Any creative journey is a strange balance between knowing where you are going and being open to new things along the way.
On Thursday I headed off to see the Works on Paper show which is currently on at the Science Museum in London. A lot of it was not to my taste (historic maritime prints not for me) but there were also some gems to be discovered so it was an interesting collection: a Peter Lanyon painting on paper for £24,000 anyone?
I also found a gallery whose selection of work I did enjoy and for the first time plucked up the courage to talk to the owner about what he looks for in artists to represent. The realtionship between artist and gallery has to be a symbiotic one – they both have to benefit from the realtionship and until now it is something I have been wary of. I have seen too many artists repeatedly producing replicas because it’s what their gallery expects from them and what they know they can sell. I don’t want to be tied down to a particular style. Now, this may be my own inaccurate perceptions, or my nervousness that I haven’t yet found my own ‘style’ and I’m not ready for this stage.
I admitted this: “I’m not ready yet,” I said and the reply was “When you are, let me know. We are looking for artists who will still change but who know where they are going.”
After this I noticed another exhibition I hadn’t expected at all in the Science Museum: Nick Hedges’ work for Shelter “Make Life Worth Living”.
A series of a hundred small black and white photographs showing life in some of the poorest housing. Shockingly, not the 30s depression era, but taken between 1968 and 1972. This is the first time they have been on display to protect the identity of the subjects. As I moved along the eye level display I found I was increasingly moved; difficult to decide if the images are depressing or uplifting – possibly a mix of both; sometimes great human strength in very testing conditions, sometimes shock at the lack of my own knowledge.
A few still stand out in my memory: the blackened filthy bath in shared bathing facilities, the incredibly smart and proud man who had had no job for three months yet was still suited smartly amid the damp and dirty surroundings, the group of exuberant teenagers still displaying a lust for life despite their uneasy start, the children sleeping on a bed in a room with no windows, no bedding and no mattress.
It’s a unique and thought provoking set of images and I urge you to go if you get the chance. It was the most powerful thing I saw that day, but..
it hadn’t been my destination; it was my detour.
What if I had stayed hellbent on just seeing what I set out to see? In such a hurry that I just kept looking at where I was going and not allowed myself to deviate from my plan?
If we relate this to what we choose to do daily, ometimes the detours we take along the way can give us the most in return. A boost of something unexpected; a different viewpoint. Isn’t that an important part of what does, actually, make life worth living?
Do I know where I’m going? Maybe I don’t want to? Do you?
Make Life Worth Living is on until the end of February 2015 FREE second floor, Science Museum
Photograph credit: © Nick Hedges “Anarchy” Toxteth, 1969. National Media Museum, Bradford