We both pull the tricks out of our sleeves

December 2nd, 2007

I’m a person who consistently looks to be inspired. One thing I struggle to understand is the seeming willingness of people to shuffle through life existing, rather than seeking the beauty and magic in everything around them. Because really, if you look, there’s magic in just about anything.

I was saying today that I fall for that sort of thing very easily. Give me even a glimmer of magic or whimsy in anything and I am all wide-eyed kid again, mind and body open, stupid grin on my face, completely taken. Something like an austere theatre set with nothing but a wooden chair and a spot light can be transformed by some strobe lighting, bubbles, and circus music. And I just live for that stuff – those little moments that fill your heart and transform your mindset in an instant. It’s the unexpected xylophone in a song or a snatched kiss in the back of an antique store or the way the afternoon light turns everything citrusy or the way Bowie pushes his face into my neck almost like he feels he can never be close enough. All that stuff amounts to some sort of magic that you’ll miss if you’re not looking.

And I’m forever worried about missing it. I’m often in an instant concentrating so much on trying to wring every ounce of it, that I can sometimes over think it and almost miss the experience. I remember, in 2001, standing on the second level of the Eiffel Tower almost chastising myself for not experiencing the moment enough. What does that even mean anyway!? The idea of wasting any amount of any experience gives me some angst at times. And it’s worse when you realise little moments like that are everywhere around you – I feel like I have to be constantly on guard and open, just in case I miss something.

Having said that, I have relaxed a little. It’s a bit easier to let go of the wringing when you’re pretty confident the next little bit of magic is right around the corner.

Anyway, what got me to thinking about all of this tonight was an amazing artistic (well, theatrical) experience yesterday, and a visit to the Brett Whiteley studio today. Whiteley has, for a very long time, been my favourite Australian artist. His work does things to me that I can’t even explain. One thing that fascinates me is what influences people like Whiteley to do what they do – how do they reach that artistic place and what inspires them to get there?

Inspiration is a funny thing, and to look from the outside-in you (well, I) tend to have pre-formed opinions about where it should come from. For instance, in interviews Ani DiFranco is often asked about Dylan, the interviewer presuming he has been a major influence on the modern day folk singer’s music. She will always explain though that while she has respect for the man, he was never a major influence. She always goes on to reference Joni Mitchell and modern day song writers like Greg Brown and Gillian Welch. But it’s probably reasonable to assume Dylan, right?

I on the other hand always presume that an artist with the gravitas of Whiteley will have obscure, never heard of muses – like mysterious Russian poets or little-known 19th Century Czech painters. Musicians I greatly admire, the same thing – I always presume they’ll spend their time listening to strange Bulgarian folk music or folk singers from the 50s that I’ve never heard about. And some of them (bless you Jeff Mangum) do, or did. But going through the Whiteley studio today, and reacquainting myself with his inspiration and his work space, I really began to think about this. Because two of the major influences on Whiteley’s work are A) one of the best known painters the world has ever seen and B) one of the best known singer/songwriters the world has ever seen. Van Gogh and Dylan. And the way he presented those influences through his work, unashamedly and without reserve, is really something to think about.

I feel sometimes like artists of any kind (musical/visual/whatever) try a little too hard to be obscure. Like there’s something wrong with seeing the beauty in a Monet or having your heart rent by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. I mean, these things have notoriety for being beautiful for a reason, right? It all heads back to the idea of ironic appreciation – if you love something, and you’re inspired by it, then shout it to the world. And experience it. I think when you start factoring external stuff on what inspires you, or, in your eyes, what creates the magic in your world, then you instantly begin to take away from the experience. And that seems to me to be an awful shame.

And while we’re on magic and beauty and what have you, I wish the whole week was full of Sunday mornings. There is definitely something magical about waking up lazy and remaining completely horizontal, watching the sun peaking in and out of clouds through the window, sharing a set of headphones with your Favourite Person, meaning you have Will Sheff in one ear and their warm, even breath in the other.

And I’m not thinking about work yet. I’ve managed to avoid any thought of it completely this weekend, in amongst the magical bubbles and lazy Sunday haze, and I intend to carry that through until at least 7 tomorrow in the AM.

And I’m going to try and post more this week. Uh huh. Aha we’ll see how we go with that.

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