Tuesday, 31 July 2012

new website

Well, I thought I was going to make my new website/blog go live yesterday, but it seems like it was live all along.... I've tried to present my work in a slightly more organised manner, and also now have a place where I can talk about it.

I'm not sure what effect this will have on this blog. It feels like quite a positive step towards actually doing the work, and reflecting on the work itself, rather than talking about blocks to process (when I could be doing the work!). But the process still interests me, so I'll still post here.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Friday, 27 July 2012


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

When I play, it all gets so much more interesting. And even when I try to be serious, as when I realised that I had to do guide lines to make a better image. The appearance of something new that wasn't there before takes me off into a whole new place that I could never have anticipated or planned.

It turns out that I love the guide lines; that they add a whole new dimension to my experimenting with ideas of time, of ancient carvings as a record in stone of ancient sculptors measuring out their forms according to the scriptures...


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

the darkness of technique

I seem to keep reading about the need to 'go into the darkness', in whatever sense you want to apply that idea, in order to find the light that you're seeking.  I was trying this idea out the other day, and it occurred to me that a darkness in relation to my work is my resistance to the learning of formal technique.

This seems to be partly an innate, familial obsession with not doing as you're told. It also seems to link to memories of being made to practice scales, or being made to practice generally, and also of doing endless drawing exercises to 'improve your technique'. De Alcantara talks about this often meaningless-feeling focus on the technical, which assumes that only after you've 'mastered' certain things will you be allowed to do the thing you really want to do, ie. play music. He asks how a person is supposed to suddenly find musicality after years of that way of approaching their art form. 

I know that my awareness of lack of technique is partly a vicious circle which impedes my playing. Even with the technique I have, when I'm on my own, in a 'self 2' state, I seem to be able to play quite nicely thank you very much with just the technique that I have. However, the reality is also that, in most kinds of public, being heard/recorded type situation, my awareness of lack of technique screws things up quite substantially. So why do I not actually 'practice', even learn, some things, so that I can feel more confident?

I saw this technical resistance thing the other day in relation to my current Indian dance project in painting. After doing some impressionistic, feely type of images for the last few weeks, I've begun to see that while sometimes this works well, at other times the images have no life to them at all.  When I look really closely I see that my impression of a line or an angle was really quite inaccurate, and that's what has killed the life of the image. So yesterday I forced myself to draw some preliminary lines in relation to a line measured on the image I was working from, and, hey presto, a much better feel! It was like when I learnt the simple formula for the proportions of the face, and suddenly found I could make faces appear convincingly  from nowhere with the greatest of ease. The resistance to drawing guide lines is RIDICULOUS, and is holding back my work. It's as  if there's this great big plug of contrariness that I somehow need to blow out of my inner space so that I can start to actually learn the tools I need to do what I want. This is not the meaningless learning of tricks and rules which lead to clever, sterile work. This is learning how to use a chisel, for goodness sake.

(interesting technical problems arising here in relation to making a convincing image from a photograph that foreshortens the arms because it's high up and you can't get a straight on view. And related issues such as the fact that some of the images are incomplete, so the hand or foot is just a rough area of stone - but does this just look weird when it becomes a new form....)

Friday, 20 July 2012

the body...

The important question for me is,
is the body a source for creating, for realising yourself,
for realising what life is all about? You ask this question
and you go where it takes you and then you ask another question
and then again you follow. So this understanding of the body, of the unity
within the body and the innumerable areas which it reveals to you is what I call realisation.



Wednesday, 18 July 2012

ever outwards

Thinking about that in/out discussion of the previous posts, I suddenly remembered the New Scientist article on flow that Jim and I had a discussion about some time ago. One of the things discussed in this article was a study which compared expert and novice swimmers:

Novices who concentrated on an external focus - the water's movements around their limbs - showed the same effortless grace as those with more experience, swimming faster and with a more efficient technique. Conversely, when the expert swimmers focused on their limbs, their performance declined (International Journal of Sport Science and Coaching, vol 6, p99). 

Wulf's findings fit well with the idea that flow - and better learning - comes when you turn off conscious thought. 'When you have an external focus, you achieve a more automatic type of control' she says, ' You don't think about what you're doing, you just focus on the outcome'.

New Scientist, 4th Feb 2012:34

My personal history of avoiding important aspects of  'inner' activity predisposes me to be careful about saying something like 'an outward focus seems to help in releasing creativity'. But this is an interesting piece of research in relation to the discussion of the Discipline of Freedom focus on the outward movement of creative products into the world.

It chimes with my own experience, and with Barry Green's ('inner game') idea of Self 1 and Self 2. When you're in Self 1 mode, concentrating on how 'you' sound, thinking about what people are thinking of you, judging every single tiny note or mark that comes out before it's hardly hit the page, your performance or products are half of what they can be. When you're in Self 2 mode, not thinking about any of the above, but focussed on the music itself, or on the colours and textures, with no thought, it all comes out differently. 

This shift is exactly what Authentic Artist and Discipline of Freedom workshops facilitate. You see it with your own eyes as other people work, and you feel it in yourself as you do the same. When you first enter the space, you're 'all zipped up'; aware of yourself, of your witnesses, thinking about your voice or your body. By the end, you're pretty much 'unzipped'; much more of an open channel for something that's moving through you. That's the freedom, in Discipline of Freedom.

Friday, 13 July 2012


When one lives with concepts one never learns. The concepts become static. 
You may change them but the very transformation of one concept to another is still static, is still fixed. But to have the sensitivity to feel, seeing that life is not a movement of two separate activities, 
the external and the inward, to see that it is one, to realise that the inter-relationship is this movement, is this ebb and flow of sorrow and pleasure and joy and depression, loneliness and escape, to perceive nonverbally this life as a whole, not fragmented, nor broken up, is to learn.



Thursday, 12 July 2012

working in, working out

Still thinking about working in and working out. It occurs to me this morning that it might be possible that some of the difficulties some people have in making their creative work happen might be linked to this in/out thing. Perhaps not being comfortably in yourself, in the way I was exploring yesterday, contributes to not being able to produce out from yourself. Perhaps that seems obvious. I'm not sure it's been so obvious to me.

I remembering saying something exactly like this when I left art college at the age of 18, after doing two years there. I had this feeling that I was supposed to be producing (abstract) art out from myself, but that, at that stage in my life, enough hadn't come in, for it to be able to come out again. I don't think that was necessarily right - I think my not being in was more a dissociation problem than lack of experience. But the in/out idea was there even then.

As if coming back in wasn't complicated enough (and those of you who are quite comfortably in yourselves, thank you very much, will be wondering what I'm talking about), it seems that recognising that you're not properly in yourself doesn't necessarily mean that turning your mind inwards will help you. Or, it seems that only doing that probably won't be enough. Something has to happen which involves the body; the vibration of sound through the physical system, the feel of your feet on the earth.

I suppose it's like everything that ends up being explored using these over-neat polar opposites (in/out; high/low etc). On the one hand, putting things at either end of a line defines extreme tendencies, and makes it possible to articulate something that can then be discussed and reacted against. But in that conversation there seems to invariably come a point when you start to see that the extremes don't really cut it. For myself, I'm not happy with the most obvious solution to this problem, which seems to often be to say 'well, it's a continuum, isn't it'. No, sir, I don't think it is a continuum. That still suggests that you place yourself somewhere on the line between the two.

I always seem to end up after these mind meanderings deciding that it's not either/or, and it's not a continuum. It's always both, together. Which goes against my cultural history, right back to the Greeks, and against all the assumptions of formal logic. Which is why I'm so fascinated by Indian (and Japanese, actually) thought, where there is no problem at all in holding opposing ideas together at the same time.  And nowhere is this more obvious than in the form and role of art (in India)...

So yes, producing out from myself. And, yes, attention in; noticing experience, noticing how I think and act and do. And stopping doing that. Moving outward. Making in the physical world. Noticing how producing outwards affects the inside. Ad infinitum, I suppose.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

in and out

One of the reasons I think I feel so comfortable with the Discipline of Freedom approach is that, whilst there is a  recognition of the deep psychological/
emotional currents which feed creative work, it is absolutely not a therapeutic approach. There is a recognition, as far as I can see, that some of the things that come up in the practice, or when being witnessed by others, might lead to the person feeling that they could benefit from counselling or therapy. They may feel that need to do this kind of work in order to progress, whether in themselves, or in their art.  But an Authentic Artist or Discipline of Freedom workshop is not a place where this kind of work happens, at least in any direct way.

Someone on the Wales workshop said to me that they loved the fact that in this work there isn't talk about it, just the doing of it. This doing may lead to an individual recognising areas in themselves that they want to think about, or talk about in some other context; things they might want to seek advice about, or focus their practice on. The workshops, however, are focussed on the production of art. They're about moving, and doing, in whatever way will help something appear in the world; a thing which is beyond the individual and personal attributes which made it possible for that thing to take form.

Another way that this was expressed to me was that whereas in therapeutic work the focus is in, in this work, the focus is out. In therapeutic work, words are used in order to try to surface and 'understand'  what is going at emotional depths. In this work, emotions, rather than being seen as subterranean fires which periodically surface to scald in unexpected ways, can be seen as the fuel of creative work (with or without direct understanding of what they 'are', or where they 'come from' historically).

It occurred to me this morning, however, that, whilst I love the idea of this outward movement, it presupposes that the person has, in some way, found a place within themselves in which to stand. That they are already in themselves, already a channel through which things may come. When you're firmly in yourself, perhaps you can choose - to focus ever more inwardly, or to focus on what you can produce, what you can put out from yourself. But it seems to me that some of us are often not actually firmly in ourselves at all. We're floating, out, up, beyond ourselves, far from the ground. Living in our heads; ignoring, avoiding, punishing our bodies. We think, and plan, and set goals, and drive ourselves onwards with lists and achievements and deadlines. We run to keep up with ourselves, running without cease, to stay above the ground.

Whilst I see the deep wisdom of Byron Katie's suggestion that we can return to the present (and thus, some would argue, become much freer), by 'dropping our story', some of us may not yet understand that we even have a story. Living out there in the ether, far above the ground, we convulse unconsciously with the defensiveness of ego, blast ourselves with self-consciousness; every day withering a little more as a result of our own cruelty to ourselves. We don't know that we're being run by habitual patterns which were set up long ago and which have long outlived their usefulness. Until we come back in, to our bodies and our private selves, you wonder how we could become open channels for a larger creative flow. 

For me, there is a kind of in that is  not the endless, self-referential circuitry of 'talking therapies'. This in is calming and nourishing. It's about returning to the ground, feeling my toes soft in the damp earth. Sitting with myself quite contentedly, without needing to run and rush and produce and thrust. It's about being able to accept many things that are not really satisfactory; about not trying to force my will upon every situation that I think is wrong; about not projecting my own dissatisfactions outwards either as judgements of others or attempts to fix everything. I can't see how I can become a slightly emptier kind of vessel, a space for creativity to work through, until I have found this place of connection within myself.

There's a problem though, and that is that in most kinds of 'going in' work, the mind is trying to work on the mind. In meditation, the mind watches itself think. In therapeutic conversation, the mind tries to burrow into itself using words. Mindfulness meditation tries to overcome this problem of the mind attempting to undo its own patterns and workings by getting it to focus on the body. But it's hard. We pop back into our heads like jack-in-the-boxes pop out - the channels of our mind-working have been laid so deep, over so many decades, that it's almost impossible not to snap back to grid within a few seconds.

The interesting thing about the outward producing focus of Authentic Artist and Discipline of Freedom (which, of course, includes the daily practice) is that this work has enabled me to come back into myself in a way that no amount of more obviously inward focussing work had been able to achieve. It's probably true that without the groundwork of my previous attempts to land I might not have been able to have got to where I am now. But who knows? Who knows what might have happened if I had found this practice at the start of my recent creative return, or even at the start of my creative adult life??

Painting by Zoie Kennedy, witnessing my practice at the Wales workshop

Friday, 6 July 2012

stand in your place

stand in your right place
stay there
start to build
build some more


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