I don’t frequent art galleries; I spend as much of my time ‘out of the office’ in music venues. This is generally the art which speaks to me.
My friends are all of the creative variety. My best friend studied Media at university and likes to paint. She’s a primary school teacher, so probably has to be a bit creative. Another friend is an Art teacher at a Secondary school. She is visually creative, her wardrobe a rainbow of textures and patterns and always on the lookout for something to photograph. Then there’s the Taekwondo instructor who has written her own book. And, I guess there’s me, who writes this blog and other bits and bobs for anyone who’ll accept it.
Back to my initial point. I don’t frequent art galleries. I mean, I’ve been to Feren’s a couple of times and tend to visit the big galleries in London when I visit the bestie. But I don’t instinctively think of visiting them when I’m just simply bored and looking for something to do. This is when I get the laptop out and either start writing or seek out the next gig on in order to have something to write about.
My music writing isn’t technical. My photography is becoming more so, in order to capture the moment as it felt for me. This is the reason I write, the aim I have when I put finger to keyboard. I want to capture the moment of ecstasy, of awe, of mind-boggling joy. And this is art. I – to use a cliché – paint with words.
For Halloween I was covering the Hulloween events, and stepped foot into the Alive with Art gallery currently located nextdoor to the Union Mash Up restaurant. There I watched Martin Lewsley, who also goes by the name Martin Yelswel, perform to a small gathering of people. I glanced at the artwork, and I pointed out one or two I rather liked to a friend, had a little chat about it. But I couldn’t discuss the technical details in the way I can dissect Great Expectations or The Hunger Games. “…there’s nothing technical about art really. It either works for the person or it doesn’t” Martin Lewsley told me when discussing the events of the weekend. He was one of the organisers for Hulloween, alongside friend and co-organiser of the Alive with Art gallery, Anna Bean and local musician Lloyd Dobbs, of Paddingtons and Hillbilly Troupe fame.
I considered this statement.
My grandma painted when she was younger. A stroke caused her to lose the ability to hold a paintbrush securely in her left hand. It took her agonising years to confidently show us some of her work, which always focused on the beauty of nature around us. My mum has a stunning picture of hers in her bathroom, of delicate purple flowers. My grandma is a watercolour artist.
Across the road from her, a lad with cerebral palsy used to paint (I don’t know if he still does), using his mouth as the tool to hold the brush.
If I think about it enough, everyone I know has a creative outlet. It doesn’t have to be the thing everyone is doing or the obvious forms of Art, but the thing which gives you that opportunity to express your true self. Even my dad, who can come across as cold and bereft of emotion, has his outlet in rebuilding and redesigning motor vehicles; his pride and joy having been his custom-built motorbike.
Art is the drug which guides us to positive emotion. Whatever form of creativity works for you, works.
I was saddened, though I’d been there only the once, to hear that the Alive with Art gallery is closing this week. Next week, no doubt, it will be another bar among bars on Princes Avenue. Martin explained that he and Anna had set it up as a “platform for local artists”, but it is something which takes a considerable amount of both time and money.
Like me, he has to work in order to pay the bills, casting his creative passions into an additional net alongside that which sustains existence. I am fortunate enough to be able to link my passion in with work, leading a Young Journalists Club for my students and being a concrete example of how and why to write. This is a reflection of the pop-up society in which we work in. The drive to exist is often stronger than the drive to live.
I didn’t start writing this with any agenda. It literally popped up as Martin messaged me to inform me of the closure of the gallery, and stemmed into a discussion of art, creativity and the barricades which need jumping over in order to sustain our passions. I’m not even trying to suggest that the jobs we take on are a burden to creativity, though they can be. I love teaching, and have always loved teaching, but I need to write. Just as musicians need to make music, artists need to paint what they want to paint.
And so, I urge you to visit the Alive with Art gallery on Princes Avenue if you get the chance in these last few days. And I ask you, as I will tell myself, to test the water of all arts. Listen to a different genre of music today – recently I have fallen in love with ska – or pick up a book from the shelf opposite your usual corner of the bookstore. Consider the person behind the art. If it’s not for you, don’t worry. If you find something new and exciting, bonus. There will always be at least that one person who is grateful you made the effort.