Did someone say Paintings?

I’ve been Painting again… I don’t have much to say about them – except, I think I like them.

They’re little Welsh landscapes that sum up my time here since I’ve moved.  I’ve been a lot more content. I’ve been a lot more relaxed.  And I feel like even one percent of the time I’m on my way to proving my potential…the challenges I’m facing are all good ones, adult-making ones.

I forgot what painting felt like, I think it’s quite clear in these that I enjoyed it…at least I hope so, anyway.

🙂

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Supporting Ambition in the Arts – Celf o Gwmpas

I’ve always wanted to work in the Arts…as cliched as it may seem, I’ve always wanted to inspire others to be creative.  I’m quite lucky that I’ve landed myself a Project Co-Ordinator role at Celf o Gwmpas, Llandrindod Wells.

It’s quite an amazing place, really.  It’s easy to get caught up in emails and admin., but Centre Celf breathes a sense of ‘happening.’ Someone last week told me that Celf o Gwmpas has changed their life.

I remember when I first applied for a job there I stalked the Celf o Gwmpas twitter and the description simply said ‘Creating social inclusion and supporting ambition in the arts.’ – I thought, I want to work here.  And now I do, yay!

As part of our  ACW year-long Learning and Practice project, throughout June we have been running sessional weekends for Artists who have experience or knowledge of the arts and mental health.

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The Learning & Practice Project is made up of multiple strands, with Blue MacAskill working with ‘at risk’ young people through filmmaking, and sessions with Stephen Park being held at various venues throughout Powys during his residency – The Welfare, Ystradgynlais and Oriel Davies, Newtown. Working together, they are developing knowledge, practice, experience and creative aspirations and promoting wider understanding of arts and mental health.

In November 2016, Celf o Gwmpas is hosting a week of events and activities Boxing Shadows in a celebration of arts and mental health as part of WALLS:MURIAU Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival 2016. (programme details at end of post)

 

The aim of the Peer-To-Peer training sessions in June 2016 is to provide a platform for Artists to develop and elevate their professional practice while giving them the opportunity to exhibit work as Part of a Wales-Wide Festival.

Our first session was 11th June at Centre Celf, Llandrindod Wells. We were aiming for up to 6 participants for the group, and found that we were oversubscribed! We began with Stephen introducing himself, and playing ice-breaking games where we got to know each other and tried to remember everyone’s names! Stephen explained his ideas of finding creative ‘flow’ as an Artist. He showed us images of artwork that he felt had achieved this ‘flow.’ ‘Flow’ is achieved when we are being creative but not too restrictive and not too perfect. Imagine it as a line…extrinsic on the left (creating freely without inhibitions, restrictions) and then intrinsic on the right (where we’re being too careful, too precious with our work) – Stephen explained that the ‘sweet spot’ is somewhere near the intrinsic, but still creating with an element of freedom. It’s when we arrive at this spot, we are in a rhythm of creating work as an Artist which is vital to developing and sustaining your practice.

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Stephen Park in residence at Celf o Gwmpas, Llandrindod Wells

We then did some ‘High Pressure, Low Expectation Exercises’ where we had to create something by following a brief e.g. creating a drawing by using no more than 5 lines- it didn’t matter what it looked like, it was the process that was important. This is important to apply to our own practice as Artists. We’re often so caught up in what we want the end result to be – we might have an exact idea of a painting or a sculpture in our mind, but we need accept the process itself may change the course of the result. It’s when you accept the validity of the process that the work becomes authentic.

On Sunday 12th, we worked more intensively on ideas of teamwork to find ‘flow’ with each of the participants creating a beginning of a series of Artworks. They had the job role of the Art Director where they took ownership of their series- deciding the colours, shapes and subject, the only rule was – they had to form a pattern. After creating three/four of their series, they then switched from ‘Art Director’ to ‘The Artist’s Apprentice’ and moved around the group to each person’s station, observing and attempting to follow the pattern. The aim was to have a collaborative series of artworks based on finding a creative flow and working together – and we did! It was interesting to see how each person had interpreted the Art Director’s series from their own perception.

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With the first weekend being one of such encouragement, we then organised individual mentoring sessions with each Artist to apply these ideas to their own practice. From 12th-18th June, each of the participants had a one-to-one mentoring session with Stephen. This gave each Artist time to chat with Stephen about their own work, what they’re interested in, and the direction they’d like to go with it in the future. It’s important as Artists to have regular feedback on the work we create and to gain a wider understanding of the artwork in context. As well as this, some pieces that we may have disregarded others might see value in. As the Peer-To-Peer training sessions are for Artists who have already established a level of professional practice, it’s been a fantastic opportunity to meet with Stephen who gives solid and constructive advice on developing their practice.

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For the remaining sessions in June, the Artist’s are putting ideas they have learned into practice by creating work for the Boxing Shadows Exhibition at Centre Celf in November. Between now and November, they will be working on a personal project developed in these sessions. We’ve set up a private online forum where the participants can share ideas, comment on each other’s work and encourage each other after the sessions end and throughout the Summer as they live all over Wales. In addition to this, we will be having two gallery visits during the Summer months to gain inspiration, as well as meeting up at the start of November to curate the Boxing Shadows exhibition as a group.

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Boxing Shadows Programme:

Thursday 10th November 4-6pm

Exhibition Preview at Centre Celf, Llandrindod Wells

Providing a platform for the artists involved to exhibit and screen work.

In parallel with Stephen Park: Residency Exhibition

Showing new work created during his residency stay over the course of six months in Llandrindod Wells.

 

Friday 11th November 6-8pm

Performance at Centre Celf, Llandrindod Wells

Performances/Stand-up comedy evening with:

  • Artist in residence Stephen Park
  • Writer, performer and outsider artist Sean Burn
  • Havin’ a Laugh’ showcasing a Powys-based project helping to build confidence and improve mental wellbeing through comedy.

 

Tuesday 15th November 10am-4pm

Panel discussion & Artist’s Talks – Centre Celf, Llandrindod Wells

Artists in training presenting their practice with Stephen Park talking about his residency and:

  • Blue MacAskill (tbc) tackling issues of aspirations, isolation, rurality and immobilization through creativity and art.
  • Sean Burn reclaiming the languages of lunacy, reflecting on his own lived experience of long-term mental distress.
  • Jane Cooke, Senior Officer, PAVO Mental Health Team, psychotherapist and trainer exploring forms of expression that bypasses a diagnosis in the minds of both client and mental health worker, and leading an investigation of creativity as a tool for encounters at different levels of experience.
  • Amanda Wells (tbc) former Celf o Gwmpas mentored artist and instigator of Celf-Able, a group of disabled artists in Mid-Wales, who meet to do art together, share skills and break down barriers.

 

Sculpture Trail @ M I D W A L E S A R T S

A lot has changed since I last updated on this… I’ve moved house, got a new job, curated exhibitions and smiled a lot more, too.

I came back on here with a free afternoon and a want to write something.  Not only something, but something worthwhile.

Yesterday seen the opening of the Sculpture Trail at Mid Wales Arts Centre in Caersws, Powys.  I work here, as a marketer/curator/poster designer and ocassionally, gardener.   I’ve never been involved in putting together a sculpture trail before, and have to say that the idea of having over 100 sculptures to site, catalogue and co-ordinate was a little daunting at first!

First, I met Thomas and Evermore who represented the Tengenenge Sculptors. Tengenenge is a village in the North of Zimbabwae, where all of the residents are artists (a wonderful thought) who make their living by sculpting stone.   The village is what they like to call an ‘open-air gallery.’  (another wonderful thought)

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             Pictured:  A Sculptor’s stand //  Stephen Chizora amongst his sculptures in Tengenenge Village.

With the downfall of the economy and in turn, the lack of tourism, the Tengenenge’s have suffered with less visitors to the village and therefore selling less work.  However, despite these hardships, the community has survived due to the passion and the energy of these people!  This passion and energy was plain to see in Thomas and Evermore.  They were excited about the prospects of the trail and the expansion on last years trail.  They told me stories of how certain sculptures were made and how a lot of the artist’s looked at a certain type of stone, they could already see what it was going to resemble…! I feel humbled that they want to bring work to Mid -Wales for us to enjoy.  Further, I’m delighted that we can be a platform for them to sell their work and to make a living in Zimbabwe.  The Tengenenge Sculpture’s look beautiful in the Mid-Wales landscape.  The Opal, Ruwinka and Springstone they are made out of compliment the back drop of the rolling hills.  A lot of the sculptures are abstract in form, and after hearing the context and sheer determination of a tribe that are striving to survive creatively, it translates directly through the gestural way they are carved.

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Abstract Form,  Moffat ,  Hard Serpentine,  POA

As well as having these wonderful African sculptures, we’re proud to be the home of Sculpture Cymru –  an organisation of sculptors living and working in Wales.  Sculpture Cymru celebrated the opening of an exciting new ‘Test’ space and Sculpture Trail in 2015 at the Mid Wales Arts Centre.  Alison Lochhead of Sculpture Cymru and the Gas Gallery said it was the beginning of an exciting period for Sculpture Cymru who have wanted a ‘Cartref’ , ( welsh translation for home) where they could have a permanent exhibition space to show their work and exchange ideas.  So, after a firm foundation and a successful exhibition in 2015, this year has seen the expansion of this ‘cartref.’ The work that began to arrive at Mid Wales Arts Centre from the Sculpture Cymru members really impressed me.  Perhaps ignorant in the past, I never truly took the time to appreciate sculpture.  I’ve always been a painter so find myself drawn to those instantly when I go to a gallery.  Working here has given me a newly-found appreciation of 3D work.  I’m particularly fond of the work by sculptor Alison Lochhead, whos practice is based on memories.

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Detail of Alison Lochhead’s Mine Map

Through living, we leave our mark on the earth which it retains.  Alison works with different materials, all integral from the earth and with their own strengths and reaction to heat and to each other; iron, clay, oxides, wood. In the kiln alchemy takes place as the various materials are drawn together or reject each other, and these forms are the result.  There’s an idea that there is no ‘wholeness’ to a memory…parts are fragmented, distorted, forgotten, rejected…this is shown literally through the form that Alison’s work takes.  Her pillars of ‘memories’ are erected in the garden and in a field in groups, and you can’t help but feel a sense of fragility and a deeper experience when viewing them.

 ‘Memories are fragile and transitory; as is much of her work.’

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In fact, this ‘experience’  when viewing Alison’s work applies to the whole trail.  A bird landed on one of the bird sculptures during the opening yesterday and a few people laughed…that made me think.  There’s something refreshing about being outside in the landscape not confined by space, walls, rules or roofs – experiencing art.  Mid- Wales is such a beautiful place, and the artwork only reinforces this fact.  Yes, Paintings may work best in the white cube format, but this sculpture trail is a living one…in a way it’s a performance – It’s reacting to and with the land.

That’s really quite special.

 

References:

http://www.midwalesarts.org.uk  // http://www.sculpturecymru.org.uk  //  http://www.tengenenge-tomblomefield.com/

Why being impressionable is a good thing

‘Oh she’s just impressionable…’

This statement is weighted with a negative stigma that I’d like to challenge.  In my last blog post, I talked about the need to become ‘aware’ of ordinary things to break the ‘active but absent’ mindset that are bodies are accustomed to.  We’re all guilty of going through the motions in our daily lives – it’s pretty normal.  We as humans are creatures of habit and fall into routine.  The danger of this of course is that we don’t think or feel for ourselves.  We’re constantly bombarded with advertisements ‘LOOK HERE, BUY THIS, TASTE, FEEL’ etc.  With these directions, often comes empty promises of fulfillment and happiness.

Therefore, to ‘live’ as such, and to be present, we need to become aware and be humbled by ordinary things. Christophe Andre’s book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art has been a brilliant insight into the importance of looking, and really seeing.  Much of my inspiration and thoughts have been catalysed by his writing.

Claude Monet has always been one of my favourite Painters.  I often get asked who my favourite Artist is, and when I was very young I panicked and exclaimed it was Monet. This at the time was partially true, and partly that I knew everyone would be familiar with some of his work, or at the very least, his name.  As an impressionable child, I began to look and marvel at the work of Claude Monet.  I saw his piece La rue Montorgueil a Paris. Fete du 30 juin 1878 at the Musée d’Orsay and was inspired by his ability to capture the spirit and the enthusiasm of the later coined ‘French National’ day through his urgent and lively brushstrokes, all whilst still sitting removed from the festival feeling in a balcony he reportedly hired to paint the scene especially.

Monet flagsMonet, Claude, La rue Montorgueil a Paris. Fete du 30 juin 1878, 1878, Oil on Canvas, 81 x 50.5cm Musée d’Orsay

This painting is a blur of motion and celebration that when is viewed up-close is constructed of what seems like very frantic brushstrokes. There seems to be little composition and structure, but when viewed as a whole it becomes almost like a snapshot of the day, full of life and vibrancy.

Claude Monet 1840-1926 - French painter - The Rue Montorgueil, Paris 1878 - The Impressionist Flags (4)Monet was inspired to paint a scene of people in France that have been hurt, but are moving forward to a greater and more plentiful life.  The term ‘Impressionist’ was first used as an insult in response to an exhibition of new paintings in Paris in 1874.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term impressionable means ‘easily influenced.’  As one of the major members of the movement, Monet would record fleeting, transient moments that influenced him through the medium of paint.  By painting scenes that he found influential, he was mindful and aware of the present moment.  He was so inspired by dancerly nature of the flags that he paid to paint on someone’s balcony.  The scene wouldn’t have been any better later, or any worse.  It just wouldn’t have been the same.  This was the impression that he was inspired by, it was perfect – the here and now.  You may find yourself asking, but how does this apply to me in my daily life?

Artist or not, we all can learn from Claude Monet.  Being impressionable allows us to be simply present to the ordinary moments of living.  This is important, because most often, it is the present that we ignore.  How often do you find yourself thinking about the past, or the future rather than concentrating on living in the present?  Being influenced by things we see and hear helps us fragment and interrupt the ‘automatic flow of our actions and thoughts.’  According to Christophe Andre, finding yourself being impressionable and therefore aware of the present moment is no doubt easier in more beautiful or favourable surroundings.  For example, it’s much easier to be inspired by a remarkable sunset than it is a washing machine. Knowing this, it’s easy to relate to Monet’s instancy to paint La Rue Montorgueil.  With this being said, we can be impressionable in any environment as long as we are prepared to make an effort.  ‘It requires a decision on our part to open ourselves up as often as we can to being touched, contracted and struck by life. This is an act of deliberate awareness.’  There may be things you see every day on your way to work, in your home that you’ve never looked twice at.  These ordinary items will never be the same twice.  Every experience you have is different, in the fact that it’s always unique – time passes.  Looking with the eyes of a new-born can help us reveal beauty in things that we may have considered unchanging before.

rouen-cathedral-monetMonet, Claude, Rouen Cathedral Series, Oil on Canvas, various sizes, 1890-1896

With over 30 Paintings in the Rouen Cathedral Series, Monet focused on portraying the distinctly different character of the cathedral depending on the light that was cast upon it.  This monumental effort by Monet acts as an ‘attempt to illustrate the importance of light in our perception of a subject at a given time and place.’  When looking closely at the Paintings, it’s quite extraordinary how the same building can almost take on a completely different persona due to the time of the day it was painted.  Monet, like a lot of the Impressionists, was inspired by light.  The effect that light had on an object or a place was a driving force to paint, because it was ever-changing.  We like Monet, can attune ourselves to be impressionable and look with eyes that want to be inspired and an open mind.  This ever-changing concept of light applies to everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant.  A pepper grinder today is going to remain a pepper grinder tomorrow, but where it’s placed may be different, the reflection will be different.  When we become aware of these little things, we’re alive – broken free from the shackles of the past and the fears of the future for an instant.  When we become aware and momentarily dismiss our staggered thoughts and just ‘live’, the world is a more dazzling, brighter and fulfilling place.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” – Henry Miller

I’m working on becoming more impressionable, are you?

Sources:

Andre, Christophe, Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, p 20-24. 119

http://lesiksarthistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/rue-montorgueil-vs-rue-mosnier-with.html

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/learn-about-art/guide-to-impressionism/guide-to-impressionism

http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting.html?no_cache=1&zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1%5BshowUid%5D=4035

Do you see things differently, too?

I was passing, and then I stopped.  There’s something special I notice about the scene.  I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that captivates me – the architecture, the light, the viewpoint, but it does.  I have this experience every day with a telephone pole as I walk through the town of Aberystwyth.  Now this in itself might sound ridiculous and you may find yourself asking how can I possibly find beauty in something so…pedestrian? Truth is, I’m not entirely sure.  Each experience I have with the telephone pole is completely unique.  The light is always a little bit different, I’m a little bit different.  But alas, every day in my walk to the library I still stop for a moment.

It’s often remarked by family and friends that I’m extremely observant.  I notice colours in reflections, strange textures in tiles and make shapes in my mind with woodgrain.  I don’t observe everything, but I’m aware that certain things that most would consider unimportant captivate me and wholly capture my attention becoming the most important thing in the world for a fleeting moment.

It’s taken me years of this kind of seeing to bring it to full awareness and begin to realise what it means. I was always under the impression that it was my creative temperament that led to this appreciation of ordinary things, but the more I learn, this seeing is not exclusive to the ‘creatives’ amongst us.  Everyone without limit can find beauty in the banal.

Christophe Andre in his book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art uses Gas by Edward Hopper to illustrate this idea of seeing ordinary things.  Hopper was renowned for his oil paintings of American Life that were all simplistic in composition.  Somewhat reluctant to discuss himself and his art, he famously summed up his Art by stating “The whole answer is there on the canvas.”  This feels like an apt statement when weighted with the appreciation for the ordinary.

gasGas, Edward Hopper (1882-1967) 1940, oil on canvas, 66.7 x 102.2m, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Andre suggests that when you begin to look, and really look you become aware of the silly detail of the Pegasus on the sign.  Then you see his three little brothers on the pumps which anchors your attention. You start to assume what could be happening inside the lighted house.  Is there music playing? Where does the darkened road lead to?  How long will it be before the man pictured sees anyone else?  For Hopper to paint this, it must have captivated him.  This moment is completely unique. You stopped because you will never again see what you are seeing now.  In the same way that you will never experience exactly what you are experiencing now.  This is the point – you understand.  This becomes the most important thing in the world – this seeing, this experience, this awareness… and this is living!  You are living life.

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All too often we find ourselves going through the motions in life. A work/rest alternate.  We absent-mindedly wander through our days, only to get up the next morning to do the same.  We’re programmed on repeat – ‘active but absent.’  Our lives are directed with signposts ‘Look now!, listen now!, taste now!, feel now!’  to ‘carefully delineated moments where we ‘have to’ be enchanted or moved (cinema, theatre, museums and galleries).’  If we allow ourselves to be victims of this signposted and dictated awareness we become robot-like.  This is why moments in appreciating the ‘ordinary’ and ‘normal’ are so vital to enriching our soul. We must appreciate and respect normal things. I agree that is much easier to become aware and mindful in a beautiful landscape but it is true to say that it can happen anywhere and at any time – with a little effort to ‘remain awake and present.’

How do we do this in our daily lives?

I went to grab a coffee yesterday in a busy coffee shop.  While I waited for mine to be made, I watched the barista work efficiently calling out different orders for collection.  After a few minutes she exclaimed “banana latte and a watermelon chocolate!” A woman came and lifted the tray with a quick thank-you but didn’t pull the barista up on her comical drinks.  She looked at me and grinned “I have a theory that if you shout anything, people will come and take whatever is ready.  Last week it was items of clothing, this week it’s fruit.”  I laughed, but after I left with my non-fruit flavoured coffee it really made me think.  People hear but how often do they listen?  We’re always in the doing mode, but we’re not often in the being mode.  Take the painting, how often has people just filled up the tank, paid, left, not experiencing the sights to be seen?  It’s important to practice listening to sounds around you, observing the light, smelling around you, tasting, touching – awakening your senses if you like.  Looking with the eyes of the new-born, as if everything is new.  You’ll be amazed at how much there is to see and sense.  This isn’t robot-like, but it is human being-like.  ‘We must be aware that we are alive. Living in awareness, touched by ordinary things, jostled by normality.  It means being enlightened by the benign and ordinary- dazzled and delighted by life.’

‘Never forget that every mind is shaped by the most ordinary experiences.’ – Paul Valery, Mauvaises Pensees Et Autres

Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, Christophe Andre, L’Iconoclaste, Paris, 2011 (p.112-121)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hopper

http://www.moma.org/collection/works/80000

Approaching Happiness

“We enter paradise every second – either that or we leave it.” – Christian Bobin

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Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775 – 1851 ), Approach to Venice, 1844, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

Venice to Turner meant ‘delight.’ A misty city, quasi-visible across the Venetian Lagoon through a golden twilight. John Ruskin, the major art critic who was one of Turner’s few champions later in his career, hailed the canvas as “the most perfectly beautiful piece of colour of all that I have seen produced by human hands.” In the Royal Academy catalogue for 1844, this entry was accompanied by a quotation that Turner himself rewrote from Lord Byron’s poem Childe Harold:

“The moon is up, and yet it is not night,
The sun as yet disputes the day with her.”

This painting is a fleeting moment captured by Turner.  Soon we will be there.  We will be captivated by the sights, smells and the sounds the city has to offer.  The Sun acts as a guiding light, welcoming us.  It illuminates the City with glory, turning the lagoon a golden yellow.  The moon too reminds us of the freshness and urgency of the night.  The golden light will have disappeared by the time we land, and been taken over by the crisp darkness.

I’ve been blessed to see a painting of Turners’ for real.  There’s something about the way he paints that draws emotions from you – it’s mostly not even voluntary.  The canvas becomes an object in which you portray your emotions, hopes, thoughts and experiences onto.  The gesture, colours and light-heartedness are all strong enough to withstand it. You associate your own personal experiences with the subject, making it appear different to each individual. And isn’t that the simplest purpose of Art? That it makes you feel something?

Christophe Andre uses Approach to Venice as an illustration for happiness in his book Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art.  Approach to Venice is a metaphor in seeing Happiness gently emerging in your life.

Andre suggests that there is no happiness without awareness.  Have you ever found yourself looking back at something in your past and thought about how happy you were but you didn’t realise?  This is something we all fall victim to.  Even just now, I thought about my experience with the Turner painting in the National Gallery and how happy I was to just look and be…and often now I find myself going to extreme lengths restlessly looking for this calm again.  This retrospective happiness is human nature.  As French writer Radiguet writes ‘Happiness, I knew you only by the sound you made as you left.’  Without awareness of the present we long for these past moments of happiness which we didn’t know how to embrace at the time.  This happens when we are too busy…there are simply too many things on our minds to revel in happiness- work,eat,sleep,repeat.  It happens too when we are sad or worried…our minds become uncertain about the future or regrets over the past.  I’ve always admired Turners’ enthusiasm to ‘be’ in the moment and it is something we can learn from.  His drive to capture these transient moments are influential to not only my own painting practice, but my way of living.  I remember reading stories when I was a child of Turner supposedly strapping himself to the mast of ships to experience the moment in later, more stormy work. Even as a child I was inspired by this act of living.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1775 - 1851 ), Approach to Venice, 1844, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection

How do we become aware then?  If we regularly open our mind, not looking for happiness but just looking, we will see happiness in things.  When I’m sad I force myself to go outside and just look.  It’s not long before I realise beauty in things- it could be something as simple as a tree or a flower.  As Andre puts it, these fleeting moments of happiness in our everyday lives will be ‘slight, brief, imperfect and incomplete, but multiple, changing, alive and constantly renewed.’

Venice mightn’t be as promised – but there are glimpses of happiness to be found in everything.  By being mindful, we can train ourselves to notice everything, pains and pleasures alike.  In times of adversity we should stop and accept snippets of happiness.  It’s a fleeting comfort, but later, we will do it again.  Thus, it becomes an endless cycle.

“We will keep on making misfortune breathe alongside everything that resembles life – in other words, happiness”.

https://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/gg57/gg57-117.html

Andre, Christophe Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art, L’Iconoclaste, 2011, 232-238

What we can learn from Chupa Chups

Bizarre title, right?

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I’m halfway through reading a book called The Art Of Creative Thinking by Rod Judkins. (St. Martins College of Art) Judkins hasn’t so much taught me anything through his clarity of thoughts, but instead has made me realise my make-up if you will.  Creativity isn’t a switch that can be flicked on when you arrive into the studio or grab a pen to write, just in the same way it can be turned off when relaxing in the bath or climbing into bed.  The very crux of creativity is a way of seeing, engaging with and responding to the world around you.  Judkins suggests that creatives are creative when ‘filing documents, cooking, arranging timetables or doing housework.’

We are all guilty of compartmentalising Creativity for as and when it is needed in our daily lives.  It’s exhausting to be alert and responsive all of the time.  I dedicate set time to be creative amidst applying for jobs and working, a routine that’s an unhealthy one. Why? Because I feel most alive when I’m doing something I feel that is worthwhile… and that’s usually creating something.

You may ask, what does Chupa Chups have to do with all this?

This is where Salvador Dali comes in.  Judkins uses him as a perfect example of a ‘switched-on’ creative.  Dali too felt alive with things that he felt were important – devoting his time and energy to a range of projects.

On January 20, 1952, Salvador Dali appeared on American Game Show Whats’ My Line? , in which a panel of four blindfolded celebrity panellists guess the identity of a mystery guest by asking questions that have a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  Taking almost nine minutes to reveal his identity, the guests become more and more exasperated as Dali answers yes when asked if he was a writer, a leading man, a performer, a sportsman etc. One of the ladies laughs and exclaims ‘There’s nothing this man doesn’t do!’

And that’s exactly the lesson that should be learned here. Throughout his life Dali was a film-maker, a jewellery maker, an architect, a designer, a writer as well as a painter. He needed a house, so he made one – who knows your taste better than yourself?  He created a person – Dali’s Frankenstein – Amanda Lear.  Dali renamed her, made her over and constructed stories about her. His creativity wasn’t under a time constraint, it ran through him.  Dali designed the logo for the Chupa Chups lollipop.  Already having a name for himself as a famous surrealist artist and a place amongst treasured Artists in the Canon of Art History, it wasn’t necessary for him to design for confectionery.  He was open-minded and it to him it mattered, so he did it.  Not everything he turned his hand to was successful, and some endeavours are more celebrated than others, but what matters is the willingness to try.  Dali didn’t attempt to turn the creative ‘switch’ on and off.  Instead, he embraced it and is Internationally respected as a result.  His creativity went far beyond his surrealist Paintings that he is most renowned for, and when you delve a little deeper you can discover a man that breathed creativity, not confined it.

His attitude is something we can all learn a little from.

Judkins, Rod, The Art of Creative Thinking, Sceptre Books, 2015

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXT2E9Ccc8A – Salvador Dali appearing on ‘Whats My Line’

Mindfulness

How do you practice mindfulness?

I’m currently reading Mindfulness: 25 Ways To Live In The Moment Through Art by Christophe Andre.  Hearing much about mindfulness and the buzz that surrounds it, I picked up this book in Birmingham Airport… it seemed perfect. Mindfulness AND Art?!

I had no expectations of this book, but it is truly beautifully crafted.  Andre uses paintings both modern and of the masters to illustrate his concepts and teachings.  He doesn’t overstate the benefits of mindfulness (which I believe is a trap that many authors have fallen into) instead he demonstrates that Mindfulness is not a way out of life’s problems – but a way of being present in a way which fosters self/other compassion, and a clear-eyed awareness of the miracle of being in the moment, existing.

Even reading it makes you become more mindful… absorbing the images and words, looking at details of paintings over and over again – it creates some kind of tangible awareness which is all too hard to find in this fast-living world.

I have not only come to love the paintings more, but understand them in a different and calm dimension.

I started to think about my own practice and when I have the chance to be mindful when I create.  This has led to a series of map pieces.  I don’t think about the colours or the lines or the composition really.  I simply paint and be.

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How are you Mindful when creating?

August 4, 2015

I’m a graduate…again!

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I enjoyed graduating for the second time, despite it being the largest and (no doubt) longest graduation ceremony that Aberystwyth University has ever seen.  In fact, I enjoyed it more than my Undergraduate ceremony.  Why? It was relaxed, I stormed about in my robes because I knew what was expected of me on that day – it was comfortable.

But this term ‘comfort’ is one which I have too easily associated with Aberystwyth.  In less than a month, I’ll have been here for 5 years…which has happened almost by accident.  There’s a saying in Aber that “If you’ve been here for more than four years, then you’re stuck…forever.”  And while I love having a network of people who care for me here, I’m aware I need to move on.  I want to make myself uncomfortable immerse myself in new things, surround myself by new faces and places, and fill the yearning in my heart to do something different.  As an Artist, I crave new experiences.  These experiences keep me feeling alive.  I’m not a student, nor am I an adult with a career.  I’ve found myself in a strange ‘limbo’ trying to find my way.  I’m ready for the next move and to carve a career, it’s just not happened yet.  I’m persevering because I want to do something that I love.

I’m reading a book called The Obstacle Is The Way by Marketing Genius Ryan Holiday.  Now while I often am sceptical of  these airy-fairy self-help books that centre on loving yourself… this has me instantly hooked.  Holiday is not so much cut-throat, but extremely honest which means this book has become a manual for me in this time of ‘limbo.’

– Perception

– Action

– Will

Holiday writes of an old Zen Proverb that tells of a King who is worried about the decline of his Kingdom due to the attitudes of the people. To prove his theory that his people had lost inspiration, a king had a giant boulder placed on the only road into his city. Then, hidden and perched on a hill, he waited to see what would happen. First, some merchants came upon the rock and said, “Well, this boulder is blocking our path. Let’s turn around and go home. No work today!” And they turned around and left. Next a group of soldiers came upon the boulder. “This rock is blocking our path,” they said. “I guess no one will need our services today”, and they turned around and went home as well. The king watched person after person continue to come upon the rock, see it as an impasse or excuse and turn and go home.  This was until a lonely peasant came upon the rock.  He was excited by the challenge.  He first examined the huge boulder and tried to push it with all his might. He realized this would not work and began to think of other solutions. Then the quote from ancient mathematician Archimedes popped into his head, “If you give me a large enough lever and a fulcrum on which to place it, I shall move the world.” The old man was instantly inspired, and found a long wooden pole. He placed the pole under the boulder and using leverage, moved the boulder slightly. He repeated this process until the boulder was completely off the road.With his challenge finished, the inspired man was about to set off down the previously blocked path toward the city, but he noticed a bag lying where the boulder once stood. He looked around, picked up the bag and found inside a large amount of gold and a note. He carefully opened the note and read, “This gold is for you, since you know that great obstacles can lead to bigger opportunities.” The king, happy with the actions of this man, left his hiding place and went back to his castle with hope for his people.

When I read this proverb, the meaning was crystal clear to me.  Things that I consider ‘obstacles’ such as the competitive job market, lack of experience, restlessness etc. has been a massive opportunity to develop and learn for myself.  I’ve become patient and driven.  Without these ‘obstacles’ I’d be less, not more.  When I came to understand this, I’ve learned that the obstacle is the way.

Things are happening, as vague as that may be… I’m ready for my break.  I’m waiting on the perfect chance to seize it…I’m on the path!

“If you want more, you have to become more” – Jim Rohn

Sources:

http://www.trainingforwarriors.com/the-obstacle-is-the-path-2/

Holiday, Ryan The Obstacle Is The Way, 2014.

Aerial Painting- The Landscape according to the Artist’s eye.

For me, the Aerial Landscape has always been an intrinsic part of my identity.  I find myself fighting others to have a window seat on a plane.  Looking down on the earth from above has always given me a comfortable perspective and I find that life becomes somewhat insignificant as it simplifies merely into shapes and forms.

When I paint, I try to translate some of these feelings of movement and depth into my work.  Although I am not as committed in the fashion of Lanyon and his paragliding or Turner supposedly attaching himself to a mast, I believe my inspiration is clearly recgonisable in the gestural, rhythmic and expressionate marks I apply to the canvas.

I first found this love for the Aerial Perspective by accidentally discovering a batch of Old R.A.F war photographs.  Even in black and white, I was captivated by the painterly nature of the land.  I began my own Pinterest board which contains a comprehensive list of Aerial Photos and Paintings. (including some of my own work, shameless plug)

This board is updated regularly, so feel free to check it out and follow! You can see regular progress of my own work via Instagram, following @radunlop

Richard Diebenkorn - CityScape 1, 1963, Oil on Canvas

Richard Diebenkorn, CityScape l, 1963, Oil on Canvas

By the Sea lll

Jenny Nelson, By the Sea lll, 2008, Oil on Canvas

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Sidonie Cardon, Down to Earth, 2006, Mixed Media on Canvas

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Landscape Aerial Photograph of the Longji area, China

John Evans

John Evans, Fields by the River, 2000, Oil on Canvas

visual artist living and working in wales