Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Dark and the Light and Everything In Between - Art to Make Life More Bearable

Nicki Edgell

I was recently invited to an exhibition of pottery work by local ceramics artist Nicky Bryant. Her pots were lovely - organic and pitted, uneven and rough around the edges and to the touch, extremely earthy in feel and colour. Nearly all were creams and browns and stone colours and some looked almost burned like charcoal. They were very tactile and I wanted to pick them up, hold them, run my fingers over them, and even taste them. They felt a bit pagan, female and sensually fertile. Some looked very old, like things that had been buried for centuries, reminding me of Roman water carriers or African earthenware. Most had little red sold dots on them indicating a successful exhibition.

Aside from the ceramics on display Nicky had mounted a personal bio about the exhibition on the wall by the entrance, about how it almost didn't happen, and what the achievement represented for her personally as an artist, and for creative women both in her home town of Lewes, and everywhere. The beautiful words struck me in their profound honesty and insightfulness; I took a photograph and reproduce them below with Nicky's permission.

This exhibition very nearly didn't happen...

As late as Monday evening, I wanted to cancel, to say, I can't do this, to apologise for wasting everyone's time and to quietly pack my work away without attention.

Creativity can be joyful, a finding of calm, a working out of ideas and a place to think. And for many amazing Lewes women, it is a chance to shine, to literally fly to foreign climes in the pursuit of their creative career and an Instagram feed filled with perfection.

That said, I feel strongly the need to acknowledge those for whom creativity is not the key to eternal happiness.

I know a stream of wonderfully talented women who make, in isolation, the most beautiful pieces of work that never get seen. Instead of flight, these makers can sometimes be weighed down with darkness and over-thinking.

Creativity without confidence is essentially a curse. It comes with self-doubt, self-criticism, an urge to apologise for not quite being good enough, a promise to do better next time, and a willingness to accept and take on any criticism that someone might like to offer. That these women continue to create, is what draws me to them, and makes me honoured to call them my friends.

For me, this exhibition is the marking of a line in the sand. A beginning.

These pots, while fewer in number than I had hoped, are the things that I have made in the space between the episodes and experiences that have made up my life over the last few months.

Being happy with who I am, as a maker, a mother, a friend, a socially responsible human being, and cutting myself some slack within that, has taken me a long while, but I think I am finally there.

Nicky Bryant

The Pursuit of Creation

I think so many people could relate to these words. We so often hear that someone is creative (and by implication someone else is overlooked for not being creative and is assumed incapable of ever being so). But so many of us are creative, or could be creative, without even realising. It's about going with your creation, whether it be painting, music, writing, origami, poetry, or furniture making.

But is it "good"? - it really doesn't matter. What is "good" anyway? Art especially is subjective and personal. Does it serve a purpose for you as a creator? Yes, it does. Humans have a desire to leave something behind, whether be it a novel, a painting, children, a building, or a memory at least, some kind of legacy. Nicky's pots will last - they have been created and will live on for hundreds of years. Some might even get buried and uncovered millennia from now after our current civilisation has long turned to dust!

Writer Kurt Vonnegut implored people to simply create - whether this be bad poetry or out of tune singing in the shower, creation is food for the soul and the pursuit and appreciation of art is "a very human way of making life more bearable... To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."

I've dabbled in several areas of creation. I've created art, music, stories, websites, and a particularly rustic garden wall which gives me alot of pleasure and a sense of achievement everytime I see it and think of it's creation and how, like Nicky's pots, it should last for centuries. Even in my daily administration of emails and spreadsheets at the office I try to do something a bit creative with my language, layouts and fonts! This blog of course is another example - I don't know how many people read it but it provides a degree of vain pleasure and a cathartic form of expression like a personal diary or journal.

I have accepted what is 

Do I worry about how "good" any of it is? Yes, indeed, of course I want to be good and admired. But it's not so important as it used to be. I'm much more inclined just to go for it now and forego the neverending pursuit of perfection.

It used to have to be perfect. If I could not play a piece on classical guitar perfectly it wasn't worth playing. If I made a mistake in cricket and got out for a duck then I would brood for days and conclude I wasn't good enough and should just give up. But now I have reached a maturity where things don't have to be perfect for me to enjoy their creation. I'm not going to play for England, and I plateaued a long time ago in my abilities as a musician having never attained the goals I had set for myself in my teens and early twenties. 

But what of people who don't even try, or hide their efforts or talents? Nicky writes creativity without confidence is a curse. The curse of self doubt. Is it good enough to go public? Or is it better to just publish and be damned. Will you risk being publicly shamed or will you be surprised at the positive reactions? It is a common trait for people to hide and never reveal themselves. But despite the hard work and stress involved in many creations or pursuits I'm always glad I tried and I'm sure Nicky also feels a sense of satisfaction, achievement and contentment, that would not have occurred if she had succumbed to the last minute temptation to cancel.

Is Usain Bolt the Fastest Man on Earth? 

When I go to watch my local team Brighton play football, sometimes I look at the players on the pitch and think there must be someone in this crowd of 25,000 who could do better, but it's the ones on the pitch who have got themselves there, whether it be through talent, drive, hard work, vision or even circumstance (or most likely a combination of all of these). Is Usain Bolt really the fastest man on earth, or are there other people around who would be faster but haven't ever tried (or had the opportunity) so they (and us) will never know? 

The opposite of creativity without confidence is presumably non creativity with confidence. We all know people who are not particularly creative or talented or knowledgeable but have the confidence to project themselves and their work - essentially the confidence to "go for it" and it's their confidence that feeds their achievement moreso than the actual quality of their work.

I've talked mostly on art specifically here but in the wider context it's about going for it, whether your "it" is art, or anything else that makes you tick; following your passion, having a purpose, whatever that may be, is one of the best things you can do to achieve success and happiness. 

More of Nicky Bryant's work can be viewed at https://www.instagram.com/nickybryantceramics/?hl=en

About the Author

Nicki Edgell

I am a clinical Psycho-neuro-immunologist, Metabolic Balance Coach, Natural Nutritionist and Independent Nikken Consultant. I practice in Brighton in the South of England, helping individuals and groups towards the health, vitality and the life they want for themselves. I work under the principle that wellness depends on a balanced holistic approach to living, in all areas of your life: your body, mind, family, community and financial health all have an impact on your wellbeing.


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