I don’t have things to say
I simply have questions to ask
and things to make
as the possibilities unfold
The act of creating, its mysterious flow and the surprises it brings as I lose myself in its play, has always been the driving force behind my practice. I’ve never been very interested in replicating an existing object or landscape; setting out to express a narrative or to put forward certain concepts or commentaries in visual language seems to be counter-productive if one is exploring creativity, which by definition excludes the known.
The subject matter of my work consists of four elements:
– the tools and processes of my particular craft
– the materials at hand
– the field of my experience and knowledge
– an innate curiosity
These elements come together in unplanned, unexpected ways as I play, and in their expression I meet my object. If my part in the birthing of that expression is free and uncontaminated (by notions of what others might approve of, for example) the work sings, and its audience – which includes myself – absorbs something which I could never have contrived to create.
Compositional formats tend to be foundational geometries – grids, horizontals, verticals. A floating central square or rectangular shape often appears in my work. This format – and also that of the vertical scroll – reflects my love of Japanese art and my studies in Japan. I was profoundly affected by the sparse, elegant harmonies of Japanese design, as well as by the subtlety of tonal and textural interplay with light. I’ve also been influenced by the sparse beauty of Rajasthan Tantric paintings.
Around 2015 I began removing canvas from the stretcher, opening it out and playing with the cruciform shape. Since then I’ve often worked with irregularly shaped supports – perhaps unpicking, unpacking and re-purposing go with the age and stage.
My materials and palette are determined by circumstances – during periods of lockdown I became fascinated by such humble materials as corrugated card, found papers and objects, ink, rust, tea, coffee, and have continued to explore their potential.
I confess that being objective about my work is somewhat tricky because when creating is flowing I seem to disappear. This has always been a mystery for me. Looking back, it’s now evident that this weird disappearance of the ‘artist-self’ and the accompanying sense of gracious ease in the way the work flowed – a blessing which seldom occurred elsewhere in my experience – was the catalyst for a lifelong spiritual inquiry. If I wasn’t responsible for the work that unfolded during the creative encounter, what was?
Exploring this mystery led me through several distinct life-chapters – I think of them as stages on the via creativa. In the beginning, as a child, there was simply the delight and joy of making things. Pure play. Innocent wonder. Then, during the years of my education, the criteria dreamed up by those who knew what art was all about crowded in, and I attempted to make my ‘things’ fit those criteria. I began to explore the intellectual arena called aesthetics. And the mystery faded, quietly, almost without notice.
For over twenty years I made my living creating wearable art. The magic of creativity was present, but became increasingly elusive and erratic as commercial pressures mounted. Since its presence brought such a profound and inexpressible sense of wonder and rightness, I resolved to stalk it. As I did so, it led me away from concerns with financial success, with exhibiting, and even with peer acceptance.
The creative encounter had become my teacher, my guru. It took me to places all over the world where I would be involved in creative education; where I would meet others whose over-riding passion was the mystery of creation. It kept me on the road for decades practicing, teaching, inquiring. It ensured I’d never become locked into making a certain type of art product.
My way of working became even more immersive, contemplative, anchored in silence. Always exploratory, driven by questions that need no conclusions, it became a devotional, wonder-filled encounter with the unknown and unknowable.
What do I love? Chance, things that “do themselves”, the irrational imperative to make, listening intently to my tools and obeying their prompts, and being free to “follow my fancy”.
I’d like to think that my work, even when displaying riotous color, expresses profound quiet.
Order, connection and stillness are crucial in my life, as these seem to foster a context in which creativity can flower.
With that flowering comes a sense of quiet joy.
My work turns on that joy.
– miriam louisa simons
the high purpose of purposeless play