I want to share with you some beautiful photos my son Julien took of a special place: Talmont, a small village at the mouth of the Gironde estuary in France (not too far from Bordeaux). Where is this going? Bear with me for a moment and I hope that you will see my point.
I am always in owe of the beauty of the village and its setting, of its charming features and I can’t help thinking of all the wealth of images that could be turned into pieces of art: the setting of the church on the cliff, the pale color of the rock face and the stones of the buildings, the blue shutters and doors (a typical color for the area), the flowers growing wild along the narrow streets and among the graves. In the middle of summer, hollyhocks grow wild all over the place.
Photos by Julien House © 2007
Inspiration from architecture or landscapes plays a major role in many people’s compositions and designs, either directly or through their interpretation and I keep intending to bring some of Tamont visual elements into my work and let them be the inspiration for a wonderful new piece but so far it has not happened. …..Or has it? I am aware that when I walk around the village, I am filled with the special energy and peace of the place and with the feeling that I fit in my surroundings. I have come to realize that I may not be directly inspired by what I see in the sense that I am not reproducing images. But I carry what I felt in the village back home with me and those feelings are the force driving my imagination and my hands into creating a new piece with no apparent relationship with what I saw.
I made “Reliquary” several weeks after coming back from a trip to France during which I had taken a walk in Talmont. The piece is about nature and the fears I have about what we are doing to it. I do think that the spirituality and creative energy I felt during my walk was still very much in me as I worked on this. I chose the shape because it was consistent with that of a reliquary and the message I wanted to convey. It had not entered my consciousness until later that I used the same beautiful roman arches as those of the little church.
It is fascinating when we look at a piece of art to try to find out how much of it is the result of direct inspiration (as much as we can tell from what we know of the artist’s life or the accompanying statement) and how much is due to feelings or moods that have actually nothing to do with the subject of the piece but are part of a residual psychological state generated in the artist’s conscious (or unconscious) mind by certain experiences or events, moods and feelings that we cannot possibly know about but we may be able to intuit from the piece.
I am interested to know how other people’s minds work and what makes them tick. Can you always tell where your inspiration comes from or, rather, can you consciously feel when you are working under the influence of feelings inspired, sometimes long ago, by something unrelated to the subject you are working on? I know some people work better when they are under a lot of emotional upheaval (grief, love, political engagement, etc). Do you find it to be true for you or do you find that visual stimulation is more important in your creative process? Just being curious…
In any case, I hope that if my questions do not inspire you, the images will!
And by the way, I find it quite interesting to note that the word “inspire” also means “drawing air into the lungs”, an activity essential to life.