My last post was about going to Carnac as relief from the general feeling of doom and gloom that was pervading our household over the current state of the world and where it seemed to be taking us. I didn’t mention that while eating our picnic near one of the sets of alignments I spotted an interestingly shaped bit of wood lying on the ground. Both David and I were the sort of children who collected interesting things (feathers, stones, bits of bone, wood etc) neither of us have out grown the habit and with his enthusiastic endorsement of it as ‘that’s fantastic looks like waves’. I tucked it under my arm and brought it home.
I photographed it on the tarmac outside the house when I got back so that I’d have a record of it in the state in which I found it. The piece of wood was pretty dirty and definitely not far off crumbling completely.
Found Art is one of my enthusiasms but ‘Found’ is one thing usually the ‘Art’ requires a little more effort. So I set to work cleaning, treating, sanding, oiling, polishing. A continuation of my Antidote to Doom and Gloom. The physical act of working on a piece of art is wonderfully absorbing. To begin with I had to pay close attention because it was extremely fragile and the last thing I wanted was for it to break into pieces but by the time it reached the stage of beeswax and polishing it had achieved its final form and the whole process became a meditation. Sitting in the October sun rubbing a piece of cloth backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards slowly bringing out the colours and the patina. While I was doing this I found myself pondering about the idea of making and the idea of becoming (in the sense of beginning to be). Making contains both the meaning of process of creating and the essential qualities needed for something. Michelangelo’s statement that ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the sculptor’s task to discover it’ encompasses both meanings. But in the found art piece it seemed to me the wood itself played an active part. It transformed and emerged and the finished piece had its own identity. It Became.
The ‘finished’ piece, and I use finished only in the sense that I stopped working on it, has its own definite character and energy. My hands picking at a bit here, sanding off a rough bit there and polishing it for hours merely allowed this creature to be caught in the moment of its transformation from one thing to another. Certainly not the waves we both saw when I picked up the bit of wood but an ancient and powerful beast.
It seems to me that making and becoming are inseparable not just in the artistic process but in everything. If we make something without allowing it also to emerge than we have a flawed end result. Maybe that is most of what is wrong with the world at the moment too much making and not enough becoming.
Footnote to self – drink cider after and not before proof reading your article that way you won’t have the embarrasment of re-editing after you’ve posted.
In response to all the crap richoting around the world and pinging into my inbox, news feed and every conversation I seem to have these days we took ourselves for a day out. Mention of the Daily Mail is banned in our house since it hit a new low even by its own gutter standards. David’s blood pressure jumped twenty points (mine only went up ten – an exercise in peace and love of which I am proud) on reading the headline that equated forty two percent of the British population as ‘whingeing’, ‘contemptuous’ and ‘unpatriotic’. He even started muttering things like ‘its time to stand up and be counted’ and ‘we need to blockade their offices’. At the same time our FB feeds have been full of comments from our metropolitan liberal elite friends asking after cabbage picking jobs in France.
Yesterday was a glorious October day. Misty sunrise followed by cloudless blue skies and bright, warm sunshine. So off we went with a vow of silence on Brexit, politicians of all shades, capitalism and all things other than the present moment and where we were going to eat lunch. (The highest level of civilisation – Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
The alignments at Carnac are ancient. We make intelligent (and not so intelligent guesses) at the place’s original meaning and purpose but since no one involved published an artist’s statement or a funding proposal about its construction we don’t bloody know and probably never will. I like that. I also think my other half’s opinion that it was some kind of prehistoric welfare to work scheme is as likely as any other. Good harvest – lots of underemployed young men – get them hauling stones.
To me what it’s original purpose might have been matters less than what it has become to us now. The stones have weathered into new forms over the millenia. People relate to them in their own individual way, take from them what they need or want in the same way as any work of art might provoke a response. Every time we look at a painting or a statue, listen to a particular piece of music or read a familiar book our response is coloured by our own current mental attitude and mood. We see something new or we like something more, or less, or we have a different understanding. The piece itself is as it was when its creator let it go out into the world, it is us who change and mute.
So my response yesterday was seeing the art in the stones. The sculptural forms and colours. The play of light and shade. The references I noticed to modern art and undoubtedly the inspiration some sculptors found in the ancient connects us in a full circle of shared humanity. Though where in one piece I referenced Klimt’s kiss one of my non-metropolitan, non-elite but very free thinking liberal friends saw Elephant Seals. Ho Hum!
So enjoy a few moments of staring at the images and remembering that for all it’s scary present troubles the world is a beautiful place. That humanity contains not just the worst of emotions and impulses but also the best and that life is short but art is long. David’s day was spent studying the small intricacies of life. Filming the crickets and moths and grasshoppers, the way the blades of grass stirred in the breeze and cast shadows on the stones. A bumble bee feeding on a pine cone. The way life goes on in and around the big, momentous things almost untouched by them. He inspired me to photograph the apples I found around the stone under the tree.
A day out to reward ourselves for having done all the things we don’t like – DIY, housework, being tidy – so we can get the house on the market and depart these shores. Estate agents have been and we are now in a small hiatus before we have to be even more tidy in preparation for the advent of prospective purchasers. 1950’s swirly pyschadelic carpets replaced by restrained soft tone sandstone (musn’t call it beige) carpet. Much hoovering required to keep it clean but my other half is a lateral right brain thinker and identified the need to go straight to the source and is hoovering the dogs. They seem to like it or at least the treats that go with it! Dave’s installations, my pictures and all the various wonderful but eclectic pieces of art made by our friends plus half a library’s worth of books are all now stowed in friend’s barn and the house is suitably anodyne.
Glorious sunshine and a glow of achievement prompted us to feel that we deserved a day out. Human nature being what it is we’re now back in the throes of intense passion for the beauty and variety that is the British Countryside. Still as Dave said it was only last week that we were wrapped in waterproofs and moaning about freezing in June.