Creating from the place in the middle
It feels like there is a leading edge thing going on where art and technology meet. They both pull me together and repel me, in equal proportions; the repellant part where I’m having to revise processes that are stuck in old grooves and entrenchments formed around ideas of what they were devised for and oh-so many misgivings about what I am now doing and why. For it’s a place where I am truly faced with not knowing what I am doing; with all the incumbent loss of “comfort zone”, even identity, since I can’t really call myself a painter anymore (so “bang” goes the identity of a decade’s creation). Yet I know I am doing something; am on the way to something new…straddling a breach, one leg in each place, and so (to a new timescale that involves no such time pressure, infinite space…) I to and fro across that gap, making and losing ground in small increments to the rhythms of my ebbing and flowing inspiration. In other words, I only create when I feel like creating!
The oscillation of this motion feels like breathing…like a breath of fresh air where I was beginning to feel deathly stale before. It feels like where these aspects come together is a healing place, a balancing thing, so I keep at them both in some sort of new incubation territory that, for the moment, feels like I’m achieveing nothing at all (not that I could resist even if I wanted to). By anyone’s terms, this feels like its been the least productive half-year of my decade as an artist…yet, by my own, I know I’ve covered vast distances, though I hardly have a thing to show for it.
Its been six months since I painted…though I hardly knew, last time I cleaned away my brushes, that it would be so long. At the time, I was even sorry to be packing away for Christmas, looking forward to a snatched hour or two over the so-called holiday…yet some new urge came over me during that time and it grew and grew. Somehow that usual January reach for the routine of linseed and mess never happened, I passed it by and, once its habit had been resisted, it grew easier to keep going. I began to wonder how much of my painting practice was merely learned behaviour and some sort of inverted work ethic that kept me at it, even at times when the inspiration ran dry. Resisting its pull has been not unlike giving up smoking or drink or any of those other addictions I have managed to put behind me; for, once past that heart-racy part where a small voice panicked at a reality without the prop of the identity painting gave to me, I was able to deep dive into a new void. I’ve succumbed to more spontaneity, more pleasures for pleasure’s sake, than at any other time since childhood this last few months. And from within that new turf, an equally new impulse has risen like an unknown shoot; one that is more about experiment, about exploring if something tenuous can be realised, than caring what anyone else thinks or even sharing with the world.
And that tool I’ve found myself reaching for, built for “getting down to it” quicker than my ideas could otherwise be realised, is my Apple Mac; which is also a “place” where I can scrub what I just did and start all over again at a moment’s notice. The learning curve has become accelerated beyond anything I could achieve spending weeks labouring over a canvas; so much so that what I used to do feels like I was knitting myself an artwork, stitch after weary stitch. Here is where my mind wants to be…not just my left brain but also the right side that feels, suddenly, like it is unleashed to tear ‘round at the speed at which it naturally operates. The gratitude it feels for the technology that makes this possible is honing a reconciliation of sorts between two aspects of my brain that haven’t aways been on best speaking terms.
Without pressure of label or intention, I find I’m newly prepared to take risks, to not know where it is that I’m heading or whether it has any “use”. It feels the most like “play” of anything I’ve indulged in since childhood; without planning or forthought, following my joy. When did I loose that ability and when did this rift form between left and right aspects of my brain, like I couldn’t be in both at the same time (and why, even when I went back to the right-brain part of myself, years later, did it feel like I now had to bail-out on the left)? Yet it feels like the most important undertaking of my life to allow myself to embark upon “just not knowing” why I’m doing it, where its heading or whether it will go well, how well it will be received, nor is it to particular timescale, all without shying back into abject fear of the unknown. There is a quiet courage to it…as there always is to the feminine aspect when she aserts herself; and she aserts most powerfully of all when she works with the masculine aspect rather than fighting with him (this is, after all, the universal impulse in action…realised through the creative acts of humans invoking our most creative potential without getting in our own way). This is all what I’m talking about as I try to describe where I at as an artist…and it feels worth keeping at, even when forward momentum with actual creations feels somewhat stilted, caught up in all the teething issues of this being “very early days”.
So, it’s not that I’ve stagnated but its been more stop than start in a new world of fabric design and photo manipulation. I recognize similar impulses to when I painted yet they hit frustrations when technology won’t keep up with me (though frustration, as ever, is the mother of invention). Then I play with getting paints out again, perhaps using what I’ve learned since deep diving in a world of easy correction and manipulation to evolve what I do with a brush (and maybe I will at some point; taking my new treasures back there)…yet, for the moment, I know I would quickly feel frustrated if I went back there too soon, to where corrections are “mistakes” or even “failures” to be thrown straight in the bin. The urge (increasingly, demand) inside of me to correct something with press of button or to enhance with the sweep of an effect would take me over and make the kind of fluid effect achieved with brush alone feel just so antiquated, lopsided, ham-fisted…hardly keeping up with the forward projections of my mind. Even when I was painting, I found the overwhelming urge to scan-in the fruit of my efforts and tweak it, make it better, using technologies at my finger tips was growing year-on-year (how is this considered wrong when the vision I have of an end product comes all from one place…the artist, me). The feeling I must avoid such last-minute “cheats” felt like it was on some sort of mental-moral grounds (ergh!), as though anything digitally manipulated would be considered “not to be really my own work”. It was tearing me apart further than I was already torn….into some sort of encampment in the right-brained perspective where I was used to licking my non-commercially rewarded wounds while more left-field friends thrive better in whatever else they do for a living. Even in this, I was feeling more and more torn about what I do (or why I was doing it) since I am not all about right brain and it was like I was pointing my left hemisphere to the door and banishing it for no reason at all, when it can (surely) help to make me feel more complete.
Once I allowed it, this hand reached out to technology, asking “what can you do to help me” felt like a correction of sorts; bringing me closer to that middle point where skill sets meet, since (previously obtuse) they somehow speak a remarkably similar language just as soon as what drives them forwards is acknowledged to be, after all, the same impulse of the heart…a vision of creation that brings common purpose, that focusses them with ever-lessening conflict towards a single aim that is about celebrating what is beautiful, positive, uplifting…This, after all, could be a saving grace for our world (already is, as our young people bring these two skill-sets together with ever more wow-factor and beauty; you just have to look online to see what it is that they are doing with their creative technology, their artistic innovation, to know…somehow…we will be alright in the end).
Impossible not to see how the marriage of liquidy creative flow with hard-nosed solutions that help it take form and to stretch itself to the edges of human innovation (of the liquid with the vessel that holds it…) is a newly balanced marriage of yin and yang in the making. Being the marriage of aspects we have been told to be polar opposites (these belief are so entrained), it may take some working at, may take another generation to bring it in fully or the combined personal successes of all those who are prepared to work at overcoming their innate resistance to what is most new, unexplored, unpredictable, indefinable about it (and through our participation in all those personal forums of exploration, never doubt, we can’t help but contribute massively to the whole). Those that do this might not be able to immediately demonstrate or explain to others how what they are doing is useful or is going to generate equivalent rewards to those things we have come to rely on as the benchmarks of success (self-image, an income…) nor ways that, through exploring the unexplored territory in the middle, we are making a vast difference to our whole future as a species…and yet…I am prepared to keep plugging away at it without any of those answers.
It is the fruit of such a marriage of opposites that always makes it worth it…though I hardly, yet, know what that fruit could be; can only intuit it will appear on the stem once this flower has opened and that its inevitable ripening is but the hint of a feeling that I detect on the winds when I am called to create according to these new criteria. Even if I do no more in this lifetime than practice honing a particular feeling of how it registers inside a person when they start to lock-on to such a centrally navigated route through life, with no prior agenda nor particular product in mind, then I will have played my part. That delicious feeling of being on-track towards something fresh, innovative and worth-it is exactly what keeps me at it…this push-pull domain between two differently processing aspects of the mind, hemispheres that are really longing (now) to meet in that place in the middle and bounce off each other’s ideas. Both sides know that its a place where they get to learn quickly (even benefit) from “mistakes”, to notice differences or failings without making-up drama about them, to be prepared to take risks without knowing what they are aiming for (no insurances, no guarantees here…yet so much unfettered potential) and, yes, to optimistically, open-mindedly, excitedly collaborate together on…well…who knows what. Simply, navigating forwards (like children unleashed) guided only by good feelings and a passion for exploring what is possible. What a model for our world! The word I find I want to use about this place is burgeoning…and that is something we are all doing, together, as we deep-dive into this evolutionary melting point where boundaries dissolve and we get to create something entirely new for our world, both on and off the canvas.