Category Archives: happiness

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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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/

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