreciating beauty.

When I was back home, it dawned on me that neither of us was wrong, and I say this because I feel that innovation has robbed us, in a way, of viewing and appreciating beauty. Beauty, it seems, has disappeared from our lives. Hardly anyone even uses the word beauty today. It is as if it has become archaic. In earlier times, art was what you surrounded yourself with on a day-to-day basis — it wasn’t something to be found merely on walls or in museums. There was a certain element of craftsmanship and skill that went into producing works of beauty, and in being encircled by such beauty added beauty to us inwardly, outward.

Coming to think of it, modernity has made it next to impossible to go back to making items of admiration, and that is why I think we require to educate a child of good design right from the beginning, just like we teach a child the letters of the alphabet, etiquettes and matters of propriety. We ought to inculcate a natural appetite for things of taste and this appetite must manifest itself in the child’s habits, and fashion that child as if it were a normal state of health. We have to bring in a kind of reform, and anyone is more than acquainted with the fact that ‘to reform’ is indeed a difficult process that does not come about easily. What further irks me is that the majority of people are happy with mediocrity, and would not volunteer to reform themselves by breaking down old habits and adapting to newer conditions simply because all this involves a conscious effort.

HERMÉS BIRKIN, PHOTO COURTESY OF LUKE MA.

In accompaniment with the intellectual learning we inculcate while growing up in school, the school curriculum ought to throw in an extra hour of some activity related to art, something I see so very absent in schools nowadays. At my school, we had an hour of extra curricular activities, besides our regular dose of the boisterous football, basketball, and athletics. Every weekend we were taught painting or pottery. An artist would be present for those interested in polishing their skill further, while the rest who were not really keen to pursue their interests in a particular artistic stream were left to do something by themselves, but something that had to yet fall within the realm of the creative. To make it interesting they threw in competitions to craft calendar designs each year and awarded the best design with a certificate of appreciation. In a way, all that activity aided in developing the creative and appreciative exercise of the aesthetic impulse in us, and this one simple hour of artistic extension gave us the edge in winning over the ugliness that the industrial age had by and large created in their rush to mass-produce.

It must become an inevitable state of mind born out of the elementary state of life, an intrinsic part of natural human growth.

Like I aforementioned, I indulge in what I do for my own personal reasons, but at the same time I don’t think that one has to buy china by Wedgwood, stemware from Saint-Louis, decanters from Baccarat, cabinets from Hurtado, sculptures from Lladró, carpets from Persia, paintings from Denmark, shirts from Hermès or the finest suits from Brioni. One doesn’t have to go to the opera or watch the theatre, but what one has to do is envelop themselves by art in their plainest paraphernalia of daily use. One has to also realise that one cannot impose aesthetics and culture from the top; it has to get into our bloodstream. It should grow out of the soil around us. It must become an inevitable state of mind born out of the elementary state of life, an intrinsic part of natural human growth. Whether you agree with me or not, I think beauty is something that appeals directly to the senses. Art becomes possible only when the concern of the workmen is that they are not told to make something beautiful but do so because they don’t know any worse.

To sign off on a note of positivism, I’d like to say as young Eugène Delacroix had said two hundred years ago, and holds good even today, that we must nourish ourselves with grand and austere ideas of beauty that feed the soul.

By Farahdeen Kahn 
For
Curate Magazine Issue 1: Comebacks

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