I took “O” level art to be with a best friend but the Van Gough in me refused to surface. At the end of the year our best pieces took up residence on the walls of the art corridor. My friend’s art work was gazed at in awe. People reached out hands to grab an apple from the bowl of fruit. They gazed into the eyes of a portrait and thought they could see the person’s soul.
My part of the wall? Averted eyes and low mumbles – yes, they really could have done better, blind-folded with both arms tied behind their backs and wielding the paintbrush between their toes. I make no bones about my apparent lack of talent.
Yesterday the Poetry in Motion folk were at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Katy Dove’s art was on display – animations, paintings, drawings, prints and music. Her art is modern.
What makes her art art? My coloured blobs and lines back then wouldn’t have been out of place next to hers. My art was scorned and hers are shown in an exhibition! Why is that? What makes her an artist? And me…not an artist?
I can understand the animation thing and the music thing – I can’t do those things. The blobs and the lines – that’s my style. I’m not jealous of her notoriety. I am just genuinely curious about what makes one picture art and another not art.
Katy studied psychology. Part of her art work was about how colour and shape affect the conscious mind. Dulux worked that one out – rooms painted blue make us shiver. One room I once inhabited was painted yellow. I dare you not to smile in a yellow room. Mood and colour, mood and music – I can see where the psychology comes in. Her inspiration for music came from nature and natural sound – a bicycle wheel turning, a bird chirping and the water-tumble of a brook.
The task was to write something inspired by the exhibits.
The first half dozen pictures contained the words “Yes”, “Look”, “Listen” and “Welcome”. The letters fell down the page accompanied by swirls of colour. The shades were mostly pastel colours. Some of the brushstrokes were very light, some of the a little heavier. None of the shapes seemed to have a definite shape or form. Sometimes it seemed as if water had been dropped onto some colours and the shapes blurred at the edges. I don’t think there was ever an “I don’t like that” moment for me, but neither was there a “Gosh, that’s incredible!” moment either. It was all too pastel coloured.
The phrase “pastel shaded words” came to mind and a poem was born.
Pastel Shaded Words
we speak to one anotherwith pastel shaded words
light and insubstantial
that tumble and drift
whispered, then blown away
we grant each other permission
to cut and colour
bold, intense, anaemic, pale
to fashion and shape
what’s agreeable to the ears
absolutes watered down and smudged
not dark enough to offend
not crisp enough to compel
and so one day we
wake to silence
After a little time spent writing, we shared our poems. Even in their first draft form the poems were amazing. My response each time was “I wish I’d written that.”
To step out of the busyness of life, to find space to look, to gaze, to dream a little – we need that. And to respond, to acknowledge that we were there and we saw – that’s what poetry is all about.