The Vision and the Voice: Part 2 by Jane Ayres

greentreesPhoto by Roger Hyland

How do you see the world? Is it ugly, beautiful, evil, good, exciting, depressing? A mixture?  None of these?  The mind’s eye is a strange expression. According to wiki (the fount of all knowledge!) it refers to the human ability for visualization using the imagination.

When you look at an object, or a place, do you see what is there – or beyond this? Can you see what it means, or meant; its place in history?  Does it evoke the past?

Recently, I spent an absorbing few hours catching up on programmes I recorded on Sky Arts (a brilliant source of material) which began with a film about my favourite artist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) the Dutch pioneer of abstract art. Mondrian is my favourite artist. He sought through his work to find essence and truth using horizontal and vertical lines, to create a new kind of beauty through geometry. His art is about structure, distillation, order and emotional connection and he wanted his art to be part of a greater whole. Not surprisingly he saw architecture as living art.  On arrival in New York in 1940 he commented, “They told me New York was a hellish place, where you grew old before your time and gangsters made the law. That may well be true. But that is not the New York I saw, the one I loved and thought of as my own.”  He saw beauty in the lights, the sounds, the skyscrapers and the vibrancy. The film, called Dans L’Atelier de Mondrian (in the studio of Mondrian) shows the artist’s studio as a working art installation and moves me to tears every time I see it. Mondrian lived in poverty most of his austere life and did not receive critical recognition until he was in seventies. (A familiar story for so many creatives, regrettably).

The next film was a documentary called Hitchcock on Grierson, which offered further insights into the ways other creatives have seen the world. It’s always interesting to see what one film director thinks of another and how he was influenced. I admire much of Hitchcock’s work but knew little about Dr John Grierson, who I discovered was a prolific, influential and pioneering Scottish film director and producer (1898-1972) who used documentary to express his distinctive way of seeing the world, utilising stunning shots to find patterns in objects not usually considered art, such as scaffolding and cranes, and seeing beauty and meaning in geometric shapes and structures and feats of engineering. It reminded me of Mondrian, and also the French composer (and one of my favourites) Edgard Varese (1883-1965) a visionary who had been dreaming of new sounds and electronic music a generation before it was technically possible, and whose astonishing blocks of dissonant sound are incredibly beautiful. Listening to his music, it is not surprising to learn of his fascination with architectural structures.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8FcxVKIAwo  extract from Octandre by Edgard Varese

Reflecting on the way that these contrasting but connected artists saw the world, I was also reminded of doing art classes at school, and learning about seeing the light and shade in an object like a pot or a piece of cutlery. For a long time, I just didn’t get this. I couldn’t see it.  Then, one day, I did and it was like a revelation which has never left me.  Like being let in on a wonderful secret.

Finally, I watched a deeply moving and hauntingly beautiful film called The Way of the Morrishttp://www.wayofthemorris.com/

Written and presented by Tim Plester (who was also co-producer and co-director) it is a personal, heartfelt journey, both physical and spiritual. Every shot was like a painting or photograph, with amazing lighting and stunning landscapes. Subtlely observed, like Grierson, this film used documentary to convey something profound about community, ritual, and the human soul, and what tradition and shared history can mean to us.

To see beauty is a gift. I’m a natural pessimist.  I get angry about injustice and passionate about causes I believe in. But I can get emotional about beautiful landscapes and wild birds; about music, art, film, and literature.

In the 1940s, Mondrian wrote: “Art today is condemned to a separate existence, for present day life is essentially tragic.  But in some distant future, art and life will be one.”

How do you see the world? Consonant or dissonant? Can you find beauty easily? And has your view changed over the years?

Links:

https://creatabot.co.uk/2013/08/13/the-vision-and-the-voice-part-1-by-jane-ayres/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Piet-Mondrian-Mondrians-Studio-DVD/dp/B004754TF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1374505365&sr=1-1&keywords=mondrian

http://go.sky.com/vod/content/SKYENTERTAINMENT/content/videoId/718a084b7c0ea310VgnVCM1000000b43150a________/content/default/videoDetailsPage.do

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind’s_eye

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/198800.html

http://www.pietmondrian.com/

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Edgard+Var%C3%A8se

To find out more about Jane’s writing and publishing experiences, visit her blog www.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her recent e-book, Beware of the Horse, is available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beware-of-the-Horse-ebook/dp/B00BEJTDUE/

Garrets and Gatekeepers by Jane Ayres

Photograph by Chris Ayres
http://scubabeer.uk.to/jalbum

More than 30 years ago I wrote an article for the now defunct Composer magazine called Starving in Garrets.  It was all about how painfully difficult it was for composers to get their work performed and heard, and even harder to make a living from writing music.  In many ways, I don’t believe things have really changed that much for artists and creatives. There is still that struggle for discoverability.

I’m a writer, primarily.  But I’m also a musician and have worked with contemporary composers.   I recently read some sobering statistics for writers.  For example, in 2011 there were 211,269 self-published titles and out of at least 1.2 million titles published by the entire industry over the course of a year, almost 80% sell fewer than 100 copies. (source: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/09/7-book-marketing-mistakes/)

So how on earth do you get people’s attention? If you are a writer, it’s pretty tough.  If you are a composer, it’s even harder. We measure success by fame and celebrity status, regardless of quality.  So if you aren’t yet a “name” you are largely invisible.   How do you get the “gatekeepers” to listen to your music, or read your work? For anyone to take you seriously? If you are lucky, maybe 1 in 30 people you contact might reply and follow up your work. Many years ago, I decided to speculatively contact film production companies about one of my books.  I sent 35 emails with a pitch, had 2 replies, and this resulted in one meeting with a producer.  I was told this was a pretty good result!

The more successful you are, the busier you become.  Famous people have a whole raft of assistants (gatekeepers) which make it even harder to be heard.  Even a negative reply is a response, which acknowledges your existence.  You have been read, listened to.  Your creation is personal and precious and being ignored is far worse than rejection, though you may not agree.

But negotiating huge organisations like the BBC, for example, can be like scaling an impenetrable fortress.  If anyone knows how you manage to get a Proms commission I would love to hear from you.

Of course, the internet provides a global shop window on an unprecedented level.  Writers can publish without publishers, artists can create online galleries, composers and musicians can put their work on platforms like You Tube.  We can let the public judge.  As Natasha said in a previous post, artists don’t generally follow their calling for the money.  But they do need to be acknowledged, and better still, enjoyed.  They want to share their work.  That’s the whole point.

And so, with Xmas looming on the horizon, I’m including a recently discovered You Tube link to a moving performance of a haunting  Carol which a Canadian choir have used for their candlelit procession over the past 5 years.  The music was written by a UK composer who should be far better known.  Simply beautiful!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIyhg8e04cI

To find out more about Jane’s publishing experiences, go to her blogwww.janeayres.blogspot.co.uk

Her trilogy of Matty Horse and Pony Adventures books for pre-teens and teens (and nostalgic older readers!) are available for Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. All profits from these stories are going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary.