Monthly Archives: October 2014

dot 27: juggling

 

The art of tossing and catching or manipulating objects, keeping them in constant motion.

– Robert Crego –

I have never tried my hand at juggling although I have been tempted to. The agile ability that jugglers reveal whilst constantly adjusting to balls in motion simply leaves me in awe. I cannot help feeling that if I had mastered this skill earlier I would have been more apt at handling the week that’s just gone by.

Having offered to help my elderly parents pack up in the far-north of the country, I left home to travel the almost 2000km distance with the best of artistic-luck. My intentions were to keep my primary mental focus on my art, and to use the time I would be physically packing to reflect on art-related issues. Perhaps somewhat too idealistic I was nevertheless distressed when I returned home a little more that a week later, not having even as much as opened my books to draw or write. Putting pen to paper this morning I realized in dismay that the logging date indicated a 12 day silence.

My sincerest apologies to all …

However, in writing my journal this morning I made the surprising realization that I was indeed creatively stronger than I had anticipated. When I initially started writing my blog I felt incredibly vulnerable on a creative level. But it was the vulnerability itself that I felt other artists might relate to, and that by accepting the process of sharing that vulnerability, two things might happen: I would not only face my own demons, but, more importantly, that the exposure of being creatively lost would help other creatives. This morning’s pages spoke of the creative strength that has come from this process:

Perhaps, in a previous time, I may never have bounced back, let alone so immediately. Perhaps it would have set me back to a place of darkness, of no return. It is a place I know well – not a place I wish to return to.

Jugglers make the art of juggling look easy and uncomplicated. The dexterity associated with juggling is deceitful. It views as an act of simplicity, yet takes years of continual practice to achieve a level of mastery.

What can this teach me? That I need to be patient and kind to myself as a visual artist as it takes time to develop and grow creatively.

And that dropping the balls is part of the process of learning.

Photo: Sonya Rademeyer
                                                                                  Photo: Sonya Rademeyer

dot 26: portals

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

– James Joyce –

In his book Sinister Resonance David Toop explores the silent art of listening. It is a fascinating read in which sound and listening criss-cross literature, art, sculpture, poetry and paintings. Looking at the visibility of sound captured in 17th Century Dutch paintings, Toop specifically probes the Eavesdropper-series by the painter Nicolaes Maes. In this series of paintings, Maes typically paints a ‘captured moment of listening to what is, or should be, secret’ and where at least one other person is eavesdropping on someone else. Hence the title of the series.

Following Toop along his exploration of listening, I became interested in one of the compositional techniques used by the Baroque Dutch painters, namely that of doorsien. As an Afrikaans-speaking South African the word itself is comfortable in my mouth as in the Afrikaans language doorsien literally translates to ‘looking through’, conjuring up ideas of transparency.

In the 17th century, Dutch painters using the doorsien technique allowed for the viewer to look through into a secondary scene in the painting. Toop describes it as a ‘hole, opening or threshold’. However on the essentialvermeer.com website, doorsien is understood to mean to “plunge through.” This interpretation has less to do with the opaqueness of transparency than it has to do with shifting from one place to another. It is a shift not only of perspective but also of mind.

Having recently listened to a TEDx talk by the art historian Luke Syson, I am reminded of a similiar shift in thinking. Working primarily with the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci in the domain of the Italian Renaissance, he struggled to adapt to a position where his new focus included 18th century vases and ornaments. Syson goes as far as drawing the analogy between having to look at such useless objects to that of looking at car crashes. Both are utterly unbearable. It is only after he actually questions himself about his way of looking at such objects that he is able to say:

This vase – like a Leonardo da Vinci – is a portal to somewhere else.

The ‘mistake’ in front of him becomes the portal to greater discovery, as reminded by James Joyce. However, to make the discovery requires imagination where anything can become an object of the imagination that allows transportation to another space, a doorsien. Syson promises that any object can ‘become part of a journey everyday.’

Thinking about what the plunge could be for me personally, I am starting to sense that perhaps thinking itself is my doorsien. I am currently writing my morning pages and then recording myself reading them. Whilst listening to my voice recording of my thoughts, I create thought-tracking drawings which resembles eye-tracking in many ways.

My thought-drawings are becoming the impetus to new work.

They are my portal to my journey.

A thought-drawing
A thought-drawing                                                                                Photo: Sonya Rademeyer
  • David Toop:
  • Sinister Resonance: the Mediumship of the Listener (2010) / Continuum International Publishing Group / ISBN: PB: 978-1-4411-5587-0