David Boden from Castlewellan expresses his views to Down News about the arts and what the arts mean to him.
There are many genres of art. Outside of the many forms of visual and literary arts most of us would consider the other disciplines of self-expression to be performance arts such as music and acting. There are many other art forms and other practices you may argue not to be an art writes David Boden.
Our appreciation of art helps define who we are. Our engagement and understanding broadens and deepens us as human beings.
If we use the expression, ‘It’s an art’ or to confess to ‘having it down to an art’, we have primarily exercised having a degree of tolerance. It means being blessed with some kind of personality trait that a majority of folk would most likely take for granted.
Many ‘art’ tasks may seem menial and therefore the generic reaction is ‘anyone can do that’. Many of us, including myself have been guilty of such throw-away and derogatory remarks.
Every once in a while, we all experience somebody do something that is not difficult but we acknowledge a special care being taken. When care is taken we appreciate effort and finesse and understand there is intricacy and strong will required in simplicity, be it a 3-minute pop song we can all relate to and dance to or a well detailed portrait of a smiling child.
When I was at school I felt a kinship with my history teacher. History is something I’ve always found interesting and many school kids care less for what happened before their time but my teacher had this unique talent where he could of been telling his class the history of toothpaste but he had a rare gift that he could have made something as dull as that sound just as exciting as going to the moon.
That is a skill very few possess so in that example what others did as a means to survive he executed with charisma and precision and in his case I think was ‘an art’.
What does art mean for me?
As an individual diagnosed with but not suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, and an active practitioner in painting, drumming and poetry I have complete freedom to tell the world who I am.
My early experiences of art was just an instant attraction. I would just see various types of art and automatically want to get involved and do it.
The artists and styles I was inspired by were cartoons and cartoonists. I would often try to replicate what I saw in comics. Coming to the end of primary school I frequently read The Beano, The Dandy, Tin-Tin and Asterix. The latter two creations anoraks may argue not to be comics and perhaps graphic novels.
I also got introduced to heavy metal by my older brother in my late primary school and early secondary school years. I would often try reproducing album sleeves and band members. For art homework, I would often do pieces inspired by horror films, heavy metal music and covers of books by authors such as Stephen King.
Other students would react with comments such as ‘what’s that meant to be?’ and teachers would commend me on my effort as they would comment with “Weird!”
This is not to say I am not faced with difficulties because when I am asked a question it feels clinical to respond in a simple yes or no. If I volunteer to elaborate with my answer tension can arise. I may be asked for an example that is prompted with an abrupt “Like what?” and I feel ill at ease, over, challenged.
The fields in which I express myself by-passes conflict when I am alone with the necessary resources, should they be pen and paper, or a musical instrument.
There is no regime apart from trying to be true to myself. When I take time to express myself with clarity and confidence that positive feeling often transcends to those with whom I share my work.
I just felt at home in creating some form of art as many artists (particularly painters) feel a disregard for boundaries, rules and convention.
This drawing is a complete work of my imagination apart from reproducing the floral design on my living room curtains and an outer pattern of a piano on my rug.
The skills I concentrated on trying to display is a consistency of dimension and symmetry in lines whilst using artistic freedom to be linear in size.
That is evident how width changes in the window ledge and piano.
I put myself in such mindsets as ‘What if Picasso painted dolmens?’ and ‘How well could an architect draw to scale if forbidden to use a set square?’
Not everyone is spiritually inclined and not everyone believes themselves to be artistically motivated but nobody can argue life has no substance without balance and balance is the bindings of contradiction and irony , such as right and left or light and dark .
I captured such opposites in my drawing of the piano which has typically black and white keys with varying degrees of loud and quiet tones.
The idiom of black and white implies a strict sense of musical right and wrong in the creative process which we are summoned to adhere to.
When an artist fuses the black and white they have grey which could serve as a metaphor of being indifferent to dispel the dogma of sectarianism often germane with the history of Ireland.
Candles are often regarded to be symbolic of hope in times of despair, such as in the event of a death. That is why I drew a dolmen where the dead were laid to rest in a pre-Christian era and I took a prayer from Saint Francis of Assisi and mathematically subdivided the syllables as it would likely be scored if translated into a song.
The prose in question reads ‘It is in dying that we are born into eternal life‘ .
All art should have depth and explore disciplines such as the sciences. That is when it is real and honest.
My mother was a librarian during my childhood so I’ve always been surrounded by books. Writing is something I’ve always done, at times more frequent than others.
Reading and writing are firstly necessary skills for daily life then from personal experiences either become a source of comfort or a platform of catharsis.
The beauty is that there is no right or wrong in art so that ability is something everyone has and can share.
Many believe poetry has to rhyme but that is a misconception I wish to dispel.
Very often it does, but I personally feel it is more important to create words that are thought provoking and graphic.
One poem with no rhyming and some of the most prolific prose is called ‘Proverbs Of Hell‘ by William Blake. Some quotes include: “No bird soars too high if it soars with its own wings” and “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough”.
These words are powerful, truthful and relevant. They are also pieces of art and can inspire one to be successful whilst living ethically. That is important for all of us.
All words are open to interpretation and I interpret “No bird soars too high if it soars with its own wings” to mean if I allow myself time to think and plan methodically, I can achieve my full potential.
I interpret the second piece of prose “You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough” to mean that I am capable of making wise decisions and being comfortable within restrictions if I am aware of dangers which may arise.
Blake wrote this in 1793 and has probably never been more relevant than the current time we are in. Anything that is of substance is timeless and this is evident of why many regard Blake as a prophet.
I suppose I first felt there to be a power in words when I would read lyrics as I would listen to music. Often these words could place my mind with a moment in my life or evoke a series of images. There would have been other occasions where there would be references to other writers, personalities, films , books, philosophical concepts and practices that I was discovering for the first time. It was a whole counter-culture experience that crossed into other arts and resonated sight as well as sound.
The brain is a sponge that absorbs and reacts to its surrounding habitat. Throughout the years I’ve been inspired by what I’ve visually witnessed heard and read to try and create for myself .
As of 2017, I recited poems at the open mic poetry nights that happen monthly in The Crescent Art Centre in Belfast.
Some styles of poetry include didactic which carry a message of morality. One of the most celebrated examples of a didactic would be Paradise Lost by John Milton.
Poets who have influenced me the most include William Blake, W.H. Auden and Rudyard Kipling. All had such power and drama in their words.
One of my earliest poems I wrote , which I called ” Perfection“. Below is the opening verse:
When the wind and sea are static and the sky is black,
When everything from pots of gold to terrorism are nothing more than diversions of symmetry of blood flow to the head,
because all of whom are living are posing as the dead.
Rudyard Kipling is perhaps most acclaimed for his poem ‘If’.
It opens with the lines “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you“.
That was my inspiration to write perfection and as such I used ‘when’ as the first word in each sentence like Rudyard Kipling did by starting each sentence with the word ” If” .
I try not to have a theme but concentrate more on trying to evoke interesting images from words and as I’m also a drummer, I am concerned about grammar being rhythmic and mathematical. That is something I consider crucial and aim to achieve first off.
‘Perfection’ came out of my struggle to sleep so you could say I wrote it in a wish to be at peace.
Another example of poems I write is a style called Acrostic . An acrostic poem is taking an existing word, which serves as the title and each letter of your chosen word is the beginning of a new sentence . Below is an example:
Animated in creativity whilst driven by determination.
Uniqueness takes courage and deserves admiration.
Time heals all pain , including prejudice.
Imagination is the birth of our greatest achievements.
Success is buried in the garden of failure.
Mystery brings pleasure to human existence.
Using the same title allows variations of one poem and means writers block is a little less of an issue.
Life Changes Changes Lives Is A Very Safe Art Platform For Me.
Pop up art, also under the name of Life Changes Change Lives in Downpatrick has without question changed my life for the better. I’ve always been passionate about art and I’ve always had struggles, and as Manus Teague, the co-ordinator, is trained as a counsellor, I feel very at home there.
Drawing and painting is something I’ve always done and always enjoyed.
But when I was coming of age, it seemed taboo to admit one had problems.
As one goes through life issues can often result in alienation.
I deem Pop Up Art as sacred ground as we are all ignited by personal struggles and a passion to create positive memories that will bring pleasure to the eye .
I give my kudos to Manus and his wife Ailish for creating a niche that the area had been lacking for a long time. I’ve been associated with other groups that catered to mental health but didn’t seem to have as powerful an effect.
The reason being other groups didn’t offer counseling and the same level of creativity. There were a lot of clients who had been hospitalised long-term and were reluctant to open up, and that is the beauty of Pop Up Art – we don’t consider anyone or anything to be a lost cause.
We may be assigned a piece of furniture that has seen better days and everyone has felt like that at some point of their life. When that is the case , the table may need sanding and primer prior to the actual art project work.
When I do such preparation, I understand the importance of care and in turn why nobody deserves neglect. I’m taught the importance of not just selflessness but empathy.
I know there may be members who have lived through neglect and may be estranged from their families. I see that as part of their history but not their entity because I’ve become comfortable in their presence and I can attest to their qualities.
Everyone who belongs to the Pop Up Art project is family and is only too willing to come to another’s aid.
That is a feeling that resonates with me as there are times I’ve been shy of hope and felt like life has no purpose. I have been blessed because I’ve been in the presence of friends and family who have reminded me of my strengths when I doubted myself.
It is all a process and the secret to success is to trust in time.
Ailish, a great mentor, has tremendous belief in all our talents as well as superb artistic vision.
We are always assigned unique projects that are in keeping with our abilities and our interests so there is a personal connection which enhances self-worth.
I’m at the point that I don’t mind if I receive bad news because I feel the recovery is taking effect the minute I walk through the door.
Change and progression are the key components to positive change.
That is an ethos which ignites every member of this project.
We have all had a series of experiences that have meant our lives haven’t always been ideal. We are all passionate about art and are driven to transpire our past into more pleasant memories by creating imagery that brings pleasure to the eye.
We’ve all been alone at times but that becomes a part of our past when we are all in one building as the remit is art as therapy.
I wholeheartedly believe what I and everyone else involved in Pop Up Art do is as vital to our well being as our medication.
Consequently, the two have to coincide – one is redundant without the other.
Role For Internet in Art
The internet plays such a crucial role in today’s society that I thought it would be worth highlighting something that would be worth sharing with our readers. As there is little in the modern world where the internet isn’t included, it proved a challenge finding something that would be of inspiration and relevance to a large audience.
Low and behold after countless hours I found a website:
Polymath may be a term many are unfamiliar with. An alternative term of a similar nature is Renaissance Man which is somebody with extensive knowledge in a variety of fields.
Above is a cross section of well-educated and inspirational figures throughout the centuries. All have been successful in an eclectic and diverse range professions.
Few are successful in one skill which is an achievement itself.
These men have been and are polymaths because they have been revolutionary and influential in a multitude of sciences and arts.
Another common consensus of how a polymath is defined is someone who is highly accomplished academically and artistically – it is more typical to excel in one or the other. The exemplars above have come to be defined as polymaths from having a unique talent of being able to combine art with science.
How I distinguish arts from sciences is arts are expressed through opinions and emotions whilst sciences are largely mathematically orientated to distinguish fact from fiction.
Both schools are co existent as both are avenues of discovery .
Architects and inventors need creative vision to conceptualize and engineering precision is also necessary for the dream to materialize.
Leonardo Da Vinci was born out of wedlock which until modern times was a taboo. Consequently he was deprived of formal education and was home schooled.
He became fascinated with his surroundings, particular natural biology and human biology as the human body relies on nature in order to evolve.
This is one of his most recognised pieces known as The Vitruvian Man or alternatively the proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius. Da Vinci married art with maths to imply all people and things are intertwined.
William Blake served as an engraver having previously had a gift for painting and poetry. He mixed raw fluids like oil and water to create paint. He would later engrave images and words together and market what he deemed as “prophetic books”
He was largely influenced by angelic visions he experienced as a child and the biblical interplay of good and evil.
Rudolf Steiner who was initially an architect used his training of designing physical buildings and twined that ethos of sculpting oneself into a functioning temple of intellect and integrity. From physically creating buildings he also devised his own education system and franchise of schools under Waldorf Education. His first school was Waldorf Astoria in Stuttgart Germany in 1919.
He created such disciplines as Eurythmy and Anthroposophy.
Eurythmy is an aerobic practice where physical movement interacts with words and sounds and can lend itself to dance, theatre and music. It is used in his schools to help children with coordination and physical balance but also to be spiritually balanced. In turn they strive to be well-rounded creatively and academically.
Anthroposophy has a strong emphasis on the talents of nature and self sufficiency and as such encompasses such fields as organic farming and natural medicine.
The son of a military engineer Brian and his father built his main guitar from a fireplace and built other components of the guitar from other household utensils from bed springs to knitting needles.
He studied physics at Imperial College London where he would later meet the other members of Queen. He did his dissertation on The Interplanetary Dust and throughout the decades of Queen was an active and passionate astronomer.
He has stated that music is structured upon mathematical language and like his predecessors like Isaac Newton believed both Newton and himself to be descendants of the Victorian age, believing there to be no distinction between science which is structured and expressive arts which are dominantly subjective.
Further exercising and celebrating the marriage of sciences and arts as two halves of a whole, he joined forces with Spanish art historian Elena Vidal in 2009. The outcome was a book called ‘A Village Lost and Found’ which catalogued images of stereoscopic photographer T.R. Williams. Dr May designed a viewer to accompany postcard like images by the said photographer taken in a village called Hinton Waldrist .
Bruce Dickinson joined Iron Maiden on their third album ‘Number Of The Beast’ .
He was also an accomplished fencer in his youth having competed at an international level. Aviation was in his family having served in the Royal Air Force. Coming from London he got his first job in Stansted Airport working in air traffic control.
Graduating to a pilot outside of music, he flies his band crew and equipment round the world on his private aircraft, a Boeing 757 titled by Iron Maiden fans as ” Ed Force One”. He has also interviewed bands on radio, presented documentaries on aircraft and railway and published books.
When his band are not on tour he is a commercial airline pilot and has a flight school.
As if everything else previously mentioned isn’t impressive enough he has produced his own ale called ‘Trooper’ taking its name from an Iron Maiden song with the band’s mascot Eddie on the label.
Bruce has mentioned in an interview that nobody is one-dimensional and the thought of him only being a singer terrifies him.
I believe it is necessary to be diverse and balanced to survive in today’s world and live in contentment.
I do feel I have many strings to my bow and I hope that reflects who I am.
The personalities I’ve mentioned in my final section are icons which I hold in high esteem. Whilst I’ve achieved nowhere near what they’ve achieved and likely never will, they have all instilled me with an ample amount of confidence.
Confidence is essential in the need to survive. In some senses it is easier to be fearless and confident when we are in our infancy. When we are young we are naive because we have little experience. That accosts us with arrogance that brings us success.
The adult world subtracts us of our self assurance but self assurance and achievements can be reinstated through age and the experiences we gain as we age through life.
Pain is inevitable but if we have hope, pain is just a phase in our lives.
No phase is permanent that is why phase is a phase and pain shall pass.
As we are approaching 2021 I speak for everyone when I say I wish for nothing other than Covid-19 to pass and I believe it will pass as it has been in effect for the majority of 2020.
When something has been a formality for a while, we don’t become comfortable with the discomfort but we grow in resilience.
From being resilient we know there are fewer things we can’t overcome. It is such insight and optimism that suggests the strong probability of Covid being of the past prior to approaching 2022.
Therefore, art to me distils life in various forms. It fundamentally expresses who we are.