Marja-Leena Rathje
Home ::: an artist's brain

an artist's brain


I have a messy habit of bookmarking anything and everything that interests and excites me. Soon I have so much on my computer that it all gets rather lost, like piles of papers. Once in a while I sift through some of it. This is what jumped out at me today, as it did the first time I saw it and loved it.

Stuff goes in. Stuff comes out....

In much of our education system - particularly in the over examined school context - it is often implied that art/design/creativity is a kind of sausage machine process: the meat of 'inspiration' goes in at one end, is chopped up with a bit of other stuff, is seasoned by the maker, to then emerge conveniently packaged at the other.

This is a way of learning, but it is not real.
The things that truly capture our imaginations - our passions and preoccupations - are embedded deep in the fibre of our being. A constant latent presence, they may surface unbidden or are actively revisited and tussled with, building up layer upon layer of understanding.

All experiences add to the texture of our thinking. Audrey Walker describes things seen/discoveries as being 'absorbed' into memory and she has used the analogy of a store cupboard to illustrate the idea of consciously accumulating information which may be retrieved at a later date. I like to follow this train of thought and think about the neatly labelled jars you know to be there. Of course the (my) reality is often a haphazard array of open vessels spilling over or gathering dust. And I have the additional ingredient of mind numbing amnesia that comes with an ageing brain, so the rediscovering is even more potent here. [images here]

In Dorset recently, idly collecting the odd flat, smooth black stone during the day, I felt moved - just before we left the beach - to piece together a black spot.

Some days later, back in the studio, combing through images on my laptop (in the hope of editing to free up space) I came across black spot two. I'd photographed it in the stores at the V&A a couple of years ago. It's painted tapa cloth from the Pacific Islands (1800's). I had loved the simplicity and burnished solidity of the circle. I had also forgotten all about it. Rediscovering it was quite a shock. It was obviously subliminally there all the time, quietly and patiently sitting in a dark corner somewhere.

So, stuff goes in - isn't always remembered - and re-emerges. My brain knows this information, but I don't. Clever things, brains.

Check out the images in this post called Black Spot, by Sue Lawty, artist and author of Concealed, Discovered, Revealed, a Victoria and Albert Museum blog. I think it was Olga of Threading Thoughts who first pointed me in this direction.

P.S. I just noticed that this is my 1000th post, about a month short of this blog's fourth birthday! It may not be remarkable compared to many others, but it surprised me.

Marja-Leena | 09/01/2008 | 10 comments
themes: Being an Artist, Concepts


Happy thousanth! I really enjoy reading your blog - I find that it sets me off thinking in joyful curiosity, and provides a humming descant to so many of my own mental wanderings.

Congratulations on the 1000th post to your blog!! And happy blog birthday to come!!

Olga, thanks for the wonderful words, I'm so pleased especially coming from such a fine crafter of words and images!

Joan, thanks, I'm glad you've joined me in the ride!

Bravo Marja-Leena! You have indeed given us much pleasure by sharing your diverse talents from the outset. Can you give us a glimpse of your artistic journey hereafter?

I bookmark way too many things also, and then I can't find the things that I really need. On the other hand, I came across a really interesting quote about math and poetry a few days ago, but I was tired so I didn't bookmark it. The next day, a friend compared math and poetry on his blog, and that quote would have made a great comment. I couldn't find that quote either by looking through my online history or by Googling it!

Now, I don't mind bookmarking things so much.

Roger, thanks. I'm still waiting impatiently for the certain something to announce to all of you, hopefully any day now.

Hi M and welcome! That happens to me too. I have bookmark folders into which I try to place them so searching them is a bit easier. I looked at your blog, and found out that you are part Finnish. Do you speak it?

Unfortunately, not. I can count to ten, and I know a few other words. My parents were so happy to get me talking that they didn't try to teach me either Finnish or Estonian. I very much regret that now, and someday, when I have more free time, I'd like to learn.

I've been enjoying your blog!

Hi again, M, glad you like my blog! It's always hard, I think, to learn your parents' languages if you grow up in an English speaking place (which I think you might have?). Certainly we didn't manage to teach our daughters Finnish and German.

Happy Thousandth. I had a similarly huge amount of stuff bookmarked. Then the hard drive broke down completely and I've had to start again on this new machine. In a way, it's been a liberating experience.

Thanks, Mr Zip! Nice to see you here again. Sorry about your hard drive failure and loss of info. I had a similar thing happen a couple of years ago. Some stuff was backed up, some not. Now I have a great backup program, worth it!