Artists often talk about what informs them. By this they mean the influences that come to bear on their work and what they seek to say in it. Sometimes those influences are technical and process-oriented; sometimes they are to do with content, but they are always there. They inform an artist’s practice.
For we are all artists, expressing our own journey through our lives and work.
I was born and grew up in the countryside, in the open places beyond the city. My first memories were of Tawhirimātea, the God of the winds, carrying messages from my mother Papatūānuku, the Earth, bringing them from far away and pinning them to the needles of the pine trees outside my bedroom window. Some nights there were many notes left there for me to mull over, at other times they were relatively few. My imagination and intuition were obliged to fill in the gaps. So, I came to love trees for the stories they had to tell.
We lived in a house set up on a hill. I would often rise early, and go out to the kitchen to share breakfast with my father before he left for work. He would lift me up onto the bench, and I would watch the sun away in the distance, rising like Venus, from the sea. I fell in love with watching the birth of a day, its transition from the mystery of darkness to the bright clarity of daytime, from being fully present in the Time Between.
I still do.
Then our family moved to the city, and these panoramas were denied me for many years. My substitute became the night sky, stars, and watching the passage of the moon across the sky, glimpsed through the narrow and strangling arc of the gaps between buildings. I learned to see that darkness is the other side of light, that both light and shadow must coexist for each to have any meaning. We are two-part beings, living batteries whose energy derives from our innate polarity.
It was when I came to be able to observe and begin to understand the duality within myself and within my Self that the light began to really glow for me. Once more, I found myself back on that kitchen bench, watching the light and shadow as the sun rose. Each morning, as I arise I return to the kitchen bench where my Father shows me the wonder of Life.
Now, perhaps, I begin to be able to decipher the notes pinned on the trees.
All around me, the world is changing. The beautiful, the pristine, the eternal are being ground down by the relentless mill of human intention, of illusion and delusion.
To dance with ugliness and despair is easy. Ugliness and despair want to be our companions; they jump up and down, their hands in the air, eager to be chosen.
To approach our journey in a way that is both reverential and influential is so much harder.
Nowadays, as I walk the circle of my life, returning the place where I began, I realise that all along those messages blown down the mystery of the night have been whispering to me.
As they are whispering to you.