Saturday, 22 September 2012

Therapeutic or artistic - a response

In my last post I asked whether there was a difference between artistic and therapeutic and received a few responses, including one from Unbearable Lightness in her private blog - which I am not allowed to link to - and a few stray comments either on deviantArt or here.
I thought that rather than replying individually I should post again. Thank you so much for engaging with my question!
Let's recap:  by and large I agree that creative therapies are based on the idea of making something artistic, but I maintain  that their primary purpose is therapeutic, by which I mean a whole range of effects that are connected with a sense of well being; many have some curative effects. This does not mean that something created for a therapeutic purpose cannot have an artistic value. But being 'artistic' is a secondary feature of the work.
Of course, as usual in such discussions, invoking the 'greats' and making statements about them is de rigueur:  e.g  Leonardo did not mean to make great art.
 I'm not sure about that. Leonardo was certainly aware of his own position as artist and made work that would be explicitly regarded as artistic, congruent with the aesthetic ideals of his time. I doubt it very much that Leonardo made work to express himself or work therapeutic for his soul -  the very notion would have been alien to him.
What is missing from most responses to my question is the acknowledgement that art is a discourse, or at that, a series of interconnected discourses and as such it is heavily involved - imbricated -  with institutions - thus society and its politics - and their time. What is also missing is the acknowledgement that there are many different views of what constitutes art and, again, those views are contextual.
The idea that art is for self expression is only one way to talk about art and its purpose, it is a discourse about and of art. It is inscribed in a broader modernist discourse and is what the Expressionists championed. Not all artists explicitly embrace Expressionism - not today - but Expressionism has definitely left its mark. The art therapies took their cue from Expressionism and its engagement with the depth psychology of Jung (please note, Jung, not Freud) and were developed by artists whose debt to Expressionism was substantial.

Not all art is meant to be expressionist/expressionistic. In fact there are those who totally dislike Expressionism and expressionism (I use a capital E when referring to the historical movement, and a small e when referring to the legacy of Expressionism, i.e. when people talk of creative self expression in relation to their creative pursuits. Some artists dont give a damn about self expression and instead use purposely their artistic medium to explore the medium itself or use it to comment on societal issues. Art is never divorced from politics and as such it is always of its time. Even when it claims that it aspires to Universal Beauty and it cannot possibly have anything to do with base things such as politics it is extremely political in that it embraces a very conservative ideology and discourse.
I am about to adjourn. I just want to add for the purpose of clarity what I mean by discourse and for this I shall refer to Foucault, for whom discourse is the :
ways of constituting knowledge, together with the social practices, forms of subjectivity and power relations which inhere in such knowledges and relations between them. Discourses are more than ways of thinking and producing meaning. They constitute the 'nature' of the body, unconscious and conscious mind and emotional life of the subjects they seek to govern.
Once again I am hoping for a stimulating discussion. Have a good weekend!

(Photos by Nobby Clark of scenes from the play Hysteria written and directed by Terry Johnson, with Antony Sher, Will Keen, David Horowitch, Indira Varma as main actors)

Friday, 7 September 2012

A big cheer to M&S

Marks and Spencer A/W 2012 campaign. Source: Google

This morning my friend the photographer David Nuttall emailed me to say he thought he had seen me in a M& ad, only when he looked more carefully he realised it was not me. I was almost fooled, he said.
Artist Alexandra Gallagher, for whom I posed, also sent me a note through FB. Is it you? She asked, referring to the same ad. You can see the commercial here
No, it is not me, it is Yasmina Rossi, to whom I bear a resemblance.  We are FB friends and we have emailed each other about the resemblance. "It's the energy and the hair that are alike"  she says. I agree. It would be fantastic to do a shoot together! I posted about her last year, see my post  Ever met yourself?
I am delighted that Yasmina has been selected to appear in  this international campaign, replacing Twiggy. This is the first time that a fifty plus woman with grey hair can be seen in such a prominent ad. Sure, we had the Dove campaign but the grey haired woman featured in it was not a professional model (she is now). As for Twiggy, she is a legend, the face of the 1960s - and does not have grey hair!. M&S has relied on celebrities in the past, but has now decided to employ professional models with whom real women can identify. It has definitely embraced diversity - only last month I was involved in a shoot for its beauty products, again with a group of diverse models. This was a much
more low key shoot than the A/W 2012 For every woman you are, the international campaign that features Luisa Bianchin (20), Sandra Ellinore Shiotz Erichsen (22), Marquita M Pring (22), Eden Micael (24), Marie Meyer (27), Candice Joy Huffine (27), Anne-Flore Trichilo (34), Rachel Boss (42), Angela Dunn (48) and Yasmina Rossi (57). Still, it was thrilling to be part of it.

Photographer: Derek Anderson. Model: Alex B

I feel quite strongly about seeing older models in fashion and advertising and I know I am not the only one who does. When I say models, I mean models - neither celebrities, nor so called 'real women' (as if models were not real women) but women who can pose, walk on a runway and can really show the clothes they are wearing - it is an acquired skill .

It is wonderful to see models such as Yasmina and Angela appearing in such an important campaign. It really marks a trend and it opens up opportunities and possibilities for other older models.

In the past I would not have thought of M&S as a place where I could find interesting clothes. I take it back now: I would love to wear what Yasmina is modelling. I think it would look good on me.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Osteoporosis and a lovely surprise

Photographer: Martina O'Shea

As I grow older I become more and more conscious of osteoporosis. I don't have it but I have seen the devastating effects it has had on my mother. She is ninety years old now and not in very good health.  She has shrunk a good few inches and has a very curved back.  From being a relatively tall woman, keen on swimming and other activities she has now turned into a shadow of her former self. I watched her decline with immense sadness. Various events in her life made her lose interest in her own well being and from the time of my father's death she just gave up on almost everything. It's been over ten years now.
So I have become quite paranoid about losing height and losing flexibility in my spine. Compared to my twenties I am now about half an inch to an inch shorter, depending on what time of the day I measure my height - apparently we are taller in the morning, it's to do with gravity and spine compression. We lose height at the rate of one cm per decade starting at the age of 40 but I also know that it is possible to slow down this process or even stop it by watching our posture and maintaining a good diet (calcium and glucosamine sulphate are excellent supplements) and of course exercising for flexibility - this explains my fixation on stretching.
I have noticed with dismay how easy it is for young people to sit at a desk or in the car and curve their spine. At some point that curvature becomes permanent and people walk around protruding their necks and slouching.  A few years down the line that is their default posture. A yoga teacher of mine suggested sitting with a yoga belt strapped across the shoulders, to keep them well back. I sometimes do that as well as sitting with a book on my head for a few minutes to get 'to feel' a good  posture in my body, how to hold myself.
I find Pilates really helps. You work on movement details, on performing very small movements in sync with your breath. I love it. Swimming is another good way of stretching the spine, as also yoga.
I work on the principle that I only have this one body and want to take good care of it, once it goes I will not be able to replace it. The Romans used to say Mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body) and that has become my motto.
It is not out of a desire to look good. It is out of a desire to feel good, a desire to be healthy, knowing that life is a lot easier and infinitely more pleasant if you are well and feel good in your own skin.

A huge thank you to model Ella Rose. I have never had the pleasure to meet her but I have admired her photos, especially those taken by Neil Huxtable such as the one below:

Photographer: Neil Huxtable Model: Ella-Rose

Ella-Rose took me entirely by surprise today by sending me a lovely message on MM. I was feeling a little tired, this Hysteria tour is taking its toll - it's Cambridge tomorrow for another week.

I am copying it more or less verbatim (I do hope Ella -Rose will not mind):

"I just wanted to say: how inspiring to see such a beautiful, elegant and versatile model so successful in 'maturity'. I sometimes worry about how long I can do this job for, but seeing your portfolio has been reassuring. Wonderful work! You are beautiful."

I am truly touched Ella-Rose! It means a lot to me to know that a beautiful young woman such as yourself can find inspiration in what I do. Having noted your passion and commitment I do not doubt for a moment that you have a long modelling career ahead of you. I will enjoy watching you grow and mature.

(All photos unless otherwise stated modelled by Alex B.)