Category Archives: solitude

Why do I make art?

Well, I don’t, but this was the heading for a list of reasons given by US sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard in the catalogue for her wonderful 2014 exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK. They say a lot about how I’d like to be and about the solitude/creativity connection. Here are the ones that spoke to me, and some reflections.

To ease my high anxiety, to numb myself with the labour and the focus of building my work

This speaks to me about the value of flow, of physical activity to release nervous energy, the expression of feelngs through creative work

Objects, or the process by which I concretize my ideas, feel so good

–  the sexual/sensual dilemma of being alone – finding ways to use touch, sight – all the senses – to nourish the need for physical contact

Because there’s pleasure in it

Because there’s pain in it

– because there’s aliveness in it!

Because my deepest admiration goes to those who have made art that interests me

-making use of inspiration, of the sense of deep connection with art that speaks to me

Because I need to use both my body and my mind. The labour of my body is what keeps me awake and alive, what numbs me and offers a kind of veneer between me and the things in life that are painful to face.

This is interesting. Is numbing a good thing? Is it avoidance? Maybe sometimes it’s necessary – some things have to be taken in, faced, integrated slowly – we can only take so much pain. Certainly a healthier numbing than alcohol or food! And it’s pouring out all the energy generated by strong emotions. Makes me think that I used to be much more aware of having lots of nervous energy. Now not so much. Is it still there, waiting to be accessed and channelled?

Because the visuals – that which I perceive through my eyes – are an extraordinarily important part of my life

Yes, One of my greatest discoveries in the past few years is art – looking at great art speaks deeply to me and nourishes my soul. And more generally, trying to look at the world mindfully can transform the ordinary.

Because I don’t want to be doing anything else with my life – that the building of my artwork feels like the most consequential thing I could be doing with my time.

Because I can run into a world of making, both physically and mentally

There’s the solitary! There’s the answer to the relationships dilemma: something that fills her life, gives her total satisfaction and fulfillment.

Because I like working with a group of assistants who become another kind of family

I passed over that one at first, but perhaps there IS something for me here: how to find a communal dimension to my passions? The idea of “family” based on shared passions and creative work rather than blood.

Because I like the daily rhythm of going into my studio

NB rhythm. Two things here: having a gentle, non-driven structure- and the discipline of that, to actually get into the studio each day. Of creating enough structure to give life rhythm and coherence without getting tied down by it.

Because it’s a place to put my pain, my sadness

Because there’s a constant hope inside me that this process will heal me, my family and the world.

Because I constantly need to try to better understand the immense suffering and pain of my family that I never seem to be able to really understand.

She comes from a Polish family, displaced in World War Two, so from a background of much suffering and loss. At first I didn’t think these were relevant to me  – I’m not creating great art, I have no such traumatic history. And yet – pouring body, mind and soul into creating, touching inner depths, bringing to the surface personal wounds and pain – which will reflect in some way the history of our family backgrounds –  each of us who heals and interacts  with those around us more healthily, with more wholeness – the wider world is touched and affected by that.

Because it helps me fight my inertia.

So pleased to read this one, as someone who struggles with that draining fog of inertia, lack of energy and motivation

Because I like embroidering around my long-ago Polish fantasies

I nearly ignored this one too, as being too personal, but maybe there’s a general truth in it around using the past, using dreams, using fantasy – of playing, embellishing, transforming.

Because I can reach into the future with my work

I like the principle of this – that we can all, even if childfree, create and nurture something lasting that will touch people deeply long after the maker’s death. It may not even be a thing  – it may be our model of a way to live.

And finally:

And also because I want to get answers to questions for which I know there are no answers.


Ursula von Rydingsvard’s words from: Ursula von Rydingsvard at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. YSP, 2014.


Alone as a neutral space

Yesterday I had a busy, noisy day in London. Some alcohol-fuelled students on the train got it off to a nerve-jangling start, and I found the crowds and noise difficult all day. So this morning, sitting in bed, aware of the silence around me, I could welcome it. And that gave me a different perspective on being alone – it’s a neutral space, that I can populate in different ways.

I’ve just written in my journal: “projecting inner wounds onto a neutral space”. I mean the labelling of being alone as rejected, invisible, unloved etc etc. Making it  a place of hurt and pain. There is choice in this.  This morning there was a sense of needing to embrace the silence and aloneness – that’s what transforms it into solitude, which is the healthy place to be with it.

Maybe I have more choice in this than I like to accept. There’s a perverse pleasure sometimes in the melancholy, in the “lonely”, “unwanted” labels. They confirm old scripts. But maybe I can choose to make it time to change those scripts…

I’m using a collection of quotes on solitude, and yesterday’s was:

I had already found that it was not good to be alone, and so made companionship with what there was around me, sometimes with the universe and sometimes with my own insignificant self, but my books were always my friends , let fail all else.

Joshua Slocum, Sailing alone around the world.

At first it was the bit about the books that struck me, as it chimed with my thoughts earlier this week about reading rather than surfing social media when I’m feeling lonely or bored. But as the day went on I found myself reflecting on the first part. Choice again. Am I Iago’s “I am myself alone” – or am I part of the whole, even if I go through the world in solitude? As I walked to the station, I was listing things that I’m a part of, belong to: my family; my local community; my city; my county; my country – and so on, radiating outwards. I’m part, if a loose part, of some friendship circles. Of the organisations I belong to. Of the online forums I  subscribe to. Of the groups of people who have shared interests, even if we’re not working together on them. Of those who have similar political and ethical vews. And so on. Most of the time, that doesn’t mean I’m communicating with the people in these different groups, but there’s a sharing, something in common. Perhaps having a consciousness of all those links, basically seeing myself as connected rather than as isolated in that bubble, would help change my outlook and diminish the pain?