Monday, 14 October 2013

off to Wales

I want to write something here before I go off to Wales for my second Discipline of Freedom workshop; my sixth of these workshops with either Kath Burlinson or Paul Oertel in two years.

I've been finding it less easy to write here recently. Perhaps this is indicative of the fact that this is a period of disconnection; a refractory period, after such an intense and focussed period leading up to the show. Breathing in, and breathing out. Feed, digest, rest, act. Act, rest, digest, feed. Act, digest, rest, feed.

In addition, some of the things that are coming up in the workshops now are too deep, too personal to write here. That's always been the case, but what comes up seems to get harder, and to be more fundamental, in terms of whatever the problems, issues, struggles, difficulties are in relation to being free to create as you want to create.

I've been pondering again on that quote of Paul's:

Never belabour your creativity.
Follow the juice.
Outsmart yourself by following the fun.
Follow the stream that is open.

Thinking about the streams that were open, I decided that:

  • movement is now relatively open; it's the one area where I never had an agenda
  • painting is now relatively open, at least in terms of doing it as a private activity
  • sandpainting has appeared, and is asking to unite these two areas
  • music and voice are still quite stuck, particularly in performance

I came to the conclusion that I wanted to work both with what's stuck and also with what's open. In terms of stuckness, I want to work with breath, voice, body, grounding, communication, staying present. In terms of what's open, I want to work with understanding and accepting that some forms come more easily now, and that there's no need to ask more of them, or try to push them over some kind of an edge, to try to make them get hard again. And then to focus on where that more easily coming work is trying to go.

The sand wants to join up with music and movement. And the painting wants to find out more about the Mattanchery thing; the Indian dancers and Indian forms that keep trying to find their way in...


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

get a therapist honey

An actor/puppeteer friend of mine was talking about some ideas she had for her puppet. She said she liked the puppet because then she could concentrate on what the show was about in terms of performance, in terms of the audience. 'It's for the audience', she said, 'If it's not for the audience, get a fucking therapist'.

This little comment seems to me to hold vast worlds of art-making conundrums within it.

'So, do you sell your paintings?'

'Well, it's great if I do, but that's not actually the point'.

'Oh, so you just do it for yourself, then..'

'Well, no, I mean, I don't want to do hundreds of paintings and just shove them all into my attic...'

Perhaps it's clearer if you're a performer, but for me, making paintings, the idea of doing your work 'for' an audience is deeply problematic. It could derail what I'm trying to do completely. 'Well, that green one could have sold four times, I think I'll do some more green ones'... is more subtle than... 'I'm going to try to repeat that one that sold yesterday'... or.... 'I'm going to do a series of paintings that I hope to sell in my next exhibition'. For me, this approach would completely change the nature of the work I'm trying to do. I see it as the art version of 'people-pleasing', which, as some of us may have discovered in our personal lives, is doomed to hopelessness. If you start wanting to please people you're stuffed, as far as I can see. Off on the route of trying to second-guess an imaginary person or audience who will never, actually, be the person or audience who ever stands in front of one of your paintings anyway. So you'll never get it 'right', you won't please anyone, and, in fact, you won't even be doing 'your' art. You'll be remaining a puppet of your own emotional history/lacunae; of some murky aspect of your psyche which is trying to get some attention without you even realising it.

This doesn't mean that emotion doesn't inspire and inflame and feed the making of art. My understanding at the moment is that experience and emotion are my raw materials. But I'm beginning to see that some kind of transformation needs to happen if the experience or emotion is to become something that can communicate with other people. I don't say communicate itself to other people, which is the pipeline view of creativity; the idea that the artist can pass something from themselves to someone else in a reasonably direct manner.

I find it easier to see this in relation to performance, which in my case is currently confined to singing in the protected space of an Authentic Artist or Discipline of Freedom workshop. I've discovered that I can actually 'sing from the heart' in two distinct ways. I can mainline directly to my own experience on every level, feeling completely exposed, completely raw. All of my life's experience is somehow carried in that way of singing, all of my troubles and my vulnerabilities and all of my pain. I'm vulnerable when I sing like that, and not in a good way. I'm vulnerable firstly because I'm not completely in the song; part of me is watching myself from across the room, making judgements. I care what people think, and I care what think. I don't want to sing badly, I want to sing my best possible singing, I want people to know that that best possible singing can come out of me, not this mediocre version which seems to be appearing in the moment... And there she is, the critic on my shoulder. My conservative ego, my traumatised child, sitting there like vultures, intent on stopping me from moving into a new story.

And then there's another way of singing from the heart. The same song, the same voice into the same air. But now the focus is not on me, on my voice, on the way that I am singing, on how I or anyone else may be judging me. Now the focus is on the song. On the words, on the feeling in the words, on the notes, on the nuances of harmony and expression. It feels different to sing from that place. There's no fear, there are no palpitations, no pumped up fantasy of how important the event of singing is. It's not a big deal. It's just a song. Like breathing, like having a glass of water. My birthright as a human.

So, I can see that the second version of this is offering a song to an audience, rather than strutting about or collapsing at the importance of it all. In the second version I'm still connected to emotion, to myself, but I'm not doing the scared child/crazy ego thing. So how does this translate into painting?

The great thing about painting is that you can do it alone, so you don't (necessarily) have to be distracted by the sense of being judged in the moment by others. You can become immersed and forget all that while you're  actually making the work. Perhaps the 'for the audience' thing comes around in painting when you exhibit or try to sell. I suppose the real issue here is whether or not your ego is sitting on the edge of the picture frame, waiting to be pumped up or to defend itself to your audience. Does it matter whether or not people say it's 'good'?

No. The work has been offered to the audience as the work, not as you. I guess this is the way in which painting can be 'for the audience'. It's subtle.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

time for a new story

I can't really get used to the fact that I am, at least most of the time now, living a new story. Sometimes I forget. A dark figure steps silently from the shadows, and I'm momentarily derailed again. Wandering in the desert, tearing at my hair, breathing hot winds.

I've been living for the last few years in this silent, interior landscape, with only the sound of my own tides for company. Trying to let my art come. Trying to get out of my own way. Preferring the idea of creativity to the idea of art, wanting music and movement and colour and texture and words to be together, to be dynamic, to be free. Holding on to the mast, determined never to let go again.

In the fantasy world of an artist that I made up at the beginning of my adult life, I was alone in a studio day after day, week after week. People were incidental, connection was irrelevant. Creativity was art, art was painting, painting was something that would possess me, soon enough. And it did not. And I waited.

...There were a few (of my friends) who seemed afraid of what was on offer, and... afraid of something it called for in their selves. As if they did not feel worthy of the invitation or felt at some essential level they were not equal to that world into which they were being invited. They had no belief in what they had encountered. What they glimpsed seemed too large for them and some part of them eventually became afraid of it. It might have been that they were afraid of an ambitious form of falling in love and the commitment to which it might lead.

...Refusing to fall in love with a vocation and thereby refusing the necessary insanities for the path ahead is hardly ever a passive process where everything goes into neutral; it is actually corrosive on the personality and character of the one who repeatedly says no to something that keeps on whispering yes.

David Whyte, 2009, The Three Marriages

What seemed dead turns out to be alive. Full of holes, blind spots, dangerous ditches, pathways and habits of destruction. But, finally, alive.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...