RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: art

Witness and Solitude

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To witness and to be witnessed is a form of acknowledgement of our own and others’ existence.  It is the sibling of ‘belonging’  identified by Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of basic needs as crucial to our emotional well-being.  Few are able to live entirely in the absence of either.

As I approach my mid-fifties, I suddenly find myself without parents – officially an orphan as one friend stated!  Neither uncommon or unexpected.  And yet I was unprepared for the sense of aloneness I experienced, even though I’m not from what you would describe as a close family either geographically or emotionally.  It has surprised me, since I live and work alone I’m used to and comfortable with my own company.  But parents or carers are our primary witnesses, they watch over us when we are young, validate our efforts as young adults and observe  from the sidelines as we progress through life.  And then at some point the witness becomes the observed as we in turn keep an eye on them in their advanced twilight years.

The threshold over which we take our first steps into aloneness is often experienced as abandonment.  Many will step back in fear and seek distraction, the company of an unsuitable partner or live at the edge of other people’s lives, rather than allow the space and time for a solitary life to flourish.  Alone we are faced with nothing but our own reflection, our repetitive inner voice, no-one to be impatient with but ourselves!  Tired of our own story, we eventually begin to tell it in a different way, we no longer need to filter it for the ears or expectations of others and we can live our life as a question rather than a fiercely guarded certainty.  Sooner or later a fresh complexion begins to appear, the gentle re-weaving of our inner and outer forms.

In the 21st century to seek solitude is considered odd, others feel rejected and offended by it.  But to allow ourselves – and others – to be alone, whether for hours or days or weeks, is to live something that feels like a choice again.  In this space we can experience our own truth, not to sink into despair of a mis-spent past or regret a decision made long ago, but to inhabit the space in a fresh way, to navigate the movable frontier between what has been and what we are about to become.  Self-knowledge allows us to adopt the manner of the fledgling novice once more, humble and gracious in our attention to ourselves, others and life.  It is good to remove ourselves from time to time from the chaotic flow of a world which never stands still, to find our place within it once more.

Painting ‘Field of Dreams’ Rebecca Pells Fine Art

Olive’s Table

005‘Olives’s Table’ 

available from

https://www.artfinder.com/product/olives-table/

A couple of weeks ago I was contemplating the subject of my next painting and looking for inspiration.  Around the same time I took delivery of a small mahogany sewing table which originally belonged to my great Aunt Olive.  When she passed away some thirty years ago it came into my father’s possession and has lived the last three decades in his spare room, somewhat forgotten.

A journey of two hundred miles in the boot of the car has brought it to rest in my home.  An ideal size and height and with a suitable covering for protection, it is has found it’s place in my studio as a table for my brushes and water pot.  Practicalities aside, I’m surprised at how fond I have become of this little table, this physical link which ties one female generation of my family to another.  Slightly battered in places it is of no great monetary value, neither would it take pride of place in a smart antique shop.

However, it does exude charm and on investigation of the deep drawer suspended below the table top, I found my aunt’s personal sewing items – half used reels of thread, a wooden darning ‘mushroom’ and most touching of all – a felt needle case embroidered with her initials.  Immediately I was reminded of my mother’s needle case with it’s navy blue initialled cover and I clearly remember how she taught me to make my own.  I now have all three, a very real thread to the women of my family, items which would have been in daily use by them and as a young girl my own was too.

Then it became unfashionable to make do and mend and financially possible to buy new socks, or a skirt from a boutique rather than homemade.  And thus  a small sewing table became just a piece of furniture, no longer used as the cabinet maker conceived.  But this little table has come into my life just at the right time and  has found a life anew and is in daily use once more.  I also found my inspiration, as I felt this small piece of my heritage deserved a painting of it’s own and so I set it up with a vase of white roses in memory of my recently deceased father along with a book of Longfellow’s poems, a favourite of my mother’s and the result is ‘Olive’s Table’.

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In the Bleak Midwinter

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Winter.

 The living foundation of us all.  The underlying heart, which continues to beat out it’s rhythm when all seems lost.

 The joyful, which in another season’s time would raise a smile, is met by the hard gaze of frozen ground that no nourishment or distraction can melt.  The beauty of the brown barren land is lost to us as we seek in vain the colour and warmth from a distant time.

Dormant.

We long to move on, to leave behind the chilling air which engulfs as fog and cloys our every thought.  We plough our way through the detritus at our feet, heavy with sodden tears.  And wearily we sigh as all we turn over is bleakness.  This internal airing of spinning thoughts, wringing them dry until they fall as fragile leaves at our feet, serves to relieve the burden we heavily bear.

Lost.

Temporarily in the lightness of an empty mind, unsure and wary of the way forward, impatiently we scuff the ground with our feet.  And there we catch a glimpse among the array of wintry browns, a tiny shoot of brightest green, tender, vulnerable and yet poised to unfurl.  A symbol of our inner desire conscious or not as it begins to once more stir, the manifestation of a living, hidden current which runs through.

Patience.

When all you see is fog across the land, or dust settled on a lost love’s rose, smile and be sure for the light is yet to be revealed.

Painting ‘Reflections Unfurled’ by Rebecca Pells

https://www.artfinder.com/product/reflections-unfurled/

An Incredible Freedom about to Unfurl!

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I had no idea when I picked up a palette knife for the first time in January 2014 that I would also be picking up my passion. I recall looking at the plump new tubes of paint, the immaculate brushes and the box of small canvases and thinking they’d never be used more than a couple of times.

Inspired by time spent in SW France and working initially from photographs, I completed my first painting with a palette knife before venturing into the world of round, flat, rigger and fan brushes;  I became curious about the possibilities of this new found activity.  A beckoning whisper of something long hidden began to reveal itself – the anticipation of being let go into something deeper, beyond everyday living.  The subject matter of my early paintings reveal something of this – they are places I would like to sit to write, read or simply contemplate, a sanctuary from the noise and pace of modern life. They often feature a window, door or archway – a portal perhaps to something beyond.

We are drawn to a future that is always beckoning, always just beyond us. Creativity is the process of conception to reality – like viewing the horizon and then walking into it.  In my paintings I aim to capture 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 past spilling over the threshold into the 21st century.  Apart from a couple of short courses I’m self-taught, working mainly in acrylic although I feel the pull of oil just around the corner.  My style developing with each painting, is like an incredible freedom just about to unfurl!

‘FRESH  LINEN’

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Rebecca Pells Artist

Patterns

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Patterns are everywhere.  Life is made up of them.  We are their product.   From the extraordinary beauty of a single snowflake to the relative simplicity of the double helix which forms our DNA, patterns dominate life.  Nature produces them over and over, evolving yes but still within the boundaries of a recognisable pattern.  Man has replicated them from ancient times, everywhere you look you will find a pattern, not always obvious, sometimes we must seek them out.

There is a comfort in patterns, familiar, predictable they have boundaries and therefore a certainty about what has been, what is happening and what is yet to come.  Patterns dictate our behaviour too.  The rebellious teenager who pushes the boundaries of parental control and wisdom, wanting to forge their own path, unaware that they too are following an age old pattern.  They do not, however always work in our favour.  Behavioural patterns can be destructive, like a mutating cancer replicating it’s ugly cells the pattern forges forth, carried by belief that we are right, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.

 I recently visited an installation by UK artist Carl Jaycock in a local church.  Photographs of all the men and women from Shropshire who lost their lives in the First World  War – including Shropshire born poet Wilfred Owen – were formed into the shape of shell cases.  Alongside the beautiful floor tiles this human pattern was a haunting sight.  All those involved in that dreadful war unwittingly became part of the pattern of history.

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In recent weeks Germany has lead the way welcoming those seeking refuge from Syria and other ravaged countries.  There is a collective will to break the historical dysfunctional pattern of their homeland and create a new one – for some perhaps a form of absolution.  But scratch a little beneath the surface as one journalist did and the old prejudicial pattern is soon revealed, veiled but by no means dormant.  Collective will is shunned when reality challenges the pull of our individual autonomy  and the old destructive pattern snaps sharply back into place. Like the rebellious teenager we refuse to listen to wisdom even when we know the consequences may be devastating.

Why do we repeatedly do the same things and yet expect a different outcome?  Most of us are driven, controlled even by our ego, our immaturity beckoned and  seduced toward false havens – a flawed, myopic  isolation of the present suspended from historical context.  We witness the arctic melt, we see that prejudice leads to conflict, we feel when our repeated actions damage our personal relationships.  But still we resist the fluid, less unilateral stance which maturity demands of us, safe in the false belief that it is another at fault, another who must shoulder the burden of change.

   If we are to liberate ourselves from the cancerous, cyclical patterns born of short-sighted self interest, we must learn to cross familiar thresholds with a different, more determined intent in our step.

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“Courage was mine, and I had mystery    

Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery.”

Wilfred Owen

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

The Burden of Choice

      'The Writing Table'    www.rebeccapells.co.uk

‘The Writing Table’
http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk

Since the middle of the 20th century choice has become the cobweb in which western society resides.  The driver for consumerism and chief supporter of capitalism it is the meeting point of commerce, politics and our personal lives. The axis around which we chase perfection and happiness as along with the goods, we buy the idea that choice is desirable.  Choice has become synonymous with freedom – freedom to exert our preferences and spin a life exactly as we wish it to be.

  Expectations are raised and goalposts moved as we succumb to the intoxifying lure of possibilities.  But too much choice can leave us overwhelmed, saturated with options and oppressed by the burden to make the right decision.  Freedom becomes our jailor as complexity leads to paralysis and fatigue.  Too much information and too complex for us to be confident we are making the right choices; at worst it leaves a trail of anxiety that we may have got it wrong and at best a background sense of dissatisfaction that we may have missed something better.  The thrill of possibility turns to tedium, procrastination, exasperation and ultimately despair of ever achieving our goal and we may in the end withdraw from engagement altogether.

I experienced this first hand last week, spending days at a time staring with increasing chagrin at my computer screen as I attempted to work my way through the hundreds of options and variables a I constructed my new website.  More than once I was ready to give up – the sheer volume of decisions I was ‘forced’ to make was overwhelming.  Convinced that I might miss ‘the one’ I spent hours scrolling through hundreds of font styles, sizes, UPPER/lower case, bold, italic, underlined, custom –  the options were infinite.   The anticipated creative experience turned sour and it was only when I took a step back from the keyboard and revisited my original goal – for a clear and simple site to showcase my paintings –  that in the end I took control and returned to the essence of my desire.

Surrounded by the vicissitudes of life we hinder further our progress by allowing unnecessary complexities to seep in and saturate our daily lives until the picture has become so blurred that we loose sight of our original horizon.  We literally feel swamped by the flotsam and jetsam of choice and anchored down by indecision.  The 21st century will not leave us alone, it will not hold back the tide of modernity.  But we can discipline ourselves to surf the waves of amebic decisions and only roll with the important ones.  We have the ability –  the choice – to live our identity unburdened by minutiae and from place where we bear witness as if for the first time.

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For more examples of my art visit http://www.rebeccapells.co.uk

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