What does it mean to be a writer, and what does it take? I’m only in the very early stages of dabbling in writing, still finding my feet – or finding my voice, I should say. Posts come haphazardly because I don’t yet know how to throw something meaningful and well crafted out with anything like either frequency or regularity. I heard someone say recently that the best kind of writing is talking about the best bits of yourself. It expresses you, but the very best version of you and your voice that you can imagine. If that’s true, what do I want to say to people? And why in my everyday conversation do I not really think about that?
When I think about my art (which is about all I ever do with it these days) I realise that I’m motivated to express something profound about the act, the fact, of living. Of being human. That’s the very reason I started this blog too. In my introverted, reflective nature my art is a fundamental part of my speech. It’s how I seek to connect with others and express myself in a way I struggle with in everyday conversation. I’ve only begun to realise this recently – that I think I’m wired to articulate myself in creative ways and if I’m not doing that people are going to see me as being closed off from others. Clearly I need to bring it back into my life, including this writing, in a big way. Perhaps that’s why I hold back from investing myself in art – when I invest myself in it and put it on display, I put myself on display. And now that the thought’s occurred to me, I know it’s absolutely foolish. We all long for connection, long to open ourselves up, to know and be known. If we can’t let ourselves be vulnerable, we can’t know love.
And so I write. And hopefully sculpt. I’d be very happy for you to come along for the ride, if you can forgive the bad writing as I figure it out on the fly.
How do you connect with and open yourself up to others? And if you’re a writer, or any kind of artist, what does it mean to you? What motivates you?
My appreciation for Rembrandt is quite new and at this stage pretty uninformed. I’ve seen some reproductions of his work, and I can see in much of his work the touch of a master. There’s something truly beautiful and touching about this late self portrait. Even profound. Rembrandt painted an astonishing number of self portraits over his life, more than any other apparently, but, although his motivation is debated, it doesn’t seem that it was narcissism. See, as he grows older the self portraits develop beyond just depicting his external features to ‘the most penetrating self-analysis and self-contemplation…’ At least that’s what someone said here. And I see it. In his later work (which is the stuff I love most) Rembrandt has this amazing technique of painting the ethereal quality of light, and more than other masters of painting, I just feel he captures so much of the frail, tender humanness…of his own humanity, his inner self.
When I was studying contemporary art at uni I began to become interested in thinking about depicting the soul…and was heading in that direction when my degree ended and the daily grind dragged me away from it all…or at least, I let it drag me away. See, most depictions of the human figure in post modern art are all about the fragmentation of the self, they are portrayals of brokenness. Picasso was, I think, the first to really capture the sense of modern existential despair, but he wasn’t the last. Feeling isolated from yourself and others and society seems to be a fairly common experience. It certainly was mine through that time, and coming to grasp more deeply the promise in the Bible of a process of growing towards wholeness and restoration by trusting in Jesus Christ, I decided to pursue the artistic venture of depicting the wholeness of the human soul, united with and not divorced from the body, to convey what is profound and deeply valuable about human beings made in God’s image.
Anyway, I say all that mainly to get to the point that, looking at the searching self portraits and figures of Rembrandt – his own worldview steeped in that of the Bible – I think he beat me to it, and did it more beautifully and poignantly than I ever could. No need for tricks or weird depictions of the person. Just a richness and depth and sensitivity to the whole person. And I don’t mean to imply that that necessarily means an always cheery, shallowly sunny view of the world. Rembrandt had a hard life and his paintings do tend to portray him as, in the words of a friend of mine ‘a dour bugger’. Nor am I a stranger to the danger of an introvert becoming overly inward looking and navel gazing – it’s my natural tendency and I’ve experienced first hand the horror of letting it take hold. I always need to be intentional about getting out and into the world around me (and I think the extrovert carries in themselves the equal and opposite danger). But I love the rich subtlety of his humanity, as opposed to the cynical despair of the failed modernist dream in Picasso’s shattered visages, or post modernity’s ever skeptical deconstruction of the self without any real hope of a substance beyond the surface.
We’re complex. We don’t make sense. There’s something profound and rich and beautiful and messy and painful and joyful and just deeply, deeply meaningful about being human.
And that’s all I wanted to say. Thanks for listening.