Artless lifestyle

Expressionism in the 20th century was inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s colours

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Published: September 29, 2013 4:02:37 am

Expressionism in the 20th century was inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s colours

In Western societies,fine art prompted people to imagine differently. When royalty patronised paintings,kings were glorified; the Catholic Church even utilised artists to decorate religious buildings. During the mid-19th century,master ideators like Claude Monet,Renoir and Degas broke away from stifling French neo-classicism techniques to start the art revolution of Impressionism. This influenced French culture and spread around the world. Later,different schools of art brought disruption. Expressionism in the 20th century was inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s colours and strokes in the 19th century; Cubism,Surrealism,modern art,graphic art and street graffiti followed.

You may not visit art galleries regularly,but you will connect to how art has changed modern living by knowing the history of orukter amphiboles as an illustration of art in daily life. In the 14th century,Italian painter Simone Martini imagined a moving machine,expressing a man-powered carriage with four wheels in a painting even while Catholicism prohibited such esoteric ideas. This was the very first imagination of human mobility with inanimate aid. He named it automobile,from Greek word “auto” meaning self,and Latin word “mobils” meaning moving. Artist,inventor and all-time genius Leonardo da Vinci did an engineer-style drawing of a three-wheeler machine in 1478. French military man Nicolas Cugnot,in 1770,put vapour in a prototype steam-powered machine that crawled the Paris streets at

2 mph. In 1792,American inventor Oliver Evans made a high-pressure steam engine and dredger he called orukter amphiboles. It moved on both land and water. This name was so difficult that The New York Times resurrected the name automobile in 1897 and popularised it. Since then,the name has stuck. Germans Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler experimented with internal combustion engines around 1886,and in the early 1900s,Henry Ford’s Model T was the first design that was mass-produced. So just imagine the influence of art —the automobile is an extension of artist Martini’s painting canvas.

During innumerable consumer home visits,I’ve observed that about 20 per cent of Indians flaunt money on lifestyle aspiration. They keep adding electronic and digital gadgets in their homes,but don’t bother to live artistically with the equipment. A Rs 1 lakh flat TV is installed with wires visibly attached to the set-top-box,video player and power point. Similarly,the digital album’s wire droops to a faraway switch. Fancy wall clocks and expensive lamps lose their elegance with unkempt wiring. When I ask why wires are not concealed,the answer is that ‘more money will be spent’,and ‘it’s not necessary’. If I suggest that one should spend Rs 75,000 on the TV and use Rs 25,000 for decorative work to neatly hide exposed wires,there’s total revolt. Such wire-concealing jobs will not give better visual effect or status-cum-show-off value in product display. Besides,it’s difficult to get odd masonry jobs done,so they’d rather spend the entire budget on better quality products. Some say they regularly change equipment,so why waste time in artistic work when no family member or friend notices such neatness? Clearly,the art in living style has been totally demeaned.

The other day a friend’s wife asked for interior decoration ideas in a sophisticated housing layout for their new million-dollar villa. Of course I agreed to design without charging fees,but estimated Rs 50-75 lakh to decorate their 6,000 sq ft home. She revealed she could invest Rs 6-8 lakh only. Money was not the hold-up for this senior professional in a multinational company earning an eight-figure annual salary. Spending Rs 5 crore for lifestyle bragging was enough; they saw no purpose in budgeting for décor. However,when you have money,unless you allocate some of it to live artistically with an aspect that distinguishes you,your mindset can never change. After 12-14 hours at work and travel every day,you need an artistic ambience at home to recharge yourself,to enjoy your life’s dream. Allowing your family to experience artistic taste is a leap in imagination that gets embedded in the subconscious. Even into the future,this brings many intangible benefits to raise the quality of life.

This leap in imagination was what I was searching for when working for a paint company in 2004. During blind tests,this brand’s product quality was as good as the leader’s. In India,wall paints are sold in non-aspirational hardware stores which consumers never visit; but send professionals or contractors to buy the paints. How can we involve consumers in paint selection so that they can participate in the celebratory,hygienic,artistic activity of painting their homes? The objective was to make the brand synonymous with decorative art,and rouse people towards artistic living.

One day,I saw an old picture of a European hanging in this client’s office. I discovered he was the founder of paint blends in 1773,the famous “colour maker” who invented Prussian blue. That immediately sparked off a string of activities. In consumer research,both consumers and professionals were inspired by the idea of home decoration with paints that bore the signature and expertise of the founder of paints. We positioned the brand to invite consumers to “Paint your Imagination” and renamed the decorative paints of the Berger brand to Lewis Berger. In the container’s back panel we wrote the founder’s history,illustrating his photo from the office wall picture. The branding symbolically represented a painter’s palette; the container was redesigned to look like a box for cosmetics. This authentication of direct descent from the inventor together with the artistic approach taken by branding,made the brand grow fast in the market.

Nonetheless,it still bothers me that Indian consumers are more conscious of painting their homes,but not of rendering it a piece of art. How we can make artistic influence enter and transport our society to a different level? It is only then that people will realise that without a creative touch,lifestyle is artless.

Shombit Sengupta is an international consultant to top management on differentiating business strategy with execution excellence (www.shiningconsulting.


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