Anyone who is interested in art, creativity and how the use of our imagination can enliven and awaken us would do well to listen to this year’s Reith Lectures on Radio Four, delivered by Grayson Perry.
“I found myself in art” – says Grayson Perry.
Here’s what the BBC website says about Perry’s fourth lecture and the importance of meaning in peoples’ lives that can be found through art.
“In the last of his four Reith Lectures, recorded in front of an audience at Central St Martins School of Art in London, the artist Grayson Perry discusses his life in the art world; the journey from the unconscious child playing with paint, to the award-winning successful artist of today. He talks about being an outsider and how he struggles with keeping his integrity as an artist. Perry looks back and asks why men and women throughout history, despite all the various privations they suffered, have always made art. And he discusses the central purpose of creating art – to heal psychic wounds and to make meaning.”
For a full transcript of the lectures, click on the link below.
Not only did he find himself in art but he allowed himself to find himself in art. How many of us do this in our busy lives? How many of us have a hidden talent or a need to express ourselves in any choice of art form, but are either too busy or too reticent to do so?
We don’t even need to be talented. We just need the will to free ourselves. We need to explore the possibilities that art can give us. We need to open our minds to our own potential – not the potential to be the next Van Gogh or Jane Austen or David Bailey or Henry Moore or Grayson Perry – but the potential to be in our element, enjoying something that we like doing and freeing our mind from the more mundane parts of life.
Never is this more important than in our schools, where we should be giving our children and young people the opportunities to explore their potential in a range of art forms – drawing, painting, sewing, drama, learning a musical instrument, pottery, photography, topiary – anything that enables them to use their imagination and create something that’s unique to them.
With the development of computer technology, with tablets and smart phones more readily available, this is even easier. In previous blogs we’ve mentioned programmes such as “GarageBand” – where you can compose music – or “Brushes”, a programme that the artist David Hockney uses with incredible effect. We don’t need expensive sound or art studios these days to create something that is our own form of art that we can choose to share with others or keep to ourselves, refining until we’re happy with the end product.
Grayson Perry spoke eloquently about the importance of art in his own life but also spoke of what it can bring to others. He also talked about the importance of art as therapy – not just in a formal way such as the brilliant “Art Room” that helps children who are experiencing emotional and behavioural problems (http://www.theartroom.org.uk/ ), but for all of us as a therapeutic enabler in life. We need to allow ourselves time to think and to stop thinking, to go with a flow that is both instinctive and uses our knowledge of art. We need time to create for ourselves and we need to lose the inhibitions of the “self-consciousness” that Grayson Perry rightly describes as debilitating for adults.
Perry quoted Picasso’s famous phrase about art. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Obviously we would agree with both Picasso and Perry. Every child is an artist but what are we doing as educators – parents, carers and teachers alike to ensure that firstly every child has an opportunity to express themselves through art, and secondly that they don’t develop those nasty inhibitions that prevent them from continuing to be an experimental artist throughout their lives?
Firstly, we’ve got to give them the opportunity through making the art subjects accessible and enjoyable. We’ve got to get out and show them great art, and provide environments that stimulate their imagination. Secondly, we’ve got to stop labelling children as “good” or “outstanding” or “lacking” in ability when it comes to art. How many of us adults have been stymied in our own journey through art because somebody told us that we weren’t very good at drawing or singing or dancing? As teachers we need to be extremely careful about the words we use to ensure that no child ever thinks they’re incapable of being an artist.
Art is intelligence personified. There’s sometimes an instinct to draw or sing, plus an inherent ability. We use our knowledge of music, for example, to create sounds for ourselves or we remember the work of a great artist and produce something of our own that’s influenced by what we might have seen in a magazine or an art gallery. Art is socially intelligent – bringing people together; talking about art, working together, sharing, empathising with the artist and their subject. It’s personal too. We all have our own tastes in art, and our reaction to art is extremely personal. We all have our preferences for self-expression, and art can make us see ourselves more readily. Art is physical. It requires enormous dexterity and full use of the senses. Through art, we experience awe and wonder – a sense of the spiritual.
This is why art is so important and this is why we should ensure that children and young people receive the sort of education to which they’re entitled, where art is imbedded in everything they do, where the language and experience of art is as important as the spoken word or the ability to read and write.
Here are some quotes from Grayson Perry’s Reith Lecture. Enjoy listening and viewing more about the Reith Lecture here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00729d9
“The best artist takes a long time to find their voice.”
“Becoming an artist is an advanced course in self-consciousness.” [and awareness?]
“The need for self-expression is very deep.”
“You can intellectually engage with something very quickly; to engage emotionally and spiritually can take a long time.”
“Abundant production can only result in mediocrity.
“Art is the shed in your head.”
“To appreciate art you’ve got to work at it a bit.”
“It’s important to make art because the people that get the most out of art are the ones that make it.”