14 Jun It’s just a label, a category!
I ended my previous Blog reflecting on a Radio 4 programme entitled ‘Only Artists’. It was broadcast on Wednesday, 23rd May 2018. I have entitled this Blog in honour of it as I feel it still deserves more appreciation for how helpful it was. We all need a bit of wisdom in our life and I have been fortunate to have rolled around in lots of it thanks to family, friends and even the NHS! I have come to realise that being creative does not cause me problems but in a world concerned with labels and order and categories it can sometimes cause other people problems who have to work with me, acknowledge me or simply cope with me and other fellow creatives! Or so I thought until my new best friend Ron Arad or should I just call you Ron? Ron told me last Wednesday it’s just a label and he told me to just do what you do. For me I explained that consists of a lot of things that many of us may not value as much or give enough credit to but I find as a creative person the following actions and activities are fundamental to my creative process and the outcomes, so much so, that if they any of them are absent in the process then the creativity just ‘aint up to scratch!
Thinking Walking Caring Sharing
Making Writing Painting Talking
Clarifying Trying Failing Ranting
And…….. waffling….. analysing …… worrying…..
Procrastinating ……… Asking …….. Querying
……..Questioning ……. Simply watching ……. Learning
………. Repeating ……… despairing ….. loving …….and
laughing …….. and Hating ………And so on ….
Finally sleeping!…… sometimes!
It may not sound like much but as my work is being photographed I realise that it works for me and the proof is in the pieces that keep coming.
I think my dog also has a big part to play in all this as well and I wouldn’t want her to think that I didn’t know what she contributes to the process. It’s not just that she has given me zero bank balance, or that she has given me something else to fret about, or that she has given me something else to clear up after or get cross with. She has given me a new insight in to our local landscape. I have been dragged down slopes, through gorse bushes, nettles, rock pools, sheep poo and so much more but I have seen things that were always there but I had no time to notice. I can’t stress enough how useful it has been having to get out of the studio even more than usual and see the world around me.
Furthermore, there is always something that captures my imagination and helps me gain comfort knowing there is still so much out there to record and explore.
For example, there must be an Og Story in the making when we have a purple haired sheep living amongst us. Perhaps there is a band of Sheep?!? Ooh I hope so! Let’s not forget as well, the other wildlife that make a mockery of the dog. Every morning wild rabbits practically cheer as we approach knowing the dog’s eye sight and speed is not good enough to catch them. Sometimes they are brazen and it’s as if they have stood up and waved their hands in our direction before we have even noticed them. All we see is their fluffy white tails disappearing in to the ferns and the sound as they thump their back legs as we pass.
After the dog walking I gather my tools, ideas and fresh, clean water and head to my studio to deliberate over a current painting or a new piece over a cup of coffee. Much of the last two months has involved ploughing forward with my Iceland paintings. Whilst I have now completed 5 large canvases I have continued to sketch from my photographs and revisit the road trip.
Keeping the Iceland memories alive is easy on the one hand looking over the pictures and reading my notes made during the trip but it’s hard on the other hand because I try to be as faithful to the subject as I can and the memories do fade a little and the electrifying excitement about having undertaken something so wonderful has lost some of it’s intensity and that bothers me! As I make new choices of subject matter to work on these concerns are at the forefront of my my mind: “How can I bring the essence of the place in to my work now I am working from my studio and not on site in the magical land that is Iceland?” The answer to this question came to me this weekend as I volunteered at the Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival. When I was not serving coffee and tea to the masses and talking to fascinating and creative folk I had the opportunity to take in a few shows with my children.
Picture this: “It was 8pm and a beautiful, balmy night. We sat on the lawn in front of the performers stage and waited for the show to begin. It took ages as the sound crew prepared and that time in itself got me thinking about how much is involved when “performance” is involved in the arts. Here we were waiting for storytellers but this preparation is the same for other creative folk such as Artists, Musicians etc. They all share the experience of preparation before a performance.
I watched the performers all going through various rituals whilst they waited to start. I noticed the banter between the group. There were approximately 6 of them. Some of them were tuning their instruments whist others engaged with the audience a little but all of them seemed to have this incredible, high energy, commanding confidence that can only come from feeling certain they knew exactly what they were going to be doing and how this show would work and the inevitable pleasure they knew they would bring to the audience.
Witnessing this reminded me that I too have experienced those emotions particularly when storytelling with The Ogs but I often forget to think about those times and never use them as part of my preparation for new events. It occurred to me how much I focus on the times when you are not looking forward to doing something and rarely wallow in all those times when you have truly shone. How mad is that?
The next bit of insight came once the performance began. The group introduced their show and mentioned where their stories had their origins. They described how they spent time among the cultures and communities who’s stories they would be sharing with us that night. There would be 5 mythological stories told and each of the 3 individual storytellers would have just one shared prop: a staff- a wooden rod. They were each dressed in black and each had a beautiful scarf either worn around their neck or waist. The storytelling was enormously powerful yet told using simple yet immensely powerful techniques, actions and haunting musical rhythms.
What I learnt from watching this professional performance was as follows:
The simplicity of your tools is something to be proud of. Whether it’s a prop, an instrument or tool it should be understood for its qualities and contribution and be allowed to be as useful as the person choosing to use it. Tools and props are only tools and props if they offer something to the act irrespective of whether it be a performance or a piece of art work.
Know your subject matter intimately. “Be” and “Become” the subject matter. Live amongst the subject and those who are linked to the subject. Share and spend time with others who know the subject matter better than you.
Break down the subject and become part of the story yourself by expressing your understanding and interpretation.
Be proud, stand tall and confident and be part of a team that can compliment and help you develop your interpretations and add other dimensions through music and the simple chemistry that comes from working with like minded folk.
Never underestimate the power of sound and music in the creative process. The musicians used traditional instruments and vocal harmonies to evoke and conjure up the most intense imaginative visions accessible to everyone in the audience.
Put all these sensory and powerful actions together and you create something quite exceptional and authentic and original. The audience watching these storytellers almost “swayed back holding their breath” as one storyteller picked up the ‘Staff’ and leant back rhythmically moving as if on a chariot coursing over land and through air at great speed. It was absolute magic!
From this experience I will remind myself that whilst a lot of my time requires me to work alone in my studio I have both the company of sound through the radio and the sound from the record player and my cd’s. I simply need to be reminded that they are good company and they too are works of art and performance and if I am thoughtful I can choose them as the tools that help me to enter in to a more intense and authentic relationship which my subject matter. I had forgotten that a large part of our Road Trip in Iceland involved a truly inspiring soundtrack that organically evolved as we drove in search of inspiration. The next blogs will focus more on how listening to these songs from a variety of genres will intricately link place with sound with imagery and perspective. I feel some of that electricity coming back as I think about what I need to do to bring Iceland truly in to the centre of my forthcoming works. Furthermore, whilst I cannot return imminently to Iceland in the mean time I need to surround myself with others who have experienced and come to love the Country and its landscape. To be more authentic in my painting requires me only to listen to other’s perspectives on this beautiful place and whether through words or images translate some of that love in to my work.
I think my new friend Ron Arad would understand what I mean as I follow the creative process and make my only focus not to deviate from it by trying to categorise it or label it but simply ‘be it’!