Six months and four days since last I posted something here. A span of my life that in just under two weeks will draw to a close, as a new horizon comes into view.
I’ve spent the past winter in Ullapool, in the far north west of Scotland, as a student on the Bridge House Art Portfolio Course. A journey out and back towards inner and outer edges, to pick up a long-discarded dream of going to art school, and allow it to unfold me where it would. A journey through short, cold, windswept northern days; the classic darkness of incubation. A journey I did not have words for while I was on it. The depths sunk out of view, the surface of my mind railed at everything and nothing to compensate. In practical terms, my time was given to structured days in the studio and regular homework projects, making visual art without written attachments. Also, I didn’t have reliable fast home wifi to sustain easy blogging.
Now the course is over, and come the end of March I will be packing up and driving south, to a new home in Glastonbury. In this spring interlude of beginnings wrapped around endings (which in this year 2014 seem all sharpened, intensified), I find the impulse to write coming back. Words that want to be both tentative and decisive in touching, drawing out, the contours of some of what I’ve experienced and learned this past winter; the shapes of a transformation as it comes to my attention, and becomes what remains.
Draw a line in water and it starts disappearing as soon as it is made; yet the water is stirred, and will remember.
Taking the Portfolio Course, I learned to discern, trust and pursue my own impulses as an artist, however unfashionable / childlike / weird / unpredictable they seemed to my hyper-critical ego self. To recognise in my body the signs of an edge, an excitement (often in the guise of an initially-furious aversion or discomfort), that beckoned me to follow it. That I was seeking things that already knew how to find me. That the fruits of seeking turned me inside out, and brought me back to a truth I half-believed in but didn’t really know – that it isn’t the artist who makes art, but art that makes itself through the artist. If nothing else, that’s a far kinder belief to sustain the work of being an artist than the former – as Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous TED talk on creativity, and its huge popularity, together attest.
Fresh edges around a new space that is emerging for me – nascent, awaiting. In the latest issue (number 8) of Earthlines, Charlotte du Cann writes:
“We learn to wait because we don’t know the answer yet. It is not where you think it is. Some of it is embedded in the apples in the room, and some in the spark that reignites the relationships we once had by virtue of being human on this planet. One thing I know: it’s the artist who hosts the space in which that reconnection happens.”
She’s describing those alchemical moments when the world suddenly constellates around us in ways we can’t plan for or predict, moments in which interconnection and affinity, past, present and future, roiling water and late afternoon light and wind shifting the ash trees, exactly the right question and exactly the needed insight are all there together. Holding / hosting the space and learning how to wait are how the seeking happens, how the alchemical moments know to find us – and how they change everything.