curiosity and wonderment

 

If you asked me to choose a couple of keywords to sum up the dynamic that drives my creative practice, I’d pick these two:

curiosity and wonderment

When, on the first day of August, I dreamed up the little project called the daily details, I was just as curious to see whether I’d have the tenacity to stick with it, day after day, as I was to see how far my work would take me – would there be enough images to last the month?

Considering that a large portion of my works-in-hand has never been documented, I was amazed to find that not only were there plenty of details to last the month, there were enough to take me through three months. It transpired that the details themselves ended up driving the project – they wanted OUT. They grew grumpy if I pleaded for a break.

But after three months – 92 postings in all – they let me off the hook, satisfied that a decent overview of the many tracks I’ve explored so far on the via creativa had been gathered together. Followers and friends of this blog have had a break for over a week now; I’m sure they’re as relieved as I am!

Yet curiosity lingers. Now it wants to know which of those 92 posts were the most popular with you, my valued readers. I’m not sure how accurate this selection is – given that I’m aware of friends who followed each posting with enthusiasm but never hit the *like* button, being averse to signing up with WP for their own reasons – but I’ve gathered together the posts that, according to WP stats, received the most *likes*.

August
daily details 27.08.12 daily details 23.08.12 12.08.12 09.08.12
September
07.09.12 19.09.12 18.09.12 30.09.12 21.09.12
October
31.10.12 29.10.12 24.10.12 16.10.12 12.10.12

And now that second little keyword – wonderment – pipes up. It wants me to choose the posts that gave me the most personal satisfaction – the ones that made me think, “Did I do that? Cool.” The ones that have set off little lightning flashes in my mind and generated ideas for new work. The ones that made me remember how much I adore color, texture and making things for no good reason other than it keeps me sane and intimate with something so much larger than the mundane and mediocre. The ones that remind me that, as Frederick Franck told us “The inexpressible is the only thing worth expressing” and urge that I have a lot of expressing to do … and that my time is brief …

01.10.12 18.08.12 27.10.12 22.09.12 03.08.12

Color, curves, edges … and interestingly, painting is the predominant medium. Perhaps there’s a painter in here struggling to have more of a say?


No breathscribe works made it to my grand final. Perhaps that’s because although the series continues (I still breathe my life-tide across canvas or paper) there’s been a shift from the solid straight line. It’s restless; it wants to dance, to celebrate.

I’m exploring a new dynamism, profoundly inspired by the work of a contemporary Aboriginal artist – about whom, more in another post …


curiosity and wonderment [page]
walking the way of wonder
creating from wonder 1
creating from wonder 2
creating from wonder 3


beginner’s mind is mind that is free to wonder

 
Being objective about my work is somewhat tricky because when creating is happening I seem to ‘disappear’. This has always been a mystery for me. Looking back, I notice several stages of fascination or inquiry as I explored this mystery.

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 invented 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 there, but it was increasingly elusive and erratic. Since its presence brought a profound and inexpressible sense of wonder and rightness, a sense of utter blessing which never occurred elsewhere in my experience, I began to stalk it. As I did so, it led me away from concerns with financial success, with exhibiting, and even with peer acceptance. It took me into the selva oscura, into exile.

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; if I fell into habit or repetition it simply disappeared. It was replaced by tedium.

Eventually the via creativa led me back to square one. I had spent decades forgetting that I knew everything I needed to know about creating (just play!) and gathering up an arsenal of concepts and conclusions about creativity. Now I had to forget everything I had learned.

It wasn’t so difficult. Play is the key to beginner’s mind, and humans are hard-wired for play. (Although the wires can become rusty and tangled sometimes!) Beginner’s mind is mind that is free to wonder. No conclusions, no prescriptions, not even any intentions. Just space, in which creativity may – or may not – come to play.

– miriam louisa simons


when the artist disappears, pure creativity radiates


when the artist disappears, creativity radiates

 

The loss of a sense of separateness, of self-as-artist, isn’t an uncommon experience for artists, writers, actors and performers – or perhaps anyone in deep intimacy with their task-at-hand. But it’s not commonly written or talked about, so I was delighted to find a blog post by artist Meg Hitchcock on exactly this theme. Amazingly, we were writing these observations at around the same time – Meg in New York and me in Queensland Australia. Memes at work? 
 

Meg Hitchcock, Radiance

When I’m particularly absorbed in the creative process, I lose awareness of myself as someone to attend to.  Instead there is an awareness of an energy flowing through me that requires no explanation, no assistance, no tending to.  I am conscious of consciousness, and compelled to do only one thing: stay out of the way.  Just keep working, don’t analyze, try to ignore thoughts, and keep plugging away at the process at hand.

At the moment I’m cutting up the Koran with an x-acto blade letter by letter, and reassembling it into the Book of Revelation.  Pretty rote stuff.  But there are a lot of aesthetic decisions to be made as I work, so I can’t just put it on autopilot.  I’m present insofar as I decide where the line of type is going to be placed on the paper, but my ego involvement is minimal.  That’s when everything’s going well.  When things go badly, it’s because I’ve thought too much, and my ego has slipped through the gap.  My flat files are filled with paintings and drawings that were done by my ego.  Boring stuff.

I hear actors talk about losing themselves in the role they’re playing.  Ironically, when there is no trace of the actor, that’s when she gives a brilliant performance.  It’s the same with visual art.  Closing the gap and losing oneself is what creativity is all about.  When the artist disappears, pure creativity radiates, and consciousness unfolds into more consciousness.

– Meg Hitchcock


Read the entire post at Meg’s blog: http://meghitchcock.blogspot.com/2009/09/consciousness-creativity.html

Image source – Meg Hitchcock’s website

Meg’s work and writing also appears at the awakened eye website


the heart of creativity

 

John Daido Loori: Think Non Thinking

John Daido Loori, Roshi, Think Non-thinking, 2000
Sumi-e on paper

 
The still point is at the heart of the creative process.  In Zen, we access it through zazen.  The still point is like the eye of the hurricane.  Still, calm, even in the midst of chaos.  It is not, as many believe, a void to retreat into, shutting out the world.  To be still means to empty yourself from the incessant flow of thoughts and create a state of consciousness that is open and receptive.  Stillness is very natural and uncomplicated.  It’s not esoteric in any way.  Yet it’s incredibly profound.

. . .

“I find myself agitated most of the time,” said a young man, so it’s difficult for me to sit. What would you suggest I do?”

Eido [Shimano] reached for the pitcher of water that was sitting next to him.  He lifted it with a swift jerk, causing water to spill.  “What can I do?”  Then he jerked the pitcher to the right.  Again water spilled. “I don’t know what is happening.”  Again to the left.  “I can’t settle down.”  Again to the right.  Suddenly he held the pitcher high above his head and in a deep voice shouted, “TIME TO SHUT UP AND SIT!” and slammed the pitcher on the floor.  He reared back, stared at the pitcher, pointed at it, turned to the audience, and said, “Look, it’s still.”  Again he folded his hands, lowered his eyes, and became silent.

John Daido Loori, Roshi


Source – both of these passages come from The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori, Roshi


one Italian summer …

 

Another piece incorporating objets trouvés, this time from Italy.

The canvas was originally the ground for another work which had failed to please me. It ended up in the bathtub to have all its texture and pigment soaked off. The stains and markings that remained had possibilities.

A battered old market basket was picked up amongst grape vines near Alba. It was cut, pressed flat, and like the canvas waited for years in the studio for its destiny to unfold.

One day the two got together. They liked each other. Along came some stitches and shells and sticks to join the fun – and this was the result.

 

Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, casa columbina

casa columbina
Italy
1000 x 880
staining, stitching,
distressing, collage, assemblage;
recycled canvas, acrylic paints, woven market basket fragment,
linen thread, sea shells, bamboo sticks

Many works in the nomad collection incorporate, or are entirely composed of, found objects.