Wednesday, 26 October 2011

how to be an explorer of the world


Keri Smith

If any of you have been looking at the work on flickr that I've been doing since the Authentic Artist workshop, you'll be familiar with the idea of 'keeping your channel open'. I developed this after reading the Martha Graham letter I posted here some time ago, where she is urging someone to forget about comparing themselves with others, or trying work out whether their work is good or not, and simply to do this - to keep their channel open. In conjunction with what changed and moved for me as a result of the workshop, this idea has guided me ever since. For me it's a way of capturing the importance of working without any doubt or self-criticism - to allow whatever registers in my field of vision (inner or outer) to exist and be responded to.

I've come across a book, How to be an Explorer of the World, which  seems to be just perfect for moving this along. I keep noticing, over and over, a tendency in myself to unconsciously be looking for the pattern of behaviour, or the attitude, or the daily routine, that will somehow be 'right', and from which everything else will just flow. And over and over again, I learn that it doesn't work like this. The music that had me moving and singing and painting one day is the wrong thing on another. The activities that 'worked' so brilliantly on one occasion completely fail on the next. Somehow I have to learn that every day has to be different, has to be new, has to be approached and explored in a way that doesn't repeat what went before. This book is providing a brilliant way of doing this.

Three days I ago, I drew ten things that I could see from where I was sitting. Yesterday, I took 'two random experience generation' pills and set off on a long walk, to document what I could see, and hear, and smell. Today I have to document thirty things that reflect the light, and also describe in words how the reflection of the light is different in each case (diffused, mottled, shiny etc). It works particularly well for me because of its focus on the multisensory (as in... words, objects, colours, music, movement, voice etc), and on looking and seeing rather than on drawing or making paintings.

In all these years I've struggled to get the painting/drawing genii out of its box, I've always had this idea (and I've said this in many different ways before) that when it started working, I would be possessed from within with something that would make me want to draw and paint unceasingly. One of the things that got in the way of this actually ever happening was the sense that artists 'draw all the time' either because they want to improve their technique, or because they had some mysterious vision or sense of the world inside themselves that they were responding to. What I'm increasingly discovering is what John Cage talks about in my previous post - that I don't need to think about improving or learning something, and I don't need to have some magical vision. Perhaps most importantly, I don't have to assess every thing that comes out to see whether it's 'going somewhere' or not, in relation to that nebulous vision. All I have to do is be really, really interested in everything around me; to study it, in itself, in its being there. That's all.

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