Sunday, March 05, 2006


Many of the things I do are done intuitively. Going with 'the flow' has led me to interesting places that the intellectual mind (which thinks it knows all, but doesn't) cannot begin to imagine. In my life, I have come to trust that intuitive process. Naturally it guides the work I do and the way I operate.

Someone made the enlightening comment yesterday that I use 'any old thing' and 'call it art'. This is in reference to the window lamp, Diva. The person is quite correct - I often do use 'any old thing' (by choice). The simpler and more everyday the material, often the more it inspires me. The window I am currently using is a very 'old thing', for example. Perhaps a few decades old.

In situations where 'the artist' is not around to explain his or her vision, what does the viewer do when confronted with a piece of work that is not the straightforward poui-tree-around-the-savannah painting done in oils or acrylics? Does the person exclaim: "Dat not art!" and march off, angry that someone has dared to express themselves in a way that insults their intelligence? Sadly, this is often so. Rather than take the time to look deeper than the cliche and stretch one's mind a little to see what can be gleaned from the piece of work before them, many people's first impulse is to cast away what they do not understand. I find that a lazy approach not only to art, but to life.

Very often if someone asks me (about a piece I have done): "What does that mean?" I first ask them "What does it mean to you?" Sometimes people come up with things that I would never have thought of - to the extent that I myself am awed by the wonder of their explanation and by the vastness of the one piece. There are endless ways in which one piece can be interpreted, simply because, like fingerprints, each one of us has a unique way of viewing and expressing. To me, that is what art is. It is a process that results in that which invites people to think, discover and stretch themselves beyond the perceived boundaries of everyday life (whilst incorporating everyday life).

There are many times when I have seen art that does not move me or interest me or art that makes me go "Uh?" But, after my initial reaction, I often make the effort to stop and look, go deeper into it and find meanings. Whether what I see in the piece is what the artist meant or not is not the issue. There is a message in everything for each of us.

In 2001, when I had my first solo exhibition, of the people who came, many had this reaction upon entering the gallery: "Is this art?!" By the time they left the gallery, they were asking when the next exhibition would be. They had interacted, they had allowed their minds to open to something new, they had seen different parts of themselves. Not everyone can or will be able to do this and that is absolutely fine. I certainly don't expect everyone to feel, appreciate or understand what I do or the way I do it.

Anonymous, you can find a mind-boggling amount of all kinds of different art sites on the internet. I'm sure you will find what you are looking for with a few simple searches in Google.

I will end with a piece I wrote in 2001, reflecting (among other things) the power of one intuitively-made piece to deliver as many messages as each one of us is unique. Read between and beyond the lines.

It can be anything when I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.
It is everything when I don’t say what it is.
It remains dynamic when I let it be without changing.



Blogger Trace said...

oooohhh can of worms on the "but is it art" theory. i woul dlike to get into this but i must go to paint. haha.

i like to see this debate continue

8:16 AM  
Anonymous theglasshermitage said...

Well said, Elspeth, well said! I read a very interesting and funny post once on the Casting On blog. Webgrl would have lots to add to this discussion, having been on the receiving end of the critical tongue of a traditionalist/realist.

You can read her post at: The trees they look like popsicles

The scary thing is that she got this "abuse" from an art teacher!! and to make it worse, when she was at a very tender stage in her development as an artist. Weaker individuals would have been discouraged from pursuing their development as artists or even worse, made to imitate what was considered "acceptable" art.

What shines through here with you both, Elspeth and Webgrl, is that your trust and confidence in the creative urge, as well as your worth as artists will keep you true to your visions.

Anonymous, your skepticism as expression of your discomfort is the starting point not for battle or outright dismissal, but for dialogue, which if engaged in with respect, can benefit both the artist and critic.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous theglasshermitage said...

Forgot to mention, I love the poem.

It can be anything when I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.
It is everything when I don’t say what it is.
It remains dynamic when I let it be without changing.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Webgrl said...

"a piece of work that is not the straightforward poui-tree-around-the-savannah painting done in oils or acrylics? "

ooooooooh ellspethhh!
You can't see it but before i typed i stood up and clapped at my monitor
Thank you!
We've had this conversation just last week.
I agree with trace 'can of worms' but i think its a can that was opened and needs to stay open.
If my work doesn't look like the aforementioned acrylic pouis (etc) which it most certainly does not, i don't get respect from a lot of people. When i paint the watercolor orchid, i do. I'll admit that when i first met you and was introduced to your art i was jealous of how open you were and sure of what you were creating and had the balls to put it out there. I also wasn't sure what kind of response you would get (forgive me the evil art teacher bitch was very much still in my head back then!). I am continually inspired by your pursuit of truth and beauty through your artistic expression. It’s helped me to be a bit more daring and true to my own art.
I'm learning that not everyone will love or 'understand' what we do but as long as we keep doing it and are persistent, truthful, happy and fulfilled by it, its going to be worth it.

glasshermitage thank you for your comments on my blog and yep this is definitely one of my sore topics that i lovvvvvve to go on about!
Its also why i am somewhat frozen by the idea of exhibiting locally!
I've dipped my little toe in but am a bit nervous about jumping in. Somehow, this post revved me up again and i just may do it, even if only to 'show them' and for the HA!HOWYA LIKE DEM APPLES!' Factor as well :)

2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have come to realise that you are not open to hearing what anyone has to say about your work/ try to justify everything by leaving it as an open ended question...yes that can work sometimes but not all the time.

i am not saying that if you used a new door it would be different i am just saying to ME it seems like any old thing u using to call it art...

at the end of the day if that is what makes you happy...good for you.


relax its not that serious...everything doesn't need a foot long explaination.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Webgrl said...

"relax its not that serious...everything doesn't need a foot long explaination." Anonymous (commenter)

Zactly. Its open to your own interpretation. She doesn't have to explain anything.
Also anonymous, what is art anyways?

10:34 PM  

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