RHYMES&REASONS

Observations, Thoughts and Reflections on 21st Century Life

Tag: environment

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

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The Selfish Gene – has it become our Achilles Heel?

Human nature is hung in the balance, our behaviour driven by selfishness and our desire to co-operate to ensure the survival of the group” 

These are the words of E O Wilson during an interview on BBC Radio 4 The Life Scientific.  Professor at Harvard and joint author of a paper setting out the case for group selection he now challenges the ‘selfish gene’ theory he once endorsed.  Among his contemporaries he is something of a lone voice.  Since Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution we have believed in survival of the fittest and increasingly this now means of the wealthiest.  But do we hide behind this as an excuse for our self interest?

The interview reminded me of a recent conversation with a friend regarding the widening pay gap and we imagined a society where each job was valued -and remunerated – at the same level.  We concluded that this state of equilibrium would quickly dissipate as the desire to better ourselves and provide for our children’s future would override everything else.  We are conditioned to believe that it was this ‘get ahead of the game’ attitude which enabled our ancestors to survive.

However, there is another way to look at this.  The history of life shows that evolutionary transitions are from the singular to the plural.  For example – separate molecules into a gene, individual genes into a chromosome, individual cells into a muti-cellular organism and from multi-cellular organisms into a social group.  Our survival as a species has been built on collective strength, on co-operation not separation.  This puts natural selection at the level of the group rather than the level of the individual.  Social groups become communities; communities become nations which make up our world and it is this global group with which we must now engage.

Our challenge today is selfishness v generosity and we are struggling to get the balance right because as Wilson so eloquently puts it “humanity still has paleolithic emotions”.  There was an ancestral need to drive nature as hard as they could to survive but by continuing this pattern, far from serving our needs and ensuring our survival we are in imminent danger of achieving the opposite as pressure increases on our natural resources.  There is a powerful case to show that we have struck too hard a blow and we are threatening the world in which we live and on which we depend.

Polar Bears Endangered by Climate Change Drawing by Rebecca Pells

Polar Bears Endangered by Climate Change
Drawing by RebeccaPells

There is a growing tension between the individual and the needs of the wider community and despite our fondness for the selfish gene, evolution shows that in order to thrive the individual also needs the group.  This tension is unstable, we see it manifest in the growing dissatisfaction between the wealthy few and the rest of society; between self serving governments who renege on election promises and their electorate; between environmentalists and those who either deny or believe it’s not their problem. It is not a question of tipping the scales firmly one way or the other but of a middle way with movement back and forth – too much in favour of the individual and society would fragment; too far towards group social selection and we would become like ants or honey bees.

This mid-way is the creative core of humanity; it is the threshold where we meet our challenges, where we can have the honest discussion and where ultimately we will find our way forward.  It is where we can overcome age old instincts which no longer serve and have become a modern achilles heel, where we can choose altruism over selfishness and where we will rediscover in ourselves a more ancient and fundamental essence – that generosity of spirit over personal gain will ensure our children’s future.

Global Government, a Nice Ideology – or a Brave Way Forward ?

I’m fascinated by how humans have evolved and progressed and their relationship to the environment. Without this knowledge how can we begin to understand our current situation let alone how to move forward with equity and compassion for each other and the planet? It’s like a huge Maypole – planet Earth the pole, standing strong; the ribbons are nations, each fringed by sub-cultures, belief systems and political and economic structures which have developed over centuries. Unlike the May dance which is planned and choreographed, these ribbons of civilization had no blueprint and stepped out according to will, clashing and entwining with one another until they have become inextricably linked in one almighty tangle.

Now we have this great global knot placing intolerable strain on the environment which threatens to topple the delicate balance of the pole itself. How can nations, with their various historical and contemporary complexities, come together to ensure quality of life for all citizens, wildlife and the environment? How are finite resources, faced with increasing demand, to be shared? Our scientists overwhelmingly concluded last week in the IPCC report that climate change is real and whether or not we agree on it’s cause, we have to adapt to a warmer future.  As nations rush to protect and secure their own economic destinies through the promotion of consumerism and engagement in 21st century empire building, how can we make sense of and ease this worldwide tangle enabling us to move forward with equity?

Is there now a case for serious consideration of some kind of global ‘government’, whose members forgo their nationality to become citizens representing the planet ?  The challenges we face are demanding and the urgency to forge something healthy and sustainable serves only to intensify my passion to engage in a new and enlightened way forward.  We only have to look to the Easter Island story as detailed by Jared Diamond in his fascinating book Collapse, to see how easily a civilization can determine it’s own demise through failure to acknowledge facts and adjust it’s way of life accordingly.  Humans have a resistance to change, it has either happened slowly over generations or dramatically through war, disease or environmental ‘disasters’ , but we are surprisingly adaptable. For the first time in history, we’re aware of what is happening across the planet and we have the knowledge to predict what the likely outcome will be if we continue to tread the path we’re on.  But this also gives us a great opportunity to make wise choices.

Global government, a nice ideology – or a brave way forward ?

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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