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Art is a relationship

It has been quite awhile since my previous blog. I have experienced an emotional block and such a lack of connection with any ideas that fleetingly pass by.

It’s already understood that art is an extension of your emotional state so I guess it’s no wonder that I would be encountering obstacles…however,

Today, quite unexpectedly, as I was casually letting this ‘problem’ drift around in my mind as I watched TV, something new stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t a completely formed thought or a breakthrough, more a seed that in itself was an eureka moment.


One thing that instantly followed was I felt an urgency and visceral need to explore it in written form. Obviously writing is so closely related to other art forms…each being expressions of emotion, ideas, contemplation, and self. I had lost my feel for writing, along with other art and so feeling this need to write came as quite the surprise.


Ok, the lightbulb…

I had somehow realised that art wasn’t as simple as a connection of emotional self and the art that is produced, it seemed to be far greater and more complex than that. A realisation, query as to whether it was more akin to a symbiotic relationship. As full and complex, uncompromising in its survival needs and about art living within its host as both share a path. This made me realise that, if this were considered to be so, then the needs of both entities would bounce back and forth…the needs of both must be heard, and met by both individual parts.

Now, this is a very large leap from believing that art is a talent, a gift that a makes a person an artist. This is a concept that separates the two into individual parts that exist in symbiosis. It potentially changes whilst also explaining lots of things. It also suggests the existence of a  closeness where each has its own needs, desires, difficulties, joy and at times pain and conflict.

For this relationship to work, just like any human relationship, these needs must be recognised, respected and met.


Wow, ok so this requires some exploration!

I had only ever seen my art as an extension of who I am. I had already learned that it was crucial to allow and encourage the evolvement of the art in order to keep up with the transformations that occur within all artists/people, as we evolve through life. Walking that endless winding path of experiences, joys and pain, changes, and resets. What I had never ever considered was that art was (for me?) also a living entity in its own right.


If I try to explain this in terms that may help unpick this…

Say you have a pet, a dog perhaps. You know it has basic needs, food, shelter, stimulation, exercise and even love and attention. Most would look beyond this and create a bond whereby the dog interpreted the owner’s emotions and responded, to perhaps comfort when needed. The owner would notice nuances in their companion’s behaviours or personality and know when the pet was happy, sad or unwell. This is a relationship between two sentient beings and of course, a lot of people will be able to identify with this kind of relationship. If the dog is unwell or passes, there is a real validated response and impact on the owner. The same has been witnessed when a dog loses its owner after bonding.


Here, I’m suggesting an intangible entity with a ‘life force’ that requires a host in order to express itself.

Now I’m not trying to convert all science or start a debate on possibilities, rather a way of interpreting the creativity in such a manner as to assist, aid, benefit both the artist and the art.


If it were as simple as the art is ‘blocked’ due to depression, anxiety, disability…that wouldn’t explain how often the greatest creativity emerges from distress, take music for an example. Nor does it explain away how the ‘block’ cannot be defined and rectified by a process. There’s something…an X factor that is missing. Some part of and equation. So rather than take a stance of acceptance or attempting to debunk this as a concept, lets run with it and see if it provides a new way of approaching this ‘relationship’.

I had always interpreted art as a fundamental part of who I am. This may still be true, there’s nothing to suggest otherwise. I also have realised that regardless of how skilled, successful or acclaimed my art might be, it isn’t always at my ‘beck and call’. Sometimes it eludes me…even if fit healthy and happy…why?

I have today started to question what may be happening and what this relationship actually looks like, feels like, works like. I am realising that it is far more complex than ability, inspiration and technique.

What if the art, a gift that requires a host, has its own needs?

What if art has a voice, a language that I am yet to learn. A pattern that I have yet to notice. Maybe it has always been trying to communicate with me but I didn’t know I needed tom listen. How arrogant of me to accept all of its talent and gift as belonging to me solely?

How could this be helpful?

Good question. I’m only just exploring this but have a few thoughts and …well gut feelings.

I think that art needs to be fed, nourished, tended, nurtured, held when in distress or if lost and adrift. That art needs to be heard and seen. To be noticed whether full of energy, excitement whilst being carried by a flurry of lightening flashes of inspiration or feeling low and unheard.

When I create art, there are vital repeated moments where I allow myself to ‘lode’ myself, hand over all control and thought, all analytical thought to…instinct. I break these periods up with moments of standing back, examining principles of values, balance, structure and address imbalances as required. Every time I step in to achieve what needs to be done, I hand myself over completely to the emotions and instinct. It is the only way I achieve a successful painting or other art form.

Is that part that I call ‘instinct’ the art?

Have I been, for years, decades, taking all the credit for the entirety of the process when actually the ‘gift’, the art has been using me as its voice?


I could, in fact provide another metaphorical way of thinking of this relationship. What if we consider a sexual relationship! I’m not for one moment taking on a Freudian mindset, goodness no!

For example, if depression, anxiety or trauma befall the artist as a complex being, then the ability to ‘perform’ is impaired. Desires are washed away or locked behind walls of cold steel. The person becomes encapsulated in a membrane which keeps them from connecting and feeling the world and all it has to offer. Is it no surprise then that art becomes lost, outside of the artists’ reach. The artist cannot ‘perform’ or ‘respond’.

It could be argued that if the art was merely an extension of the self, then it too would be encapsulated but along with the artist and therefore always available?  But that isn’t the case, is it?

So, art must surely be a separate entity or part. One that seemingly has the ability to stay or walk away and not something that we, artists, lovers, pet owners, can fully control the outcome of. If being an artist requires taking on the role of host to a gift or talent named art, then isn’t this a joint symbiotic relationship?

As such, when one is separated from the other by life’s  course, pain or trauma, then the other is set adrift, waiting for its host or gift to return.

It doesn’t hold scrutiny that art is simply an empty vessel, waiting for the artist to fill with creativity. Why do artists experience an unexpected, unrivalled need, the urge, the necessity to create. To act on what speaks to them and without doing so suffers a lack of air to flourish?

To suppose that art is nothing more than a thought or feeling doesn’t explain the breakdown in the relationship. Art is far more complex and outside of our control than a simple utensil we decide to use when wished.


If I consider my relationship as artist to my art, I had thought I had nurtured, cared for and embraced it. Yet what I had only been doing was accepting with pleasure and sometimes relief, those moments when the two became so perfectly tuned that artwork emerged onto canvas, in clay, through textiles and steel. That was all I needed to do…follow the process of having a concept, exploring it, experimenting with materials, engaging fully with my emotions and then breaking these moments with objective analysis before re-entering the cycle for another rotation until, finally, the completed ‘work of art’ was there for me to see, feel, touch and understand.

If you imagine yourself to be the art in this relationship and your partner spoke to you only when it wanted to, fed, and nourished you only when they felt like it, put their needs before yours…in fact didn’t even recognise you had needs. Picked you up and put you down, locked you away…sometimes for weeks. Expected you to be there waiting, ready to ‘perform’ for them, at their whim…would you feel healthy, loved, valued, heard or would you feel used, empty, lifeless?


I realise this may well read quite bizarre as a concept. It may have been so for me too, although I doubt it. I really do believe that in order for me to hold a healthy relationship with my art, I need to consider what it needs and to be committed, attentive, gentle, loving, truthful and respect at times, ‘it’ too needs space and most of all…freedom to be whatever ‘it’ wants to be at any given moment.


Maybe it isn’t about the art evolving to keep up with my emotional evolution through life’s tough journey but that at times, the art may have evolved and it is I who am stuck and lagging behind?


Perhaps considering and starting to learn about being in a relationship with my art, accepting it as a separate incredible, complex essence, will be the beginning of finding my way to reconnect and hold that ‘conversation’. To learn how to hold a conversation, learn from one another, be there for one another and then, when we are both ready, take a step forward… together.

United because we BOTH choose to do so, not on the demands of the other, not because we are ‘expected’ to do what they say when they say.


One clear example of this theory having some validity for me is, as I mentioned briefly earlier... as soon as this realisation occurred today, I had to explore it through writing. Writing that had been out of my reach for many months now, just as art had been.

Maybe I’m starting to listen?


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