Modern painting represents the ugly in existence. The ugly has become predominant for a certain reason. This century is one of the ugliest centuries: two world wars within fifty years, millions of people killed, destroyed…such cruelty, such aggression, such violence, such madness. This century is a nightmarish century. Man has lost track of his humanity. What man has been doing to man! Naturally this madness has erupted everywhere – in painting, in music, in sculpture, in architecture – everywhere the ugly human mind has created ugliness.
Ugliness has become an aesthetic value. Now the photographer goes and looks for something ugly. Not that beauty has stopped existing; it exists as much as before, but it is neglected. The cactus has replaced the rose. Not that the cactus is something new; it has existed always, but this century has come to know that thorns seem to be more real than a roseflower. A roseflower seems to be a dream; it does not fit with us, hence the roseflower has been expelled. The cactus has entered your drawing-room. Just one hundred years ago nobody would have ever thought to bring a cactus home. Now if you are modern, your garden will be full of cactuses. The rose looks a little bourgeois; the rose looks a little out-of-date; the rose looks Tory, orthodox, traditional. The cactus looks revolutionary. Yes, the cactus is revolutionary – like Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro. Yes, the cactus seems to be closer to this century.
The photographer looks for some ugly thing; he will go and photograph a beggar. Not that the beggar has not existed before, he has existed before; he is real, certainly real, but nobody has been making art out of him. We are feeling humble before the beggar, we are feeling apologetic before the beggar, we are feeling that something which should not be is still there; we want the beggar not to be there. But this century goes on searching for the ugly.
Still the sun penetrates the pines on a certain morning. The rays penetrating the pines create such a web of beauty…. It still exists, but no photographer is interested; that no longer appeals. Ugliness appeals because we have become ugly. That which appeals to us shows something about us.
Buddha is a roseflower, that is the highest possibility. And remember, it is not exactly a Buddha figure; nobody knows what Buddha looked like. But that is not the point. We were not interested in those days – at least not in the East – we were not interested in the “real” at all, we were interested in the ultimately real. We were not interested in the factual, we were interested in truth itself.
Maybe Buddha had a little longer nose, but if the artist thought that a little smaller nose would be more in tune with meditation, then he dropped that long nose of Buddha, he made it a little smaller. Maybe Buddha had a big belly, who knows? Japanese Buddha statues have big bellies, but Indian Buddhas don’t have big bellies – different attitudes.