What’s the point of art?

Today a really interesting discussion emerged from the participants as they worked. I’m always fascinated by how workshop time passes- usually at the beginning people start to get to know each other, or rekindle their conversations and relationships from the previous time they met. The noise levels rise and it’s hard to get into the zone, to focus, but then something truly magical happens.

As people get sucked into their work, as I, hopefully, help settle them and help them work out how and with what materials they’re going to work, the space becomes quieter. Sips of tea and my quiet padding out to the kitchen to refill the teapot seem to be the only sound as each artist becomes engrossed and enters that special state where magic happens.

Sometimes I might just say something as I check out what’s going on, a comment about how effective a mark is, a colour combination or perhaps a suggestion for a different material, but much of the time, for me it’s about just being, being in an amazing environment, feeling the energy and calmness, simultaneously, that engulfs the space.

Today, nearing the end of the session, one of the participants suddenly said her left side of the brain had kicked back in, telling her she was wasting her time, what had she been doing the last two hours, wasting her money, what’s the point of painting…?
She was quite upset by it, and I felt a responsibility to help her accept those feelings but also to give herself permission to disagree with them.

So we talked about it.

It’s ok to feel like this, it’s ok to wonder what the point it; we live in a society where we’re pretty much told it’s a waste of time, from the moment our primary school teachers tell us there’s a certain way to paint, to draw, to the time at secondary school we have to choose between a third science and art GCSE, to when we’re told that subjects such as art and music are unacceptable for Russell Group Universities, to being questioned (in my case) how someone who had studied music could possibly be a lawyer….it is totally normal to have these feelings

but it’s also ok, very much ok, to do the art and be in that magic space. So much of what makes us human, what makes us perhaps different from all other animals, is that we need that creativity, that shapeshifting, spaceshifting power that all arts can give us. It’s what makes us exist, live, experience, rather than just live and die. We need to take risks, we need to live a little dangerously in order to live at all. It is dangerous, indeed reckless, to not live like this. By clamping down on the creative, the imaginary, the magical, we kill ourselves slowly. And I know this from my own personal experience.

So allow yourselves to be moved, be emotional, be reckless, be excited, be somewhere else. Find whatever it is that helps you get to that space- I really do believe everyone can experience it through art, music, drama, writing- and without it we are nothing. Less than nothing.

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