Updated: Feb 11, 2019
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. (Lao Tzu)
So, it's Valentine's Day again. All red roses and love hearts.
The truth of the matter is that negotiating a love relationship is probably one of the biggest challenges that we ever have to face in our lives. As a wise man once said to me, it is in our love relationship that we finally come face-to-face with those parts of ourselves that we are most resistant to confronting. Our love relationships are the places where we are most likely to find ourselves in the deadliest of push-pull tussles, quite literally, sitting on the horns of a dilemma.
Now, I hear you ask, what possible relevance could this have to me as an artist?
The thing is that as artists we are locked into a life-long relationship with two aspects of ourselves - the practical self who has to deal with money, family, household, insurance and so on and so on - and the artist-within whose sights are set on loftier and rather more ethereal concerns.
The question is, how to resolve the conflict.
It's a matter that has vexed artists - whether they be painters or sculptors, dancers or writers, composers or potters - since time immemorial. It is a subject that many have written about time and again, and it is the main theme of my chapter on The Lovers in my upcoming book, 'The Creative Spiral.'
This is a project that I have been working on for some time now, bringing together two of the main strands of my professional life - my art and the Tarot. It is an exploration of how the advice offered by each of the major Tarot cards can guide us through our creative process. Wanting to make it something more than just a theoretical treatise, wanting to be able to offer real practical help, I end each chapter with a few suggestions for activities to help us find ways through creative blocks.
My love gift to my readers this Valentine's Day is an extract from the Lovers chapter. May it offer help to anyone who is trying to resolve that inner conflict between those two inextricably bound-together parts of our relationship with self - the mundane (in the true sense of the word) and the creative.
Here is my gift to you today:
'Perching precariously on the horns of a dilemma, where the options are categorically and uncomfortably either black or white, there seems to be no easy solution.
In the Motherpeace Tarot this duality is graphically represented on the Lovers card in the images on the two black amphora: overweening masculine dominance on one and pitiful compliant feminine submission on the other.
It is a scene that plays out every single day of our lives in so many ways. Perhaps it is the reality that we face in our ‘love’ relationship in life, or in a work situation, but what of the movie that’s running in our heads? That push-pull of indecision and wishes/needs that seemingly present us with an impossible choice? And, more significantly, what of the sub-text to that inner movie that’s running in our subconscious? And how to integrate these opposing forces that, by their very nature, seem to be irreconcilable?
The principle of the Lovers card is finding ways of negotiating the art and craft of communicating within a relationship. That relationship ......is just as likely to be our relationship with our self. It is as much about finding ways of reconciling our own internal conflicts of interests as it is about managing the relationships that we find ourselves in with other people.
For me, as an artist, the dilemma has always been a conflict of my priorities. On the one hand my soul yearns for days in the studio, where I can lose my Self to find my self. On the other, my head is constantly insisting that I knuckle down and do something practical and productive that will feed my body and keep a roof over my head......... As artists we seem to be in constant conflict with economic constraints and social conditioning. We live in a materialistic world where we have to survive, practicing a craft that is not perceived as ‘proper’ work.......... And yet our hearts and souls yearn for the kind of fulfilment that comes from connecting to something other ....... that we know is bigger than the sum of all the parts. Love, for want of a better word....And as artists we do it in and through our art. And, as artists, we are mediators in helping others to get there too.
Finding ways of resolving this inner tussle, this conflict between outer and inner needs, is what the Lovers card can teach us.
So, let’s look upon ‘relationship’ as a dance, an old-fashioned Foxtrot or Waltz, where two people are moving harmoniously together.
They touch one another, and yet there is space between their bodies. He takes a step forward with his left foot, she follows it with her right foot. They both step sidewards - she with her left foot, he with his right. And so they flow around the dance floor, each responding to the movement of the other, mirroring each other’s movements in wordless communication with one another.
Respectfully, responsively, playfully they create ethereal art. If their feet left prints on the floor we would see the shape of it. We would see the space between them, and that they stepped lightly and willingly. We would notice the pauses and the paces. We would notice the loyal mirrored movements.
Successfully negotiating relationships asks no more and no less of us than the dance does........
Giving and receiving love is a reciprocal thing, but often the most difficult aspect of reciprocity that we seem to have in grasping is reciprocal communication. It is one thing to be listening to what someone is saying; quite another to be actually hearing it. Hearing needs us to stop seeing it from our point of view, wanting to say our piece about the subject. Hearing means truly opening our heart to what the other is really saying.......
Listen to the Artist Within
We ourselves need to start respecting the artist within, and hearing what she/he is trying to tell us.
Let’s start with a little inner dialogue. Let’s give the artist within a chance to have a say.
Look over your life and take a rain check on whether or not the choice that you made at critical points in your life were aligned with your inner truth.
Write your artist self a letter of acknowledgement and apology for all the times you failed to listen.........
Give your Artist Within Some Space
Now that you have acknowledged your artist-within’s soul needs, it is time to take some practical steps to meet them.
One of the loudest grievances is sure to be lack of space. And this will be both physical and mental/emotional space.......Your artist within needs space to play and create.
Start by reviewing your daily and weekly schedule, and block in a regular time - a daily slot or a weekly allocation - that is dedicated to your art.
It helps to have a course to attend or a group to meet regularly, because imposes some external constraint that helps us to be consistent in our efforts.
Creatively Uniting Opposites
Think of two materials/elements of your art that could represent polar opposite points of view. Now explore ways of bringing them together in a creative way.
If sculpture is your thing have a look at Degas’ small sculpture of a ballet dancer that incorporated fabric netting into a bronze figure.
Actor Kenneth Branagh famously brought two very different theatrical motifs when he created musical versions of Shakespeare’s plays, using all the devices of the classic musical model and at the same time remaining absolutely true to the great bard’s text.
If you are a graphic artist/painter, explore ways of making work using two ‘irreconcilable’ mediums such as oil and water paints or wax with water paint.'