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.