Thursday, 21 April 2016

Musing On Art

I have recently taken to painting again. Art was a childhood love along with singing and dancing, oh and acting. My best friend at primary school and I once ended up putting our self written plays on stage for the whole school. The teachers thought Aggie and Mildred with their posh accents and our mother's costume jewellery were hilarious. We also did cockney women discussing their washing and the price of eggs over an imaginary fence. This was late 70's Zimbabwe. All our cultural influences were British, and a little hackneyed. Last year I staged my first play in London and I recently had a small crack at something reasonably innovative for the stage involving all my loves: God, poetry, dialogues, music, song, visual art and dance. I did it for the joy of it and the exuberance I felt at eleven was the same. Collaborating with the actors was even more fun than the writing of it.

From 2000-2013, I was a novelist. There were exciting times - winning things, good reviews, appearances. Pressure came. To succeed. To perform. In 2013, I looked into the faces of my children and my husband and into my own spirit and began to question my motivations and why I create. So, after the birth of my last child, I decided to lose my agent and 'lay down' my own writing career to help develop other writers for our fledgling publishing company. In the process, I have been rediscovering what an artist actually is. Over the past few years I have had the privilege of nurturing three very talented individuals and publishing another writer, whose work has beauty in it - simply for that reason; I knew we were unlikely to make money from this project, but time will tell. The point is, we are not motivated by money, which is just as well, all things considered. We did it for the beauty - for the soul of the writer, that was in the work.

During the time I was 'successful' as a writer, in that I won a national writing award, had a well -known agent, garnered good press and sold thousands of copies of my first book, I lost my way. I was no longer an artist, looking to reveal beauty and truth; my 'success' was based on opinion, sales, attention, feedback: in short, the opinions of others. Recently I rediscovered some of my contemporaries from my days of agents and awards and fuss over being a 'writers of the future.' I felt a pang - for  what? Their fame? I questioned my wisdom for leaving. But then the wise person I live with reminded me why I left. I did it for the art.

My art needs to exist on the edges. It comes from me and that is where I have always thrived best. Of course I am thrilled when people like and respond to my work, but I don't want to be part of a production machine that brings expectation and direction. It limits. The best art lives in a transcendent space where expectation and deadlines do not transgress. What happens after that is up to the artist, of course. I think motivation is key. Art must come from the heart, unclouded by the expectations of the surrounding culture and all that arises from it.

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