“In transitions, we must learn to be still. Being still is, in part, about learning to be comfortable with ambiguity” ~ Janet Rebhan,
For this past while I have been considering different creative methods and trying my hand at some new approaches. I love working with clay, oil and acrylic paint and have reconnected after a long time with pencil and ink drawing. Digital art, photographic blending, mixed media involving paint, ink and drawing and altered surreal images are also a favourite approach of mine. However I have begun experimenting with fabric, thread and textures there is something about these processes of creation that feels really involved.
These past couple of months learning how to be present and hold the space for people coming in exploring their own creative journeys within the art studio has been an honour and humbling. Learning how each person thinks and approaches their creativity is widening my own sense of curiosity and what is possible.
My initial training in psychotherapy began in 2006 with George Kelly’s Personal Construct approach which in brief is a theory about personality. He theorised that that each person is made up of cumulative perceptions and experiences that come together and create a frame of reference ie. we develop an idea about how the world works and then operate in accordance to this, using our personal views to make sense of what we both see and experience. Of course because we are all made up differently the world we live in isn’t the same for everyone, our personal perceptions are different and although we may be sharing an experience with someone or looking at the same object our interpretation may vary from person to person. He hypothesised that we are much like scientists testing out our own personal theories in order to understand this life we find ourselves living. That we want to feel secure by being able to predict what will happen next and want to understand things. He suggested that by experimenting/ testing out our theories of the word that we either expand and adapt our frames of reference to include a wider picture or we tighten and find our beliefs reaffirmed strengthening our long held sense of things.
Although Kelly’s theory was born of its time his ideas still fit today. That we have a set of beliefs and go out into the world testing these out expecting to find that these are true yet we are faced with other people’s views and interpretations, sometimes this is wonderful and it opens us up to other ideas.
…or it can become conflictual because we may not be able to see things from a different point of view or we may feel that our views of right and wrong are how it is and there is no room for a sense of error. We may experience fear of change, of our sense of ourselves and the world falling apart, hold tight to truths that may have served us well in the past but may be hurting our growth in the present. We may hang on to blaming external people and circumstances because owning the concept that we ourselves may have been mistaken can be a very intimidating/ guilt enhancing process. What is important though is that we choose what feels right and makes sense for us, we each evolve at our own pace.
The age old ‘and …and’ phenomena
So much conflict arises from each of us having our different frames of reference, our different perceptions. Yet none of us can truly claim that ours is the right way, our view remains entirely subjective. Even in bigger groups/ institutions we cannot truly claim right and wrong approaches. We know there are always two or more sides to a story and somewhere in the middle of that there will be elements of the truth which is free from personal feelings. Much war and disharmony arise from tightly held views by groups or individuals whom are not ready at this time to consider that there may be other perspectives, other options.
“An engineer, a scientist, a mathematician, and a philosopher are hiking through the hills of Scotland, when they see a lone black sheep in a field.
The engineer says, “It looks like the sheep around here are black.”
The scientist looks at him skeptically and replies, “Well, at least some of them are.”
The mathematician considers this for a moment and replies, “Well, at least one of them is.”
Then the philosopher turns to them and says, “Well, at least on one side.”
Ambiguity: Open to more than one possibility. Nothing is exact.
In the past personally I have had a felt need to seek perfection, precision of understanding, clarity, to find the truth and at times behaved dogmatically about things I believed to be true. Though for me (I can only speak for myself at the moment until I get to the point of interviewing others) this was born of a deep fear of getting it wrong, making mistakes, of failing, of embarrassment and shame, fear for being exposed as lacking wisdom or intelligence, yet the irony is that the whole time it was that very fear that was inviting a perception and experience of this exact scenario. In trying to cover up /hide my vulnerability I was making those mistakes. With time, patience, listening, reflecting and truly looking at myself, my own responsibilities, my real mistaken motivations, choices and behaviour I have managed to (mainly) shift from this to having a deep understanding that I know only my own experience and that is limited by my own perceptions/ interpretations and actually there are other views, other perceptions, other feelings, other people who make different choices and right and wrong can sometimes be a grey area that needs discussion and further exploration. I have learned to be ok with mistakes and to be willing to reflect more on my own thoughts and behaviour as well as accepting that perfection and 100 % clarity are nothing but illusion, concepts, impossible to achieve. I have grown to learn to love the flaws and forgive the mistakes of both myself and others because we are all equally on the same boat and most of us are in our own ways just trying to find love, acceptance, peace and happiness.
So ambiguity in the context of this blog is about the acceptance that there is more than one option, more than one perception. That this is what I as an artist am keen to explore. How it is that each of us view our lives circumstances and how we make meaning from it? One idea can exist and have the same validity as any other idea even if the ideas conflict, there is space for all perceptions. Ideas and perceptions can coexist neither being right nor wrong just different in view point.
Of course our social context means operating within certain agreed laws which can dictate a sense of what is right and what is wrong (or more specifically that which is considered not acceptable) but again these laws are man made and are contextual to the time and society in which they were agreed so just as then with time and discussion/ exploration these laws could be adaptable with shared mass agreement. Nothing is fixed, everything evolves.
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.
Ambiguity for me personally means the recognition that there is more than one way to be, more than one option in life, more than one creative method for exploring and I am beginning to experiment. For this project embroidery is a learning path that I am stepping onto and this journey belongs to a special personal healing project that I have left untouched/ unfinished for too long. I am choosing to complete a story of sorts which has been motivated by love, learning and gratitude.
I am open to learning from different people, different places in the world, different approaches to life. To trying new experiments free of the worry of failing, I want to embrace truth, the fullness of who I and others are (free from judgement) and grow more compassionate of heart. I can only learn and we all have to begin somewhere. I am looking forward to travelling and learning different perspectives and understandings.
There is beauty in allowing the space for people to be wholly and freely who they are, inexact, wonderful beings making their own way.
Mixed media piece inspired by Alice in Wonderland
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice. ‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat. ‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation. ‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough”