There has been an almost month-long long hiatus in my studio life, mainly because we have finally started a long-due “clearance and renovation” project in our flat (which is now almost over — at least enough for me to return to the studio).
Such events tend to disrupt the life-supporting structures of my day, but they also create pauses, gaps in the normal flow of life — and thus an opportunity to stop and have a deeper look at it, as though from the outside. And this time, I’ve decided to try and really take this chance to hit the “pause button” on my life, to create some sort of personal “retreat” for myself.
Fused as it was with the whole experience of clearing the space for renovations and making new decisions on how to design and organise it, it probably wasn’t exactly how “retreats” are supposed to work (I wouldn’t really know, since I’ve never been to any). But it did bring a new clarity — not only in the inner space of consciousness, but also in its immediate outer, physical environment.
A renovation project like this, with all the taking stuff out, discarding all the junk we have imperceptibly accumulated over the last eight years, exposing the usually invisible “cultural layers” — such a project forces one to confront the “inside” of one’s life, all its usually invisible seams and stitches, its tender, dark, ugly underbelly. Not the “inner space” in the higher — mental, psychological, spiritual — sense of the world, but just this plain, mundane, earthly insides, with all the heaps of long-forgotten stuff in the recesses of storage areas, and all the layers of usually hidden dirt and dust: all the insides of life that usually do not appear, which don’t really want or need spectators — like the guts and entrails of a body. The normal flow of life gives one plenty of ways not to see all this stuff, but everything changes once you start preparing the place for renovations, and you begin to wonder whether what is now revealed is more “true”, more “real”, more “authentic”, than what is usually visible — or rather, what you usually prefer to see. A domestic take on the millennia-old philosophical question…
(It turned out, for example, that I seem to have some sort of “cleaning supplies fetish” — there were layers and layers of them hidden behind one another in kitchen and bathroom cabinets, some of them many years old. I never really believed — at least not consciously — that they will have any cleaning effect just by sitting there; but maybe I did believe it at some childish level, hidden even from myself? There seem to be no other remotely rational reason to keep them there, as an army never called to fight…)
However humbling this experience, it brought in its wake a more uplifting one. In some way, this clearing of mind and space, the overall cleansing and renewal, made it possible for me to finally update the private “exhibition” of paintings on our walls. For a rather long time, all the recent paintings remained in their storage places, mostly invisible even to myself. Now, the new paintings are finally out in the open, enjoying fresh air and open space. And this certainly feels like getting my inner space out into the visible outer space — as though my inner world is now reflected back at me from the walls!
And this is a completely different space from the one we used to inhabit before this hiatus: cooler, freer, lighter, easier to breath in.