Of when I fell out of love with dance

The pastor | Mixed media on wood panel
The pastor | Mixed media on wood panel – By Tati Vice

Art can die; what matters is that it should have sown seeds on the earth… A picture must be fertile. It must give birth to a world.

Joan Miró

There is no way to say this, so I’m just going to say it: I fell out of love with dance. This is that. Thank God, being in love and loving it, are very different things.

As I read an article this morning by Claire Armitstead about Miriam Elia, an english artist, who stopped making  radio comedy as she “fell out of love with comedy” but still keeps the sarcasm on her books and illustrations about the contemporary art, I felt relieved.  The kind of relief that one feels when sees or reads something that translates a sort of anguish that one could not quite identify or understand, but someone finally said something, showed the way, and there was light, the skies opened, the  angels sang.

I love Dance. I think it is an universal  privilege, moving is good for the body and mind and everybody should do it. A dear friend, who is a musician told me once that, although he is not playing or composing anymore, he understood that everything he does in life, is music. He makes the most amazing and original printed fabrics designs I’ve ever seen – he is making his music.

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I  felt relieved to understand the kind of nausea I feel when I see some performances: my stomach is the first thing in my body to signal when something is not digesting properly. I understand that my eyes are contaminated by by own background and biases and, to keep things into perspective – hard – I ask Mike, what he thinks, how he sees it. Mike is an engineer, he is the common audience at the theatre, who paid the ticket to enjoy a show on a Saturday evening. He is not an intelectual writing to impress his peers, or a visual artist who hungs the rotten meat at the exhibition to shock people, or the dancer in the audience salivating poison as he observes how fat the other one looks on stage; or the actress, who realises from the audience, the blank stare as her colleague forgets the script and improvises on the spot to make the show go on; or even the maestro who sees that the Étoile is coming down on the diagonal, speeding up the déboulers and he now has to accelerate the orchestra to keep up with her.

Mike often helps me with honest impressions and makes things clearer for me. One of the directors with whom I worked in Brazil used to say that, a work in progress should be showed to your grandma, to your aunt’s friend, or the maid, to see if your piece is communicating, if there is any noise. If so, the work must be revisited, as if does not communicate, it does not reach out, doesn’t sow the seed, does not make a difference.

The only way I can understand the world is through difference. We are not all equals, will never be. When an good idea becomes a vocabulary to be decoded, learned and repeated, we lose the fertility of the seed. Life becomes a marketing, as I quoted here before, “that turns creators into Pavlovian creatures hooked on constant and immediate positive reinforcement via “likes” and “shares,” [Maria Popova]

A profoundly individual gesture is anonymous. Being anonymous, it allows the universal to be attained… The more local anything is, the more universal.

Joan Miró

Foto Tati Vice©

Quote du Jour


First read on Brain Pickings, a great article by Maria Popova about the spanish artist Joan Miró and his creative process.

In an age when the vast majority of our cultural material is reduced to “content” and “assets,” factory-farmed by a media machine that turns creators into Pavlovian creatures hooked on constant and immediate positive reinforcement via “likes” and “shares,” here comes a sorely needed reminder that art operates on a wholly different time scale and demands a wholly different pace of cultivation. (I’m reminded of Susan Sontag“Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art… Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.”)

Working from inside out


When I was doing Movement studies, I would hear from my masters: “the movement happens from inside out“.

This  simple concept can be hard to grasp, particularly when everything else around us say otherwise, that aesthetics and technique should come first on any sort of individual expression, as we live in this world of images. Body work, more specifically in the ballet world, a good pointed toes, the right placement of the arms and the right alignment of an arabesque is worth more than a thousand individual expressions. it took me a long time to understand and to be able to use all the technique I had towards my inner movement, without getting into too much conflict. On the other hand, it is also interesting to note that, there is or you can come across some sort of dictatorship in this concept, and depending on the approach, you better watch out in a body- expression or bio-dance class, if they see you posting your toes, you might get in big trouble. It is like they say, all extremes are dum, and a perfect organic, gluten-free, sugar-free and soy and addictive free meal might as well be a good plate of ice made from the purest water from the virgin spring fountains.

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This intro was an attempt to put my thoughts in order, as my head started spinning after reading an article by Margarita Tartakovsky about the creative process. If you think that this is too far away from your life, take a look around you and observe how you organize your life, the things you colect, your routine and the times you have to improvise to get to work on time, or when you are cooking dinner, and you are about to find your own creative process. Some people think that this is for artists. Maybe artists think more about that, but to be alive is a never ending dance.

“Getting creative about your creative process” is a good read. Here is a quote, as it relates to what I was saying about doing things the way other people do, as it is the right way and it might work for me too, kind of thought:

Whatever you’re working on, let the creative process work for you. Start from the inside out. Consider what works best for your natural tendencies and preferences. Think about what sounds like fun to you. Think about what seems fascinating and helpful. Embrace your own unique way of creating — whatever that looks like.

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A picture of the work I did yesterday, as I observe my own creative rut. The world is very noisy and one of the things that works for me, before I start anything, is to spend some time in silence, breathing to give a chance to listen what is inside and wants to be expressed, while I put things down on the surface.

Ipswich Mixed media on canvas 24 x 18 in
Mixed media on canvas
24 x 18 in

Gotta work.

Inspiration reality and the creative rut

Mixed media on canvas 40 x 30 inches
She bears the dust of the roads
Mixed media on canvas
40 x 30 inches

Coming out of a creative rut is not easy. It takes effort, will and courage. I found that, with time, the rut feels comfortable, and even the most uncomfortable feelings become companions, a sort of comrades during the desert pilgrimage. You walk around feeling out of focus, distracted by anything and everything, unable to move towards a goal, any goal. All you want is to get to the next water-fountain, so you can keep walking, aimless to arrive at….nowhere.

It is not lack of energy, or even a state of depression. In my experience, the rut is a weird transition place. You are shifting weight, the thoughts don’t make much sense and the ideas seem quite disconnected from your own brain, your own senses, or what it used to be like when you were doing something creative. In the rut, nothing is like it used to be and even the very act of getting down to it, holding the brush, or the pencil, or whatever is the instrument of your own creative work, feels a bit strange, more like a fraud, really.

During the weeks in this place, I decided to embrace this state: I would not force it, and I closed the door of my studio. Instead, I would read other stories, other books, find other interests. I organized my house, painted the walls, read different books, took my camera for a walk and watched a lot of documentaries. I studied french and took a short trip to Virginia, to see the family. After weeks of that, I had come across very interesting things, like some books:

Bonnard jardins
Bonnard, jardin secrets – by Olivier Renault

A great paper back about the life and work of Pierre Bonnard. When I was in Paris, I visited the exhibition at the D’Orsay and fell in love with his work. I found a great documentary on the french Art channel here: Pierre Bonnard: Les Couleurs de l’intime;

While watching and reading about Bonnard, I came across the incredible photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson;

CelloThe Cello Suites – J.B. Bach, Pablo Casals and the search for a Baroque Masterpiece – by Eric Siblin, a well written book about Bach and the famous cellist Casal, who at 80 something said that he still practiced the cello 5 hours a day “because I think I’m making progress“;

Visiting  the Phillips Collection Museum in Washington, DC I bought a book about Color – by Victoria Finlay, absolutelyColors victoria finlay fascinating about the origin and making of colours, the same ones I use on my paintings and we use for everything else;

Untethered soul

Of course, times in the rut call for a self-awareness help book, and “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A. Singer was an excellent read.

Then it was time to take my chances and, as you do when you enter cold waters, I dipped my toes in the studio  “just mark making and trying to listen, giving it a chance to see what comes out”, I said to myself, because in the rut, you doubt your abilities and when you doubt, you don’t really want to risk getting a dreaded confirmation.

After hours of making marks, covering it up, turning the canvas upside down and up again, struggling really, I had enough of the “you don’t know what you’re doing” shit in my head and “She bears the dust of the roads” happened from following a line. A life-line, I should say.

Although I’m not sure if the rut is over, I can well say that I don’t dread it anymore. Rut or no rut, it is important to know, despite all the distractions, blurriness, confusion, frustration and tears, what you are. And I am an artist.

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Artistry also comes in culinary. The Chef’s Table – a Netflix series is not just about food, but about artists making food. A must see.

One of the jewels I found, was this quote from the Argentinian Chef Francis Mallman.

When in Paris, he was asked to cook for the big shots of Cartier and after the meal, this is what happens:

[sic] “Mr. Mallmann, this was a really horrible meal. I think you have to think what you’re doing, because it wasn’t quite right. I want to say this in the nice way to you, because I see a lot of effort in what you do, but this was not french food.

I looked at him and I said “Sir, thank you very much“, but in my inside I thought: “this guy doesn’t know what he is talking about, he is not a chef, he is french, he does beautiful watches and jewels, but, you know, what does he know about cooking?” I went home to sleep, with that, and I’ve never forgot it. It was something heavy on me.

In time, I realised that he was right. I wasn’t doing the right thing, i was just trying to copy exactly what I had learned. And I think that, that happens in every craft in life. You’re young, you have a master, you want to emulate and do what he does, but at some point in life, you have to turn around and say, I have to find my own way, my own language.” 

I guess that is what the rut is about, after all: finding my own language.