From 1974 until his passing in 2007, Sri Chinmoy created over 140,000 pieces of abstract mystical art, along with almost 16 million drawings of birds symbolising the freedom of the human soul. Sri Chinmoy painted in a spontaneous style he called Jharna-Kala, which means ‘fountain-art’ in his native Bengali. Sri Chinmoy explains his intuitive approach to painting:
“I do not use the mind; I use the heart.”
“I try to make my heart a receptive instrument so that God, the Supreme Artist, can paint in and through me.”
Sri Chinmoy’s painting style quickly evolved into the abstract mystical works that constitute most of his creative output. The first year of his painting journey was marked by an enormous burst of creativity: over 100,000 paintings, including 16,031 paintings in one 24 hour stretch on 16 November 1975. His art was notable for its spontaneous, playful quality. As well as painting using traditional brushes, he would also create brushes from cotton wool, as well as using sponges and even his own fingers.
Questions & Answers
Question: What do you feel when you look at a painting?
Sri Chinmoy: When I look at a painting, I try to feel its inner existence, which we call the soul. If a painting gives me an immediate inner thrill or a feeling of joy, if it touches my aspiring heart and makes me want to become a better person, then I feel that painting is meaningful for me. But if a particular work of art does not give my aspiring heart immediate inspiration, then I find it very difficult to appreciate. When I get a magnetic pull from a painting, then I become one with it. But if I see there is a yawning gulf between the painting and my own inspiration or aspiration, then I am unable to identify and become inseparably one with the artist and his painting. In no way am I judging these artists or their paintings; it is a Question of my incapacity or my capacity. There are millions of people who do appreciate these paintings.
Question: What do you think of when you are painting?
Sri Chinmoy: Most of the time I do not think at all when I am painting. But sometimes I do think of the higher worlds. Sometimes I think of my friends in the higher worlds. Sometimes I think of my disciples. Again, even when I am thinking, my thinking is not affecting my art. When I am thinking, I can keep my thinking capacity away from my painting capacity. They are like two persons in front of me, I am looking at only one person, my art the other person is watching what I am doing, but I am not conversing with that person, and I am not being affected by him at all. So when I am talking to someone in the inner world, or thinking of someone, It cannot directly affect my paintings. lt is like birds flying in the sky; they leave no mark. You may think that there will be some mark in the sky, but there is no mark at all. In my case, also, when thought comes, or when I enter into thought, it doesn’t affect my creativity.
Question: Are your paintings abstract?
Sri Chinmoy: Yes, most of them are abstract. When I paint, I see a streak of light and I follow that streak of light very faithfully. Art is not my forte. When I started painting, I did not dislike it; I just did not have any particular interest in the subject. But who am I? My Inner Pilot inspired me and I just obeyed His command. There are many, many things that I have done because I have been inspired from deep within. In no way had I ever thought of doing these things. I just try to be receptive to God’s Will and, according to the power of my receptivity, He acts in and through me. So I can’t take any credit for what people see in me. His Grace descends and I try to be a humble instrument of His.
To learn more about Sri Chinmoy’s art and the making of his works, visit the following pages:
Spiritual qualities in art form
In one painting session Sri Chinmoy focused on spiritual qualities and translated them into art. This video was taken during an exhibition in Manhattan in April 2002. Produced by Kedar Misani; Flute music by Sri Chinmoy.