A week walking in the Yorkshire Dales and then a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park with its new Sean Scully exhibition has left my senses thrilled and my thoughts questioning the ability of art to communicate even the vaguest inkling of past experience.
The landscape shapes, the autumn colours, the wind, the sun, the rain. All feel so alive, so real, and so tangible in the moment of experience. But a nagging obsession with how to interpret, transmute and communicate these experiences through art is heavy, burdensome and I think futile.
One approach would be to make the art in the moment of experience – to paint from nature and to paint in nature. But to what end? Firstly, it has so very much been done before and done exquisitely by some of the greatest artists of their times. Secondly, I can’t at the moment see the value in trying to share a secondhand experience. It used to fascinate me; how to rekindle through abstraction and simplification the essence of my own experience in the viewer of the art; but now it seems sterile, like describing the flavour of a strawberry in the hope of sharing the experience of its taste. The only thing of value is to create something which provides a new, immediate and fresh experience for the viewer at the moment they encounter it.
And so to the sculpture park.
Sean Scully is an artist who also writes and I often turn to his books for provocative ideas. This was the first time I’d seen a collection of his work in one place, and what a place. Yes, there are some new monumental sculptural works in the landscape, but they didn’t seem as eloquent to me as the juxtaposition of his paintings and smaller sculptures in the glass fronted long gallery that overlooks the park.
Scully’s paintings respond to many aspects of his interior and exterior world, but they are not intended as abstract clues to be unravelled. They are objects in their own right to be experienced when you meet them. And on this occasion I met them at the right moment.
Much as I love his stripes and have been drawn to my own exploration of horizontal stripes by the flat watery landscapes of the Severn estuary, I don’t think that’s where I’m headed. Right now I fancy making something of which no-one can say, “that reminds me of….”. I want to make something that just is.
I fancy something earthy, something primitive, something holding the marks of its handmadeness, something beautiful, universal and timeless. I want to walk and see the natural world without needing to imagine how my experience could be expressed or communicated through the art, but knowing that the enthusiasms of my eyes will inevitably influence and shape what I make.
Right now, what I really fancy making is pots.
In fact, scrap the preamble, that’s all I really want to say.. I fancy making pots.
I fancy making pots.