Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, March 14, 2011

Artist at play

Sandy Brown, the British ceramics artist, lives and works in Appledore, Devon. She came to Trinidad for 2011 Carnival and gave a talk at the Trinidad Arts Society on play as creativity.

Sandy Brown with a ceramic piece "played"  into being
Her life work begins in the early 70s, when she leaves everything behind for four years of study with a potter in Japan. She learns the craft and her capability by copying traditional techniques. This is clearly a crossroads in Brown's life; and she returns to Britain with a Japanese partner, and continues to confront the challenge of her identity as an artist, a woman, a creative being. With simple language and a couple hundred images, she describes the process of self-discovery. A style emerges that is large and expansive as her generous good humour, as her throaty laugh.

Clearly, in her 40 years as a potter, Sandy Brown has let go of many things - her mother's inhibitions, society's expectations, boundaries of place and time. Her paintings are deceptively childlike, daubs and scribbles in pure primary colours that also serve as doodles for utilitarian vessels (bowls, jars, cake plates!) and maquettes for larger than life ceramic sculptures. Sandy is not a small person, and it requires more than average strength to throw and turn figures that punctuate impressive landscapes. So her creativity extends to devising the way to shape, glaze, fire and mount a 12-foot  tower of ceramic beads or parts around a steel core.

The technique for loosing creativity is letting go, she says. You intuit that this is more than a process of going at your artform with ouija board blindness. Play allows you to free your deepest creative instincts. Openness taps the experience and ingenuity which you will require to take it to completion.

This is what she says: "When we are responsive to what is happening during play, when we have an open mind, and lose all attachment to having to produce a 'work of art', that is when it happens. By it I mean creativity. And when we are being mot creative we are most ourselves, so you will discover more abouut yourselves too. You just do it, instinctively, spontaneously, playfully."

Each in his or her own way, every creative artist understands this process. It's what allows us to do our truest work. The page - or computer screen - may be blank. The canvas clean. The clay an earthen lump. But  the mind - call it the collective unconscious - is teeming. This is what we tap into when we "play." We stream the void.

And so we have from T. S. Eliot:
"At the still point of the turning world;
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards;
At the still point, there the dance is..."
Image of Dancers from Sandy's website

And from Sandy Brown: "Dancers "conceptualised through playfulness; and completed with the artist's precision, experience and technology.

Should we not all be at play in the field of the universe!

See more of Sandy Brown at http://

1 comment:

  1. Many call that state being 'in the zone'. Athletes along with artists. My own truest work is created when I(me) am 'lost' in the moment of hyper awareness.