I have been thinking about attention lately. It is a quality that is close to my heart as I know how powerful it can be in a counselling room. Paying attention really closely to someone, listening to them well, can often open up doors in their thinking, can help to release emotions, and can make a world of difference as people try to work through challenges and move on from painful situations. I also know this very well as the person being listened to. Having another person really attend to me as I work through difficulties is very restoring and helpful. This is partly due to the sense of not being alone – isolation is a real burden when things are tough. But I think that it may be more than that also – that creativity itself (in the form of new insights and new ideas) can come just from paying attention. This has been on my mind as I have been to a great exhibition in the past couple of weeks whose power comes partly from the sense that intense and sustained attention has been paid in the creation of the images.
My friend Ed is a photographer, and I went to the opening of his latest exhibition 10 days ago. He has been making images of natural objects that he has collected from around his place in the hills. There are pieces of wood – logs and sticks, a shell, some vegetables, other items, and the images are large and in black and white. Ed has really looked at these objects. He has spent time with them and become very familiar with them. I think he has let them work some magic on him and in turn he has found things in them – their shapes, their form, some kind of ‘essence’ in them, and then, through the lens has turned them into something new. They have become surprising creatures perhaps (a parsnip turned into an octopus, a stick into a stick insect),
or they give a sense of the immensity of nature and the universe (wood shavings turned into stars), or have me thinking of the wild world that is within us all (our tears, our hearts, our minds) in powerful ways.
They give me a feeling of wonder and amazement and mystery, and I think this comes from the attention that Ed has paid the objects. Through his looking, his attention, simple unprepossessing objects have become strange, beautiful, new. It is a wonderful exhibition and is on at the Prospect Gallery, just off Main North Road at Nailsworth, till 28 June. Here is a link to further information, and you get a peek at more of the pictures also.