Tag Archives: arts

Book Review: Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton & John Armstrong

Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton Title: Art as Therapy
Author: Alain de Botton
Publisher: Phaidon Press
ISBN: 9780714865911
Genre: Non-Fiction, Art, Essays
Pages: 239
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is the end of the year and I close the year with a book I just finished and cannot stop talking or thinking about – “Art as Therapy” by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. May be a lot of people know Alain and are aware of what and how he writes and then there are others who are yet to discover his style and works. I envy the latter set of people. They are so lucky to discover his works and his line of thought. At the same time, because this book is co-written, it is always good to see another perspective, in this case of John Armstrong.

Alain de Botton according to me is a master at what he does – he integrates human behaviour across a range of topics and we have witnessed that through his works. “Art as Therapy” on the other hand is a different matter altogether.

“Art as Therapy” speaks of art in the manner, which is accessible to everyone. It is not about wine glasses in hand and appreciating something on the wall, and acting all pretentious. It is about nonetheless, life and how we live art and also sometimes its therapeutic and redeeming nature in our lives. The bigger question that the book seeks to answer is: What is art’s purpose? What does it do or not do for humans? Why is it needed at all?

In this book, de Botton covers different aspects of life through art – love, nature, money, and politics and how art acts as a catalyst to solve the daily worries of life. A photograph then becomes more than a photograph. A painting then becomes something that you connect with so strongly, that you can never let go. Alain looks at everyday problems, everyday issues and uses art to solve them. May be solve is an incorrect term here, he uses art to get an understanding of life and then perhaps cure the soul.

With examples and more illustrations throughout, Alain and John reveal how we as humans cannot lose sight of the bigger things, and how sometimes art is the only solace. They talk about looking at art with fresh eyes and viewing it the way you never would have thought of. Each painting, each art form transforms itself in their hands and that is more than reason enough to read this book. They show us how art heals us in ways we cannot even imagine. Art is then an imperative force in our lives, which perhaps we do not pay attention to – given the hustle-bustle of our technology-ridden lives. They remove art from the shallow galleries and bring it out to readers and the so-called common man through this fascinating concept and even more wondrous book.

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Here is he talking about Art as Therapy indeed and it is brilliant:

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Litanies of Dutch Battery by N.S. Madhavan; Translated by Rajesh Rajamohan

There is a charm knowing about places through the protagonist when one is reading a novel. I guess the only reason being – human touch. In about almost everything – right from the boring geographical descriptions, which suddenly become interesting as the narrator takes us through them (be it through a repository of memories or otherwise), or the history of the place (either through the protagonist’s ancestors or neighbours) or to the culture of the place – through its peculiarities or about its people and their eccentricities. The bottom line is: It makes you feel differently at the end of the book. About wanting to visit the place and know more of it. To sink in and become one with the place. This is the feeling that hit me the first after I finished reading, “Litanies of Dutch Battery” by N.S. Madhavan.

At first I wondered (most readers would have on reading this book) about the title – what a strange title, till I realized that Dutch Battery was a place – one of the many islands of Kochi Waters. The tale is of Edwina Jessica – born on the island. She watches the world turn and events occurring in the island – the births, the deaths, victories, failures and redemption of its occupants – some who are connected and some who aren’t. Some who stick on and some who leave the island every night on the last ferry boat.

There a lot of layers to this book – some real and some not. There are myths created, fantasies that the author has allowed himself to wallow in and he intends the reader to feel the same. To be able to read the book with an open mind.

Madhavan opens the window to the 50s political history of Kerala through this book (or at least attempts to). The Christian and Nair communities are fighting their battle against the regressive communist government – they elected for to begin with. Jessica is not left untouched and is influenced as well. Amidst all this, one can sense the deprivation and rebellious instinct of the Kochiites and how it translates to other ways of expression – from mural paintings to painting, carpentry to drama and cooking. With this again, N.S Madhavan introduces us to a plethora of characters – who are intrinsic to the plot – the carpet seller Shiraz, Santiague the singer, Saradamma – the small pox vaccinator and many such.

There were times I was bored out of my wits while reading the book. I do not care for the political bits, may be that is why. However, when the events unfurl themselves throughout the book and connect at the end is what exhilarates the reader. I loved the translation – it was bang on and Rajesh Rajamohan has done wonders with it. This is just the book I would recommend for a rainy day with a tall mug of hot chocolate.

 Litanies of Dutch Battery; Madhavan, N.S; Penguin India; Rs. 350