The art of finishing

The unfinished business of Michelangelo

The unfinished business of Michelangelo

“Mukhyamantri Chandru” (one of my favourite Kannada actors) once told me at Rangashankara (a popular theatre in Bangalore) in response to my question if he needs any rehearsals for his play Mukhyamantri, which he has performed over 100 times – practice makes him not only get better at his own act, it also helps him cover up for any tiny mishaps/ shortcomings of his colleagues, impromptu, without the knowledge of the audience thus making for a great play overall. Without any experience in being on stage, I believe one needs to at least be capable of controlling his/ her own act on stage to be a decent actor if not aid his/ her stage-mates.

As a stage performer (theatre, music, dance, etc.), one is subject to live scrutiny of his/ her act and receives generous feedback almost instantaneously thus allowing for correction and subsequent improvement in ability. After a few iterations of this, the performer begins to finish every act smoothly. Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts by my parents, I never learnt to finish. I trained in Carnatic Classical music for almost 10 years, yet never learnt to finish a note perfectly since I almost never had to. Being able to sing and entertain guests during festivals at home was good enough. Ok, not nearly, since finishing a note well was never the criteria for being judged as a good singer. If you managed to pass all the tests (junior, senior, vidvat) where you would be judged for your note finishing abilities but fairly leniently, you’d earn yourself the approval of your audience (family and their friends).

Now with painting, there were two problems. Firstly, I was born in the era of modern art and hence, it was hard to differentiate finished from unfinished. Secondly, you’re not subject to live scrutiny unless you’re resourceful enough to exhibit your work either at home or in a gallery neither of which I could afford as a student. When I started working, I decided to take personal art lessons in order to hone my traditional painting skills and learn the art of finishing (since I belonged to that sect of artists who finished off her works with a black felt pen/ micro-tip pen outline). Unfortunately, it lasted only three months since my teacher was learning the art of finishing too, except in his case it was the art of finishing my money!

Recently, while watching two guys harmoniously swing each other in the ballet “Carmina Burana” staged by the State theatre of Prague, I realised something exceptional. One guy precariously compensated for the lack of coordination of his partner without almost any of us noticing this and I realised that there is an underlying/ transcendent motivation in inculcating this art of finishing through a strong performing hobby in kids at a very young age in the hope that the child will not only pick up a certain art/ skill, but will also be able to share and possibly impart this to the rest of the world. It’s harder to sustain the zest for learning as we grow older simply because our ability to learn to finish and finish to learn diminishes with age. But lucky for us, unfinished business is celebrated too, for e.g., Accademia in Firenze has a gallery full of unfinished works of Michelangelo!

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