Monday, 23 August 2010


The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.
                                                                      Carl Jung

Nachmanovitch talks about even the 'highest' forms of creativity as play.

Improvisation, composition, writing, painting, theatre, invention, all creative acts are forms of play, the starting place of creativity in the human growth cycle, and one of the great primal life functions. Without play, learning and evolution are impossible. Play is the taproot from which original art springs; it is the raw stuff that the artist channels and organises with all his learning and technique.

Creative work is play; it is free speculation using the materials of one's chosen form. Artists play with colour and space. Musicians play with sound and silence. Eros plays with lovers. Gods play with the universe. Children play with everything they can get their hands on.

'Play' is different from 'game'. Play is the free spirit of exploration, doing and being for its own pure joy. Game is an activity defined by a set of rules.... Play is an attitude, a spirit, a  way of doing things, whereas game is a defined activity with rules and a playing field and participants (1990, 42-43).

As I write this out, I think of the the spontaneous, instinctive response to the flat colour and sweeping lines of a Japanese print, or the sight of brilliant blue seeping across a wet page. I contrast this with the activities and concerns involved in being a professional contemporary artist.

There is a German word, funktionlust, which means the pleasure of doing, of producing an effect, as distinct from the pleasure of attaining the effect or having something. Creativity exists in the searching even more than in the finding or being found. We take pleasure in energetic repetition, practice, ritual. As play, the act is its own destination. The focus is on process, not product. Play is intrinsically satisfying. It is not conditioned on anything else. Play, creativity, art, spontaneity, all these experiences are their own rewards and are blocked when we perform for reward or punishment, profit or loss.

This makes me think of Oliver Burkeman's column in the Saturday Guardian two weeks ago, where he discussed the difference between 'doing what you love', 'work, and 'paid employment'. Perhaps we're asking too much, he argues, to expect that what we do to earn money should also be 'deeply fulfilling'. This separation seems to provide food for thought. I can't see how you can ignore the rules of the public creative game if you choose to play it for a living. And I also can't really see how you can create in the spontaneous, open way that Nachmanovitch is talking about if you need your creation to pay for your groceries.

Play is without 'why'. It is self-existent.... Play is done that it is done. (45)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

turquoise, silver and gold

Just how many things can you make in a week?

Constraints, deadline, a place to post it.... I'm amazed...

They look better on flickr. See the  creative challenge pool for other contributions...

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

raspberry red

Through looking at Jenny's blog, I learned about Louise Gale's creative colour challenge. What a contrast to all this reflective chatter here about creativity! It's unbelievably unselfconscious and joyful... 80 people have undertaken to create something - anything - in the colour that Louise suggests for the week, and then post it on flickr. And they do. Everything. Jewellery, collage, paintings, designs, photos...

And, amazingly, it works for me like a dream. I've got a deadline, I've got constraints, and I've got people to explore with. Hey presto, it all starts again....

Friday, 13 August 2010

hyperbolic coral reef

This is a crocheted coral reef, produced by an American scientist who found that somehow crocheting could reproduce the mathematical laws that produced coral. Or something like that. This picture is from the New Scientist magazine - for Jenny, who made some cool red things over on loveand peas

Thursday, 12 August 2010

wu wei

Jim mentioned Wu Wei. Very subtle, all this. Here is the wikipedia definition:

Wu wei (simplified Chinese: 无为; traditional Chinese: 無爲; pinyin: wúwéi) is an important concept of Taoism (Daoism), that involves knowing when to act and when not to act. Another perspective to this is that "Wu Wei" means natural action - as planets revolve around the sun, they "do" this revolving, but without "doing" it; or as trees grow, they "do", but without "doing". Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think "now" is the right time to do "this", but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.

Wu may be translated as not have or without; Wei may be translated as do, act, serve as, govern or effort. The literal meaning of Wu Wei is "without action" and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei: "action without action" or "effortless doing". The practice of wu wei and the efficacy of wei wu wei are fundamental tenets in Chinese thought and have been mostly emphasized by the Taoist school. The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of "soft and invisible" power.

There is another less commonly referenced sense of wu wei; "action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort". In this instance, Wu means "without" and Wei means "effort". The concept of "effortless action" is a part of Taoist Internal martial arts such as T'ai chi ch'uan, Baguazhang and Xing Yi. It follows that Wu wei complies with the main feature and distinguishing characteristic of Taoism, that of being natural. To apply wu wei to any situation is to take natural action.

Taoist ideas like this often seem to be understood as referring to 'not doing' but it's not that simple, is it? 'Doing without effort' is something quite different. It seems to me that if you're talking about creativity, doing is it - if there's no doing, there's no creation.

'Effort' perhaps also relates to thought. For me, it's the thinking that can kill the doing of creativity.

What is 'natural action' in relation to painting, or taking photographs, or playing the mandolin? For me it's a response that attempts to be as direct as possible, with as little interference from thought as I can manage to allow.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

you Bute

Three days on Bute. You wonder what it was all about. All that thinking, not doing. Mind pressing in on everything.

I know that Jim has a point, about considering. But for me, right now, thinking of any kind just gets in the way.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

note to self

Apparently Grayson Perry has the last quote engraved on a piece of wood hanging up in his studio...


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