I recently drew together a collection of images of new-ish artwork to see how I was tracking for an August exhibition. I was surprised to see that almost all the works employed basically the same colours – blues, turquoise, muted violet, a muted green. To a casual observer, some of them may have been largely indistinguishable from the others. I knew that those colours were my favourites, and certainly, being cool colours, they fit the bill for backgrounds, but I hadn’t quite realised how prevalent they were in the body of work. Not just prevalent. Almost overwhelming.
Obviously, in my mind, these colours are safe. They blend well, they are analogous, they allow the warmer colours of the trees to come forward, they are, simply, lovely. I suddenly discovered that, en masse, they are also boring. Where is the vibrancy? Where is the variation?
I would never suggest that safe is necessarily boring. In this case, though, it is true. Although my colours are strong, there is a lack of experimentation which is rendering all the works too much the same. Perhaps that is the key. Safe is not necessarily boring but, maybe, same is.
At the moment, with the restrictions placed on our lives, there is a danger of the days becoming the same. Routine is promoted as a key to keeping up mental and physical health – but routine can also become drudgery. It is vital to also keep some vibrancy in our lives, some variation.
But where do we get this vibrancy and variation? We are thrown so much back on our mental resources now, whether working from home, not working at all, experiencing a great change in lifestyle or a less dramatic one and sometimes those resources can waver, or wear a bit thin, or become too narrow.
Vibrancy and variation come to us, not through our output, not through what we do or can’t do, but from the input we take on board, what feeds into our souls. Our vitality comes from what we read, what we see, what we learn, what creates a laugh, what gives us energy. It comes from contact with others, something that we now manage in new ways. It comes from books, newspapers, online offerings, unfolding opportunities that didn’t exist before. It comes from the larger world entering ours.
It is relatively safe in our homes. It can also be a bit too much the same. To prevent decline we need to sop up, to suck in every inspirational, intellectual, enjoyable, life-giving moment that we can. We can build vibrancy and variation. We can actively seek it out and cultivate it. I believe we need to do that, even in the best of times, but particularly now when the usual distractions or demands of activity and doing are limited.