Tag Archives: Barbara Hepworth

Balancing conscious and unconscious life

Recently, I visited a local artist to choose a painting for a birthday present.  He showed me a pair of small oil paintings in which I had expressed an interest via photographs he had sent me by email.  I agreed to buy both of them and then we drifted into his studio where he showed me the pieces he was working on.  There were many unfinished paintings and he described how difficult it was to finish some of them.  He measured the time taken on some of them in months and, for a few, in years.  I was struck by the similarity with scientists who indulge in slow-motion multi-tasking and switch between research projects in different fields, often leaving something unfinished to focus on something else and then returning to pursue the original research topic [‘Slow-motion multi-tasking leading to productive research‘ on September 19th, 2018].  I suspect both artists and scientists who indulge this approach are looking to achieve ‘a perfect balance of their conscious and unconscious life’ out of which Barbara Hepworth believed ideas are born and realized [see ‘Ideas from a balanced mind‘ on August 24th, 2016].

The studio in the photograph is Barbara Hepworth’s in St Ives, Cornwall.

Pebbles – where are yours?

The picture shows a little collection of pebbles and a shell that sits on the desk in my office.  There are similar collections in various locations at home and some of my coats have a pebble permanently in one pocket – there’s even a shell on the dashboard of our car.  They have all been picked up during walks on beaches [see my post entitled ‘Take a walk on the wild side‘ on 26th August 2015] and serve as reminders of the ‘slowness’ enjoyed on vacation [see my post ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘ on December 23rd, 2015].  Barbara Hepworth owned a similar collection of stones that you can see in the Hepworth Wakefield.  On the subject of this habit she wrote in 1961: ‘Many people select a stone or a pebble to carry for the day.  The weight and form and texture felt in our hands relates us to the past and gives us a sense of a universal force.  The beautifully shaped stone, washed up by the sea, is a symbol of continuity, a silent image of our desire for survival, peace and security.’  I could not express it better so I didn’t try.

The quote is from a contribution to the film Barbara Hepworth directed by John Read, BBC TV, 1961 and can be found in Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations, edited by Sophie Bowness, London: Tate Publishing, 2015.

Ideas from a balanced mind

WP_20160714_014I have written about the virtues of mind-wandering on a number of occasions.  A recent article in the Harvard Gazette has stressed the importance of distinguishing between intentional and unintentional mind-wandering.  Unintentional mind-wandering or loss of concentration happens more frequently than we perhaps would like to admit. Some research has shown that office-workers are distracted every three minutes and that it takes about 20 minutes to achieve a high level of engagement in a task.  Obviously, I am not advocating unintentional mind-wandering but the intentional kind that occurs when we achieve the ‘Steadiness and placidity‘ that Michael Faraday found so productive [see my post on July 13th, 2016].  Perhaps this is important to our creativity because, to quote Barbara Hepworth, ‘Ideas are born through a perfect balance of our conscious and unconscious life and they are realized through this same fusion and equilibrium.’  And, creativity contributes to workplace success, healthy psychological functioning and the maintenance of loving relationships according to Oppezzo and Schwartz [see my post: ‘Love an engineer‘ on September 24th, 2014].

Sources:

Reuell, P., Minding the details of mind wandering, Harvard Gazette, July 20th, 2016 online at http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/07/intentional-mind-wandering/

Hepworth, B., ‘Sculpture’, in Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art, JL Martin, B Nicholson & N Gabo (editors), London 1937 reproduced in Bowness, S., (editor), ‘Barbara Hepworth – Writing and Conversations’ London: Tate Publishing, 2015.

Oppezo, M., & Schwartz, D.L., 2014, ‘Give your ideas some legs: the positive effect of walking on creative thinking’, J. Experimental Psychology, Learning, Memory & Cognition, 40(3):1142-1152.

Image: photograph taken in the Barbara Hepworth Musuem and Garden in St Ives.

The very nature of art is affirmative

zennor headWP_20160714_009I have been away on vacation, disconnected from all sources of electronic communication and trying  not to think about engineering.  Hence, I don’t have much to write about except to enthuse about magnificent coastal walks in Devon and Cornwall that provided opportunities to achieve the kind of mental detachment described in last week’s post.  In St Ives, the beauty and tranquillity of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden impressed us so much that we went back for a second visit.  The title of this post is taken from a 1970 quote from Barbara Hepworth that was reproduced on the museum wall and reflects my reaction to her sculptures in their garden setting:  ‘I think the very nature of art is affirmative, and in being so it reflects the laws and evolution of the universe’.