What is the point of art? In times like now, when massive social and emotional upheaval exists, we are wise to focus on what’s important in life. The health and wellbeing of those we love and ourselves. Security and provision, mental wellbeing. All these things matter.
I used to question the value of art. I lost my father the week before my first A level art exam. Visiting him in hospital during the allocated preparation time for the exam. When I was preparing, I wanted to be with him in hospital. We knew what was coming and every moment left was precious. I remember the shock when he died, no amount of preparation prepares you for that, life had changed and I carried on. The exam seemed trivial and I failed it. Disappointed I intended to retake it, but never did. Art felt shallow, vacous and a waste of time. I diverted my attention to study Occupational Therapy in Oxford and buried my emotions. Focusing on a course that was hard. I stuggled and, again I failed. Retaking exams and a placement, I finally qualified some 18 months after my year group.
During this period, I revisited art in an attempt to restore my confidence, I’d barely drawn since I finished A levels. I enjoyed the process but never felt that thrill I’d experienced at school. Other things took over and I gave art little thought. I coped with life.
Some years later, when I was stuggling as a parent and had stopped Occupational Therapy so I could focus on my family, I started exploring art, making cards and creating scrapbook pages. It suddenly dawned on me, there had been something missing. Art. That thrill of creating something from nothing. A sense of satisfaction that cannot be achieved any other way. For the artist, that is the point of art, an immense sense of a job well done, of bringing something into being that nobody has ever seen before, it’s addictive! Ask any artist.
Up until then, I hadn’t really looked at art, other than as part of visits to stately homes. To be honest I found most portraits and landscapes dull.I still do to an extent.And contemporary art…don’t get me started.
Fortunately there were people around who were wiser than me and suggested looking at art, the more the better. Educating myself took time and numerous visits to galleries, art fairs and exhibtions. I experiemented and drew every moment I could. My early drawings and paintings make me cringe. I transitioned from portraits and caricatures to abstracts to architecture. Evolving a style that worked for me.
Fast forward some years and in 2011/2012 I did a residency at Westbury Arts Centre. This was the point I finally felt like I was an artist.The MK Project Commission was my first comprehensive body of work. Up until then I worked on individual pieces. So we come to the painting of the week, taken from that series.
The Vision of Milton Keynes, It’s the Point, sadly neglected now, for anyone travelling to Milton Keynes in the ’80s or ’90s, this was the first glimpse. A red glowing pyramid visible from miles away. The series intention was to show the beauty within the city. And that is the point of art, whether you’re finding inspiration by looking at it or reconnecting with your soul while you create it, art is important. Art helps you connect with the world on a deeper level. It speaks to us in language that cannot be expressed in words.It lifts spirits and improves our well being, and anything that improves your well being reduces your risk of being ill. I’m not saying that it’s a cure for physical illness, but the power of morale is not to be underestimated.
Art is the best form of therapy and of keeping sane in a mad world. Art brings a richness to life beyond mere existence.The qualities it brings are not tangible, but there are as real as breathing. Art allows us to demonstrate love, to process emotions. It give us purpose when we need to hide from a scary and changing word. Art gives us courage when we are afraid and allows us some control something when control of all else is lost. I could go on. As Churchill said when advised to divert funds from the arts for the war effort, “Then what are we fighting for?” Art may not be able to cure deadly illnesses, but it keeps our morale up during this period of enforced isolation.
So, if you feel walls closing in, check out some art. Any art at all, it doesn’t have to be mine, although I’ll really appreciate if you do!