I had the good fortune to be invited to Art Club Puplinge by Victoria James (who lives in Puplinge!) For me, a lapsed painter, it was both fun and inspiring. I will go again.
I didn’t know what to expect. Before leaving home, I threw into a shopping bag some coloured inks, a box of neocolor crayons and, for reasons unknown, a map of the London Underground. Would we be given free rein to do what we want or did Victoria have a cunning plan for us? As it turned out, Victoria had a cunning plan that involved us doing what we want. Brilliant!
Our session started with the group doing brief “blind” portraits of ourselves or each other without looking at the paper. I squirmed inwardly. This was not in my comfort zone. Little did I know that it was part of Victoria’s cunning plan.
One of my new friends managed this alarming likeness of me in just twenty seconds!
Here’s my best attempt at revenge holding two crayons together!
One hour and twenty such quick drawings later, I found that I was not back in my comfort zone but in a comfort zone that was new to me. I was enjoying it. I was squirm-free. Interesting! This of course is also part of the plan and sets up the second half of the session. We then selected one of the sketches as the basis for something more ambitious on a larger scale.
I am not sure at what stage or why a scaled-up version of my little blue-pink-dash-double-crayon portrait surperimposed on the map of the London Underground invoked a feeling of fear. I admitted this to Victoria. “Go with it!” she said. And so I did! It may not be beautiful and it may not be “art” (whatever that may be!) But if you had told me thirty minutes beforehand that I was behind the creation of this frightening bazingo image, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Victoria’s objective of the wonderfully informal two-hour sessions at her Art Club is that her guests find and recognise that creative part of themselves the existence of which they are unaware. She tells me that everyone has a bit of creative software loaded on their mental hard drive although, for some, it may be tucked away in a password-protected programme. She can usually help a guest to find it whatever their age.
Victoria trained in London at the Chelsea College of Art with a focus on sculpture. She wins me over by agreeing that the creative forces of humanity might flourish more widely if the word “art” was not used to denote something exclusive. In this vein, she looks slightly ill-at-ease when describing her former career in the world of “contemporary art.” She won considerable recognition for her video-installations which, at the time, were “what one did” if one was in the progressive London art scene. By her own admission they were “out there.” Then, eight years ago, she quite simply stopped. It had ceased to be creative. She took to sports massage, a domain in which she has also been successful. Only in the last months has she found herself drawing again. Her own creative hard drive was re-booted. The result, happily, is Art Club Puplinge. Join it! You’ll have a ball! You’ll also leave each session feeling rather liberated and with an insight into the programming that supports your own creative abilities.
A couple of years ago, I was wandering through a market on a small pacific island. A stall was selling little tin boats. “Really works by jet engine!” the man claimed. Yeah! Yeah! I bought one for about $5 and thought little more about it. I found it in a cupboard the other day and decided to test it. Wow! Steamboat Billy, dear friends, is a fine tribute to the creativity of the human mind. The designer’s ingenuity together with the boat’s overriding tininess and appealing putt-putting noise raise it to “beautiful stuff” status! I just love it! And there is not a single moving part!
This wonderful little toy is a bit of an orphan. Who designed it? Why? Who made it? Where? When? But most importantly, can anyone out there explain how Steamboat Billy works?
Can beautiful stuff talk about ugly stuff?
Antipersonnel mines became a major issue for international public concern in the mid-1990s. As a TV cameraman, Roger Bunting made award-winning documentaries about the horrific impact of these weapons in Afghanistan and Angola. His most highly acclaimed film, made for the International Committee of the Red Cross, is an instructional film for surgeons about mine injuries. It is both brilliant and sickening.
On retirement, Roger decided to study fine arts. A first class honours degree was inevitable. One of his 2005 classroom works was a 7cm x 7cm caste bronze medal: “Every twenty minutes.” It became part of a Europe-wide touring exhibition of medal design. The appeal of the piece lies in its inherent paradox: the beautiful representation of the unknowing split second before the awful detonation.
To pick up the medal is to feel a smooth, pleasing, bronzy weightiness. To inspect it and to turn it over in the palm of your hand is to confront a terrible reality.
The cover of a New Zealand hunting manual published in the 1990s has a photo of an adolescent Anna King. With rifle in hand and flaming red hair she poses near her trophy beast. A decade on, she meets her unshaven prince-in-camouflage. She embarks on jewellery-making wanting to combine ornament with a fervent love of things natural. Her self-designed silver brooch is the only output before family life takes over. It is a work suffused with love.
The Tui is New Zealand’s second iconic bird. Its plumage is metallic blue-green. Its white feathery throat bobs characteristically as it chimes and cackles. The circular Tui triad of Anna’s brooch is completely balanced. It speaks to nature’s great cycle and whispers celtic silver. (A link to the red hair?) This is beauty.
When I first meet her, she is wearing the brooch at her throat. Surprised by my magpie-like interest in things beautiful, she tells me of its provenance. I ask what else she has made. “Nothing really” she replies. Her young son watches her prepare for the next hunt. “Got to feed the family” she says.