Why is it that the more we come to understand the imperative for stillness, the more determinedly this ideal seems to elude us?
Replenished - Pastel on paper, 2003 - CB
I speak for myself here, of course - and, yes, situations are always of our own making. BBS (Buzzy Brain Syndrome) is no longer entertaining. Frankly, I'm feeling frazzled and fried, which is ridiculous, when you think we're only four days into February. The year is yet young and there's much to make, do, and (perhaps, more wisely) not do during the coming months... My head is constantly engaged with ideas, projects, schemes, images... no sooner is one set down than another pops its head up. I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to slow down, still down, be quiet, contemplative, mindful, measured... Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Suffice to say, it's an ongoing conversation. Right now, all the signs are here that I need to pace things more sensibly, pare things back, top the cup up.
Breaksea Chalice II - Pastel on paper, 2008 - CB
The other day, my rickety old mailbox delivered up a speeding fine - hmmm. I was not pleased. But, admittedly, it was perfect: a cautionary message sent to pounce on me at just the right time. In all honesty, I've had this fine coming for some weeks now, and not just because I happened to be driving too fast out near Broad Bay on a magnificent Sunday afternoon. Clearly, I need to put my foot on the proverbial brake. No one else can do it - after all, 'tis I who is sitting in the driver's seat. The thing is, I do know this - stillness and quiet are right up there when it comes to ideals I aspire to. Apparently, though, I sometimes need a remotely-operated speed gizmo to spell it out - 'S l o w d o w n, C l a i r e.' From time to time, one's internal authority figure gets nonchalant or forgetful or just plain tired.
As a way of countering busyness, I work. This may sound like a contradiction, but actually, it's not: when I'm in 'right relationship' with my work, then my work is my play. It's also my battery charger, my raging tiger, my wise counsel; my lap, my staff, my yardstick, my still point and compass. I depend a lot on drawing - the smudge of black on my hands, the smatter of dust at my feet - and my dream life for poise, discernment, balance. Another paradoxical element of creative - predominantly solitary - work is that it does not separate us from a sense of connection with our community. Solitude is diligent... it works in mysterious, intangible ways, connecting us all, despite the vagaries of life, time and place. It can be a companionable journey that leads us all, via our marvelously different routes, to the common wellspring. I wonder, is this your experience, too?
Bearings IV - Pastel on paper, 2002 - CB
I find that when I'm tired, I get thirsty. And when I'm thirsty, that's my reminder that it's time to make my way back to the water. I'm never fully at ease when away from it... neither literally, nor metaphorically. With this in mind, I've soaked my next big stash of paper, taped the patient white sails onto boards. My notebooks are fat, my hands and heart ready. Tomorrow, I hope, hope, hope the day will be uninterrupted so that I can jump in and make another big splash. Having said that, the images that keep floating to the top are spare: they have names like seven minutes silence/shimmer/still point/resound.
In August 2006, my South African printmaker friend Lyn Smuts, wrote 'Visual images are compelling exactly because they are multi-faceted objects. That which is visible, always implies all that is invisible.' (From the catalogue for SOUND STILL, Cape Town - curated by Katherine Glenday.)
In my bid to resist busyness, I've been trying to stay in the present, focused only on what is immediately in front of me. I've also been reflecting on the joys of collaborative partnerships, and the fact that distance need not be an obstacle when it comes to working collaboratively with others. To the contrary, distance contributes something unique and unexpected.
Back in 2006, I was fortunate to participate in SOUND STILL , an exciting cross-gender, cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary exhibition in which a group of nine artists, dancers and musicians (from South Africa, Austria and New Zealand) explored sound, movement and stasis, applying the characteristics of these complimentary states to the solo journey and to that of the group. It's been interesting to note how insistent certain of our preoccupations can be. Here's another excerpt from the same catalogue in which I was quoted as saying,
'Silence suggests an experience of absence or aloneness, whereas in fact, it can be one of presence and oneness. Stillness and silence are dynamic. They are potent spaces - ways of being that resonate with energy. Silence contains and emanates all the fullness of sound. Similarly, stillness is anything but static. It reveals our connectedness with - and separation from - our environment. It exposes memory, challenges reality and the imagined, highlights knowledge and ignorance of self and other. It accompanies us through life and death, teaches patience, protects innocence, encourages community.'
'At the still point of the turning world, is the dance,' wrote the brilliant Mr. T. S Eliot.