I didn't manage to blog last week - and this week has still been all about moving house. I don’t know if this is the longest house move in history, but it has been going on for over a year now (with a break over Christmas). Because we are returning to live in my old family home, there has been a lot of work to do at both ends, and now we are mostly moved in, we are dealing with issues such as finding pre-1970s round-pin electric sockets.
It all highlights the issue of our wasteful, materialistic world in my mind. I can forgive the hoarding tendencies of my parents’ generation, who lived through wars and experienced such deprivations from poverty and the loss of homes and possessions during the bombing raids; it’s little wonder they couldn’t bring themselves to discard things easily, or that they took such delight in ‘Special Buys day’ at Aldi. However, it is a question which troubles both Bernard and myself as artists, and I am sure many others, too: when there is already so much landfill, plastic waste, and toxins building a poisonous crust and filling the seas of our beautiful planet, how can we justify adding to it with what we create as our work?
For both of us, the answer began to form back in 2009. Bernard had been working as Energy Adviser in the village close to where we were living, and was coming home with advice and information. Around that time, I made the conscious decision to work using only simple, natural materials on paper. Bernard also switched to working on paper and small scale wood panels coated with natural gesso, mixing his own oil paints from flax oil and pigments. I also stopped making pottery; I had been developing glazes to fire at lower temperatures to be a little more eco-friendly, which was a good idea, but the tidal-wave of objects which made their way from the kiln into the house every time there was a firing was something I couldn’t cope with - not good enough to sell, yet every piece a treasured moment of creation, and creating one clod-hopping footprint on the environment just from my hobby. Unfortunately, the creative process is wasteful: “Art is messy”, as Sean Scully says. The struggle to find one’s own voice leaves a mangled trail of detritus in its wake of frightening proportion (have you ever seen the art school bins at the end of term?)
I do think, however, that there is hope. In general we are all becoming more mindful of our practices, and I have recently been delighted to teach young people whose minds bear a much greater sophistication and awareness in such matters than I have ever had. The strange thing is, by narrowing our practices and setting restrictions, both Bernard and I are both happier in our work than ever before.
Here is a link to Bernard's website: bernardmgriffiths.co.uk
Thanks for visiting, see you next week!