RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Category: Creativity

Conscious Incompetence

Uncomfortable, frustrating, deflating and dispiriting all rolled into one.  This is the state of conscious incompetence.  And I am right bang in the middle of it.

The pleasure of learning a new skill has been replaced by the cold reality of daylight.  The thrill of finding I could produce a painting which was ‘presentable’ has, three years on, been sharply highlighted by a gaping lack of experience.  The short-term affirmation of social media approval and modest sales has been replaced by a cringing reluctance to stick my head above the public parapet.

There is so very much to learn, so much work to do, as a musician applies herself to scales so the painter must learn and practice the techniques and technicalities of their art.  Long hours in the studio, alone with your thoughts and insecurities accompanied only by the silent (and sometimes not so!) monologue of self criticism.

But something drives me on, the glimpse of an idea captured on canvas, crossing the threshold of nebulous to form laying down a moment in time, an outward incarnation of an inner life.  There is something calling out, bigger than and beyond me, enticing and playing with my heart a I struggle and strive; it at once elates and then strips me bare.  Cleansing, simplifying, purifying and humbling perhaps one day it will enlighten also as to the core nature of this oily world in which I find myself immersed.

Top: ‘Poetry with Pomegranate and Plum’   Above: ‘Trio of Plums with Blue Jug’

Rebecca Pells Artist

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My Artfinder Gem – Jean-Humbert SAVOLDELLI

‘Le Baiser’ (The Kiss) by Jean-Humbert Savoldelli

Like so many things in life, I happened upon the work of French artist Jean-Humbert Savoldelli  by accident.  One of his works appeared in the sold section on ARTFINDER  and immediately captured my attention.

I must confess to knowing very little about abstract art and this post is not intended as a critique but rather a very personal response to these contemporary artworks. The strong vertical lines are what first drew me in, rising seemingly from a landscape reminiscent of breakwaters along the beaches of Northern France. On investigating Jean-Humbert’s gallery on ARTFINDER  I discovered many pieces to which I had the same visceral response. I was seeing thresholds – and I love thresholds, a theme to which I return time and again  in my own work – but here they are expressed in abstract form, a meeting of two worlds, the human and the natural.

‘Calypso’ by Jean-Humber SALVODELLI

For me there is both bleakness and hope in Jean-Humbert’s work –  the verticals are often dominant, like mankind  imposing itself upon the land and heavy, stormy ‘skies’ suggestive of destruction, a warning perhaps of human impact upon the fragile environment.  But there is also a lightness, delicacy of colour and expressive, swirling wave-like strokes, representative perhaps of movement and immediacy in contrast to the static, lifeless structural lines.  Small figures seemingly overwhelmed by the vastness of the scene before them, stand witnesses to history at the very threshold of doom v hope, of destruction v tenderness.

Whose Fault is It

‘A qui la Faute?’ (Whose Fault is It?)

The use of sand in some works adds texture and a connection to the very earth itself which I find very appealing. With a deft wielding of the painter’s knife – a conduit to freedom and movement – together with use of a limited palette, this artist creates a harmony which embraces you, bringing together the various elements at play within the composition.  My favourite – and it was very hard to choose just one – has to be ‘Calypso’.  The depth that Jean-Humbert has achieved just vacuums you into the heart of the painting!  It takes you on a journey into the unknown, like the road less traveled, you wonder if there will be a path back.  And the vertical composition is elegance itself. Calypso was also the name of French explorer Jacques Cousteau‘s yacht and as a pioneer environmentalist of the oceans it fits well with  his fellow Frenchman’s artistic work and with my own sentiments and priorities.

‘Vibrations’ by Jean-Humbert SAVOLDELLI

Jean-Humbert has produced a fabulous body of abstract expressionist paintings, each has a wonderful emotive effect on me – he is able to convey through his art what I fail to adequately put into words!   The subject is nebulous and yet he offers a fleeting glimpse of something deep and vital to humanity’s survival.  The landscapes are expansive yet intimate,  warning us yet offering hope.  A visual reminder that nature will endure despite the best efforts of man to dominate and destroy. With the image before me, I sense I am standing at a threshold between two possible outcomes for humanity.  I now understand the role of abstract.  I hope one day to be the proud owner of a Savoldelli but in the meantime I will make do with a gander around his online gallery.  Come join me!  Jean-Humbert SAVOLDELLI on ARTFINDER

 

‘Wet Sand’ by Jean-Humbert SAVOLDELLI

Just a Moment

In our busy lives the opportunity to seek sanctuary, even for a few moments is ever important to our wellbeing.  My latest painting ‘Just a Moment’ tries to capture just such a place – the meeting of time with the timeless; the passing moment framed by what has happened and what is about to occur.  Favouring a muted palette the subject and colours suggest an essence of time spilling over the threshold into the 21st century.

'Just a Moment' Acrylic on Canvas 40x40cms

‘Just a Moment’
Acrylic on Canvas
40x40cms

You can find more of my fledgling work on www.rebeccapells.co.uk

 

 

Embracing Vulnerability – take the risk and do it anyway!

To be vulnerable is to experience our own humanity.  It is a place we reside, where we are tenderly cradled and touched by our very essence.  In an age of tweets, updates, blogs and other portals of instant digital exposure, we are encouraged and seduced into sharing details of our lives.  Our vulnerability stands at the threshold of our inner deep desire for acceptance and affirmation and the outer, shallows of exposure.

Creativity is the metamorphosis of our inner world to the outer.  Our vulnerability is on display along with our words, paintings, sculptures and photographs.  Ideas originate in the depths of our being,  inhabiting a private nurturing world before eventually the desire to transform the nebulous into something physical inspires action and the artwork is born.  Projected into the daylight,  we are not simply exposing our physical being but that delicate, unprotected and naked vulnerability which shies the limelight and seeks shadowy refuge at the merest hint of criticism or indifference.

I recently spent five days on a sculpture course at Stanton Group Studios.  It was my first experience as a life model and  what I thought would leave me vulnerable and exposed quickly began to feel entirely natural.  It is only in the crossing of the threshold from the comfort of familiarity into the unknown that we experience vulnerability. We can step back in fear or stride into a new horizon just waiting to be explored.  For me this experience was far less exposing than when I publish an article or enter a painting in an exhibition.  Modelling shares only the outer self whereas the others come from a place deep within, revealing something of the vast, private interior, offering up tender shoots easily crushed by rejection, ridicule, judgement and jealousy.  It is tempting to recoil but in so doing we also close the facilitating portal to appreciation, admiration, respect and regard.

To seek vulnerability is liberating; it faces the biggest fear of all – that if others knew what we inwardly harbour, what we are really like, they would avoid us.  And yet the most attractive and interesting people are not those who look amazing or produce the greatest work – they are the ones who are confident in spite of their imperfections.  They are the ones who are willing to face rather than fear vulnerability knowing through experience how freeing and empowering it can be.

Many of us resist risk and change be it of ourselves or in others.  An attempt to be invulnerable is a vain one; it is part of our intrinsic nature and encompasses courage and compassion.  The choice we have is not whether we are vulnerable but to live with it bravely and with courage step fully across the threshold.

 

 

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Rob Ackerley Sculptor   robackerley@me.com

Orgasm of the Mind

In my time alone my life happens.

I’m at my most peaceful sitting in dappled shade, the dancing of the shadows reflecting my thoughts as they skip between the light and darker corners of my mind.  This dipping in and out is the intercourse of creative life – the place where ideas are conceived, nurtured and born; where conversations take place without saying a word.

Reflection, thought, solitude and contemplation.

Words which seem to jar and sit ill at ease with 21st century vocabulary, which in order to be heard above the mayhem of tweeting, trending and texting would need to shout and present themselves loudly, the very antithesis of their meaning.  They are unfashionable words, the execution of which is seen as odd or eccentric.  And yet we should cherish and practice them at every opportunity. Until 50 or so years ago it was only the elite who had time to stand and stare but now with so many labour saving devices in the average western home we too have that luxury if only we choose to embrace it.  Instead many of us fill those disposable hours with online activity, encouraged to put ourselves forward, to shout the loudest and follow the latest viral trend or else we have somehow failed . . . the irony of which as I type this post is not lost on me!  We have ceased to become self-reliant, choosing instead to escape into this world of hyper-activity in preference to our own company.

And yet it is a precious thing, to be still and reflect, to explore our thoughts away from the influences of the external world.  To be self-reliant is to breed tenacity, the will and self-determination to follow our own path when those around us are walking the other way.  It develops imaginative curiosity to seek out answers for ourselves rather than an easy following of the crowd.

And it takes courage to be different.

To be alone and not defined by someone or something else, to avoid being influenced by outside things – this is what creates strength and individuality.  We live in the age of individualism and yet, in reality our world is strictly regulated and the individual is merely on a treadmill that keeps the social template moving. It is only by removing ourselves from the system – however briefly – that we are truly ourselves; to be brave enough to navigate our own path is to develop the ability to re-engage more intensely and purposefully without risking loss of identity.

If we dare to withhold from immersive over-sharing and delve into speculative thought, we may be rewarded with creative inspiration, the courting of a fresh passion, the desire to perfect a new skill and the exquisite experience as it all comes together into something tangible.  It can afford you one of the greatest pleasures of all – what Michael Foley in his excellent book ‘The Age of Absurdity’ refers to as the orgasm of the mind.

To be actively individual is not passive or reclusive, rather it is like standing back from a painting in order to see it more clearly.

And it is from here that we may find our purpose and thus our meaning.

 Quiet Contemplation

‘Quiet Contemplation’

Rebecca Pells    2014

A Sense of Un-Belonging

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Singapore 1966

Am I to be forever on the outside looking in? It has become a place – a feeling – so familiar, that I now fear the very thing I seek.  I carry it with me and yet it doesn’t have form, this nebulous  thing;  I cannot grasp it, and yet I can feel it’s elusiveness.  I have looked for it in my home, work, relationships and among my things.  I have few items from my family home –  they should evoke a warmth of feeling, a welcome symbol of my belonging somewhere but I find none, only a physical ache for something lost – no for something I’m yet to experience: an ongoing penance for daring to be here at all.  It’s not my destiny, it is and always has been my reality, the outsider as one country became another and I learned to count the number of schools in different languages.  Letters sent to best friends who’d formed new allegiances before the postmark had dried.

For a moment, I felt I belonged to something or someone, I wasn’t sure.  It was a feeling unfamiliar despite my one score year and ten. It was only later with divorce papers in hand that I realised I hadn’t belonged at all, I’d wanted it so much that I believed for a while only to discover I’d found something different, an identity that didn’t even begin to fill the void.  I’m trapped in this waiting game, on the outside while everyone else is within, strangely similar to my childhood punishment of being left out in the hallway while the rest of the family were in the sitting room with the door firmly closed.

And so I find myself on the outer edge of others’ comfort zones, kept in some kind of friendly exile as they perceive my differences.  Or perhaps it is I who perceive them, me that does not know how to fit in.  The roots of belonging are established in childhood and strengthen as we mature.  If for some reason this fails to happen, I have come to accept, at least for me, that it will never do so.  A sapling starved of essential nourishment, continuously uprooted and replanted in new territory every few years will struggle to thrive,  it’s energy channelled into mere survival, unable to blossom or reach it’s full potential as a mature tree.  It will never have the stability of it’s contemporaries, it’s roots exhausted by constant disturbance have little strength to weather the next storm.

Unlike the tree, I can choose my environment and find shelter from stormy weather and in the calm of my simple life I can thrive and flourish, untethered by my un-belonging, abiding by society’s rules but unbound by it’s conventions. There is a freedom to this existence from which I can emerge at my choosing.  In this existence I can create my own place unrestrained by outside expectation and dictates.  I’ve ceased to seek this thing called belonging – the need, the void is still there but I have learned to carry it not as a burden but like a warm coat.  There is now a comfort in not belonging, a familiarity I would miss.  I can finally embrace being on the outside looking in, not in judgement but with a welcome sense of reflective clarity that is borne by detachment as a gift.  These are the desired nutrients for the flourishing of creativity and unfettered freedom to blossom.

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Acrylic on Canvas 2014 Rebecca Pells

Why a Decade of Debris is Good for Your Spirits

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For the last three years I have observed my garden bench as it morphed from an often used, aesthetically pleasing addition to my garden into a drab collection of wooden slats, in danger of being claimed by a snaking wild bramble. By last summer I utilised it rarely, due in some part to the dismal weather but largely because my once favoured place had become a neglected corner,  visited only by local cats to sit for a quick wash after which even they declined to linger more than a few minutes before departing in search of a more comfortable spot.

Purchased some fifteen years ago, the wood had long since lost it’s natural beauty, fading gradually from a rich cedar tone to a silvery hue quite charming and delightful, before subsiding to a dull dark brown, stained by time and nature.  After the first few years I failed to cover it in the autumn but still expected it to to flourish with welcoming comfort the following spring.  With the first appearance of cracks I gave the bench the attention it was calling for in the form of  linseed oil applied with an old rag, which it consumed like a hungry child giving it a healthy glow once more, the affect of which lasted but a few months and provided little sustenance to see it through the cold, wet winter.  Tree branches overhung the seat providing welcome shade from occasional burst of strong sun but were also a favourite with the birds.  It soon became a chore to clean the bench before it was habitable and gradually I didn’t bother and somehow this previously cherished place in my garden had become an eyesore and it in turn stared resentfully back at me.

Finally, I have taken notice.  And what a journey we have been on: half a dozen sheets of coarse sandpaper to remove a decade of debris, along with several hours of elbow grease.  No electric sander for me! If this effort was rewarded as the colour and grain of the wood revealed itself once more, it was surely the gentler application of fine sanding that helped it glow with life.  The benefit of this transformative action was not for the bench alone; for me the physical effort blended with the creative activity – taking one thing and through a series of processes discovering  another – is one that cannot be matched for pleasure, satisfaction and achievement.  It distracts from the ever present background ‘noise’ of the mind, taking you deep into the present moment where worries about what has been or what might be, do not exist.  It’s the reason art therapy is offered as an alternative to drugs for those who are strugglimg with anxiey and depression and I was witness to it’s gentle transformative effect when I worked in a centre which used anthroposophical therapies, including art, for people with long term health conditions.  The reason it works has little to do with the end result but much more the process it takes us through, allowing the mind to gently find a way free of the unhealthy groove it habitually remains stuck in.

I do wonder, if we engaged with activities which have an underlying creative experience on a regular basis, whether it would promote a healthier, more satisfying life experience. So much of modern life is stripped of the opportunity to strive, experiment, experience and feel, make mistakes, get it wrong and spend time finding a solution.  From mass produced goods, where imperfections result in a ‘return for our money back’ attitude rather than seeing irregularity as the signature of the craftsman; from the preference for uniform supermarket produce  over  the knarled vegetables which, freshly dug from your garden and sweet smelling are proudly presented on your plate.  The digitally produced music to which our ear has become accustomed but fails to quite move us in the same way as the old vinyl and the photographer who enhances the image in order to please the constant demand for perfection, belying the truth he witnessed and perhaps too his own sense of satisfaction.  In this manipulated and ‘perfect’ world how can we hope to be truly connected to the reality of life – are we not by default always one step removed? Could this be the reason for the modern ‘dis-ease’ of vague disatisfaction that so many of us experience yet can’t quite put our finger on why? It is as if much of modern life has been stripped bare of the very things which nourish the soul and maintain a healthy equilibrium.

I could have ditched my bench in favour of a new one, the buying of which may have provided a moments pleasure.  But I figured that one tree had already given it’s life for me to have a comfortable place to sit in my garden and with a little work and attention it would provide me with a good few more years. After some deliberation I decided to paint the bench in the hope of protecting it a little longer.  A once mass produced item has now become something personal, complete with imperfections and nuances and a history all of it’s own with which I am now uniquely and intimately bound.

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