It’s a long time since I did any sketching and I’m beginning to miss it. For now, printmaking seems to have taken over, and I’ve been fortunate to have my own exhibition locally. It’s a small and intimate affair in a very friendly and attractive local pub/restaurant where I have sat and sketched the view many times.
The reaction, as far as I can tell, has been positive, with one recurring comment that ‘the works are all so different – you wouldn’t think they were done by the same person’.
Well they were, of course, and I have to confess to feeling a little bit smug here. In a very minor way I have managed to stand against the frustratingly simple way that the self is commonly viewed – as a single entity. Personally I don’t see myself that way, and as a therapist I find that approach completely unhelpful. I’ve done a lot of writing about the concept of the self as a group; a number of ‘internal’ characters with different and often conflicting attitudes who have to find some way of working together to enable a person to lead a satisfying life. Just talk to yourself and listen to your own range of different responses and you will start to see what I mean!
It’s perfectly possible and ‘normal’ to hold conflicting or paradoxical views, and we do it all the time. Part of me wants to try out gliding, part of me is scared, part of me is annoyed with the scared part, part of me is imagining disaster, part is romanticising about being able to fly, etc etc. So if part of me produces is one style of print or art work, and another part does something different, then that is fine by me. There’s an inner group of selves, all busily creating in their own way – that seems to me a plus, not a problem. Plus, if we can learn to manage and respond to our own the inner group, we can be so much more in tune with other people, who are having the same sort of dilemmas and delights themselves.
There is a constant and necessary battle to be fought against simplistic reductionist ways of looking at the world, now more so than ever perhaps. The relentless narrative of self as a unified one dimensional character supports the depressing trend of being either ‘for’ or ‘against’ – migrants and refugees, overseas aid, military spending, nationalism, gun control, free trade, nationalisation, open borders, organic growing, glyphosate, biodynamics, etc etc.
That is not to say I think that no-one should have any strong views; but that these views need to be grounded in an appreciation of the opposing arguments, the available evidence and an awareness of the dangers of self righteousness. In other words, we arrive at a position only after we have been able to hear all the other arguments, listen to the other voices, and make a considered judgment. And if it is a decision that seems to be ‘intuitive’ then there is a lot to be said for asking ourselves whether or not that means we are being too lazy to think or find out about the other point of view! It’s a hard thing to do and I duck out of it at times; the ‘can’t be bothered’ character in my internal group can take over!
Which brings me back to printmaking and my growing appreciation of the necessity to keep on trying. My tutor said that at every stage of making a print there is the possibility of messing it up, from the initial cutting of the plate, to inking, proofing, choice of paper, the setting up of the press, inky fingerprints (oh yes!) and more. It takes me about 6 tries to produce one reasonable print at the moment, so I really need that internal voice that keeps me working at it.