The New Artists

Podcast person. “So, how did you two get together?”

I was one of 25 people standing shoulder to shoulder in an art gallery. It was 1999. Three metres away, opposite me, was another line of 25 people. We were encouraged to breathe and look at the person directly opposite. It was a bit embarrassing to be honest. The one saving grace was that we were fifty strangers, we’d never met before.

I’d noticed her on the first day when I signed up. This mysterious woman shining brightly while the rest of the crowd blended into the background. We were invited to get involved in various interactions on Friday and Saturday. I steered well clear of her and worked with duller, safer people. Why? I had an inkling that when the deeper connections came on Sunday the lead artist would say, “Choose someone you haven’t worked with yet”.

Sure enough, three days later and 48 people down, there she was right in front of me. The final exercise was quite simple. In silence we were to look into each other’s eyes for five minutes. The watchword was ‘surrender’.

Sounds easy huh? It’s excruciating. 

But after a couple of minutes we got into a groove of tentative authenticity. As we dutifully held our gaze something weird happened. I saw her change into an Elizabethan lady, Joan of Arc, a Broadway star and at least ten other characters. I was faintly aware of everyone else in my peripheral vision remaining normal.

At the end of the five minutes we were invited to ‘complete the experience’ in whatever way seemed appropriate. We walked slowly towards each other, reached out both hands, and I heard myself say, “You’re beautiful”. She replied, “So are you”.

It took several months of circling around each other but we finally got together under the London fireworks on New Year’s Eve. We partied like it was 1999. In the morning we had a whole new century ahead of us.

I know for a fact we wouldn’t have stayed together if we hadn’t learned to use some crucial tools in that gallery. We learned how process triggered anger, resentment and daily outrage. We’re both headstrong characters but we began our relationship equipped with the knowledge of how to get back to our natural state of compassion, love and empathy fast.

Podcast person. “Wow, what gallery was this, and who were the artists? It sounds amazing”.

Did I say gallery? I meant conference hall. 

Did I say artists? I meant personal development trainers. 

I keep getting them mixed up. I’ll tell you why.

Visual Artists (VAs) want us to question the way we look at the world. Leaving our bags in the cloakroom we accept their invitation to step out of the rat race and walk through the gallery door. Here we’re free to stop, think and feel. Via their exhibitions, installations and ‘happenings’ spirit is made tangible. Our hearts wake up to our true potential. We’re transformed.

Personal Development Trainers (PDTs) want us to question the way we live in the world. Taking our baggage firmly in with us we accept their invitation to step out of the rat race and through the training room door. Here we’re free to stop, think and feel. Via their processes, peer support, and 21st Century Rituals spirit is made tangible. Our hearts wake up to our true potential. We’re transformed. 

Personal Development Seminars should be recognised as New Art because they achieve so much of what modern artists claim they want their work to do. I’m serious.

Podcast person. “I read all the art magazines and no one else is saying this. How many whiskeys have you had?”

Three. Let me be brief. I was an art student in Leeds in the late 70s. The Situationist, Jeff Nuttall,  was one of my tutors. I was always more interested in ‘happenings’ than making art objects. Consequently, having tried to bring about change through all sorts of artistic and musical events for 20 years I was stopped in my tracks when, at the age of forty two, I discovered personal development courses. PDTs were quietly and methodically doing what VAs have been striving to do for decades. Stepping out of your comfort zone is counter-intuitive. Nobody does it voluntarily, however open they claim to be. The paradox of taking risks is people will only do it if they feel safe. Or they’re tricked.

VA’s and PDT’s are tricksters. Their first trick is to get our attention, after all, you don’t need what they’re selling. Your life is fine without it, just a bit dull, repetitive and boring. Lol.

The visual artist, Pamela Wilson, recently said in an interview, “Visual art is a conversation. I don’t mean necessarily a communication in the sense of full conveyance of a complete thought, but a series of half-thoughts, comments, questions, love and humour. Paper aeroplanes flying here and there with notes on them… I want to take the viewer for a ride, an escape, a visual retreat, an unusual vacation, a short trip, a journey away”.

Personal Development – Dawn Ellis, recently said in our kitchen. “Personal Development is a conversation. I don’t mean everyday chit-chat, but an interaction designed to tease out and shine light on our individual essence. In my work we do battle with inner and outer limitations. I like to take people on a journey back to their authentic selves. Imagine a world where men and women make heartfelt decisions based on their true purposes rather than a subterranean tangle of fears and projections. When I’ve finished with them they do. They come home.”

Podcast person. “Escapism. Coming home. Are you sure they have the same goals? I love Pamela Wilson’s paintings. The art world never mentions Dawn Ellis though.”

Escapism has allowed the wrong people to be elected and bad things to happen. We pay attention to the wrong things, in my humble opinion. If we don’t all come home soon there will be no home to come home to. Dawn Ellis may currently be unrecognised by the art world but her achievements and the achievements of her peers are big. 

She’s one of the most accomplished New Artists of our time. Oh yeah, and she took the risk of marrying me in 2005.

Mad huh? Two creatives crazy for adventure. How is that ever going to work out?

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