alchemy meets maker’s mind : a retrospective glance

 
At the close of my three-month daily details project last year I wrote a post titled  curiosity and wonderment.

It reminded me of a little piece I’d penned by that name – years ago – to accompany a slide presentation and discussion of my work to students.  (Yes, it was that long ago – slides, not powerpoint!)

Putting it on a page, with a few illustrations, seems like a good way to fatten out my artist’s statement. Here’s an excerpt.


Curiosity.  Wonderment.  Amazing that one’s via creativa could be summed up in just two words.

Plato said that philosophy begins with wonder, so perhaps that makes me some kind of philosopher – but I’m not sure what kind.  Certainly not the academic kind; I have always found it tedious to have to remember and regurgitate the ideas of others when there is a whole universe of places to find ideas of my very own – both in the wonder-full world of nature and the curious recesses of my own brain.  And especially in the way these two inter-act when I am freely and playfully making things.  Perhaps that means I’m some kind of a practical philosopher, but still I’m not sure.  Must we be categorized and pigeon-holed under labels such as philosophers, or, for that matter, artists?

It is play, not properness
that is the central artery, the core,
the brain stem of creative life.

No play, no creative life.
Be good, no creative life.
Sit still, no creative life.

The impulse to play is an instinct.

– Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As a small child I never demonstrated any artistic interest in reproducing objects, people or landscapes in any medium.  But I was endlessly fascinated with, and always busy, creating things – all sorts of things. Especially things that involved some kind of alchemy.  Things that altered the everyday, that changed my usual way of seeing the world in some way.  I’m recalling the shoe-boxes I’d fill with little treasures and cover with colored cellophane then peek into through little viewing holes under different kinds of light.  Or things that were made by transforming simple materials – like turning lengths of yarn into forms by crocheting or knitting or knotting.  Or things that changed color when I put them into buckets of dye, or left them buried in Dad’s compost heap, or under spawning mushrooms in the bush.

 Miriam Louisa Simons: earthWorks series

detail – earthWorks series
folded, buried, distressed khadi paper, found objects

I began my professional life as a classroom teacher.  It was a perfect fit for my personality and my love of teaching has never waned.  But I soon discovered that being contained within educational institutions was hazardous to my creative life.

I branched out on my own, set up my own designer label producing art-to-wear.  It was a perfect outlet for my creative passion at the time – completely self-taught, I manufactured every stage of each garment myself from concept to completion.  Pattern design and sewing, textile surface design, modeling, marketing and sales all fell under my one-woman banner. […]
 

Continue reading here:
curiosity and wonderment [the page]


all finite things reveal infinitude

 

All finite things reveal infinitude:

the mountain with its singular bright shade

like the blue shine on the freshly frozen snow,

the after-light upon ice-burdened pines;

odor of basswood upon a mountain slope,

a scene beloved of bees; silence of water…

– Theodore Roethke

 

Imagine my surprise to discover that artist, writer and poet Claire Beynon now lives in my hometown – Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand – the very city I could not, as a teenager, wait to escape – lured by the attractions of life and culture in North America and Europe. She moved there from Cape Town – living and working nowadays in a gracious old villa overlooking the Otago harbour. What a wonderful addition she is to the cultural fabric of this nowly buzzing city.

Claire’s blog . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . . is one of my cherished oases of nourishment. I go there for sublime poetry – her own as well as others’, for insightful new thoughts on old topics and artists’ work, for sneak previews of her own works-in-progress, and for an ever-reliable, refreshing, immersion in wonderment.

 

Painting by Claire Beynon
The Stilled Thread of Flight
Oil & steel strings on canvas

Making art is a way for me to connect the physical and spiritual worlds. It is also a means of establishing connections between people and place.

The foundation of it all is not having to know where I am going. I have to trust that there is something out there and in here that will connect. This trust leads my hand to make visible what is invisible. I start out with nothing. The process itself leads me and at some point along the way, I almost always look back and say “ah”.

… when I work, the work takes me to the necessary place of stillness and calm that is essential to my overall wellbeing. Whilst there, trust is like a fountain that energizes me and fills me up. I find I often create visual compositions that counter the outer chaos. Curiously, the more chaos and busyness there is in my outer world, the quieter and more balanced things seem to become in my internal worlds and the steadier and clearer my work becomes. TS Eliot wrote: “At the still point of the turning world is the dance…”  I reflect on these words often.

Excerpts from a conversation with Lawson Bracewell

www.clairebeynon.co.nz
 

Claire Beynon's blog: . . . all finite things reveal infinitude . . .

 


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


eaves-dropping on nature

 
Beginner’s Mind: some personal observations on the art of observing, from naturalist Thomas Eisner.
 

"eaves-dropping" on nature - Thomas Eisner

 

How is it, I am often asked, that I make discoveries? I always feel a bit awkward about answering the question, because I do not have a particular method. The truth is that I spend a fair amount of time looking around. I already knew as a boy that if I wanted to see things happen – if I wanted to win the revelatory lottery of nature – I had to buy a lot of tickets. So it was in my youth that I formed the habit of taking exploratory walks, whenever possible and as often as possible, for the sole purpose of “eaves-dropping” on nature. Naturalists thrive on such walks, driven by curiosity and the hope of witnessing chance events. Taken at face value, such events may not amount to much. But they may “connect” to what you already know, to previous observations stored away in your memory, and thus take on added meaning. There has to be a constant readiness to make such connections. Every tidbit of new information, no matter how trivial, has the potential of amounting to more than a speck of colour. Properly assigned to the pointillist canvas that constitutes your inner view of the natural world, the new speck adds dimension to the vision.

… I have been extremely lucky in having nature reveal itself on occasion through chance events in my presence. I can remember as if it were yesterday witnessing for the first time Utetheisa being cut from a spider web, or Chrysopa dressing itself as an aphid, or Ammophila carrying a “flower,” and I yearn for future occasions when I may again be granted unexpected glimpses into the workings of nature. One of the great joys of returning to your natural haunts time and again, is that you have the opportunity of grasping the broader image. Observations tend then to become cumulative, to be evocative and revelatory in ways that are not possible until you begin to feel at home in the area. For the naturalist, in fact, feeling at home means having achieved a biological appreciation of a region.

– Thomas Eisner
For the Love of Insects


a wild dance of wondrousness

 

Eagle Nebula

 

It utterly overwhelms the imagination to consider the size and complexity of our cosmos with its billions of galaxies and trillions of planetary systems, all partaking in a continuous flow of creation. How can it be so vast, so subtle, so precise, and so powerful?

Metaphorically, we inhabit a cosmos whose visible body is billions of light years across, whose organs include billions of galaxies, whose cells include trillions of suns and planetary systems, and whose molecules include an unutterably vast number and diversity of life-forms. The entirety of this great body of being, including the fabric of space-time, is being continuously regenerated at each instant.

Scientists sound like poets as they attempt to describe our cosmos in its process of becoming. The mathematician Norbert Wiener expresses it this way:  “We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves; whirlpools of water in an ever-flowing river.” Physicist Max Born writes, “We have sought for firm ground and found none. The deeper we penetrate, the more restless becomes the universe; all is rushing about and vibrating in a wild dance.” Physicist Brian Swimme tells us, “The universe emerges out of an all-nourishing abyss not only 12 billion years ago but in every moment.”

– Tom McFerran