I’m currently doing Alyson Stanfield’s Blast Off course. It’s challenging and intense but I’m finding it incredibly revealing and useful. One of the daily lessons was about reconnecting with what made us want to be artists in the first place. Here’s what I wrote on the subject:
I’ve been thinking back to some of the ecstatic points in my life that made me an artist.
1. I would have been about 16 – 17. I was still in secondary school and we were taken on a visit to Glasgow university. I had some free time and went into the Hunterian art gallery, where I was utterly transfixed by a full size Victorian/Edwardian painting of a woman. I can’t remember who it was by – I think it was possibly John Singer Sargent – but I sat there for about an hour, totally engrossed in it, with tears running down my face.
2. Standing in the SacrÃ©-CÅ“ur in Paris with clear December sunlight streaming through the Rose Window while the choir sang in Latin.
3. Seeing Eva Hesse’s drawings for the first time – I’d always loved her sculpture but the subtlety of her grey-toned drawings blew me away when I saw them in real life.
4. Walked round a corner in the Pompidou Centre and being confronted with Cubist paintings by Picasso. I was in my early 20’s and had only been seriously drawing for about three years. I had seen them previously about two years before and been singularly unimpressed – at the time I liked the Impressionists and I thought Cubism was ‘modern rubbish’. However, when I saw them for the second time I’d done a lot more art history reading and I suddenly got it. It was a surprisingly visceral moment, like a punch to the stomach! It’s a moment that’s stuck with me because it reminds me that even if I don’t initially like or understand a piece of art, it’s always worth taking a second look because my understanding of the visual world is constantly evolving.
But my defining moment was when I was 18 years old, sitting in an English lecture at college and getting absolutely FURIOUS at the way the lecturer was completely pulling this book apart and remaking it in his own image. I found it so disrespectful, I was sat there thinking, “write your own damn book, mate!” and it suddenly hit me, “I don’t WANT to do this, I want to be the person MAKING things, not the person analysing other people’s things!”
Now I look back and I think, yes, THAT was the moment when I stepped through the looking glass!
I’ve had many other meaningful encounters with art in my life but those are a few that stand out. Was there a defining moment in your life that took you down the path you’re on now? Have you ever experienced a piece of art that overwhelmed you with emotion? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear about it…