Why is Creative Expression relevant for Sustainability?
As I was sending out invitations to a series of painting sessions called “My Nature”, someone sent back a comment to inquire more deeply the link between painting and sustainability. What is the link between the grand project of our time and a few pots of paint? Why is this way of painting called “my nature” and where does the game part come in?
Painting, so it seems at first, has become one of the more scarier techniques of our time. Especially for adults. It holds a taste of childhood, a practice that may make us appear ridiculous except of the lucky one who dominate the recognized schemes. Let’s face it: Calling something creative is seldom an expression of freedom but a way of affirming conventions. The “creative” represent what society thinks is pleasantly “new” or in a refreshing way “unusual” or “well-done”.
Arno Stern, whose technique gave the basis to my approach, says that people feel uncomfortable about their personal expression precisely because they were taught what was right and wrong. Even in the arts. The painting game tries to excavate what lies behind this façade. The point is not to see yourself as a painter, but to experience freedom of expression and freedom of judgement. – This is not as easy as it sounds.
Standing in front of an empty white page, it takes courage to start with the first brush, it takes humility to accept how things develop. Finally, it is an act of good hope and playfulness to continue either way. This is what we practice during the act of painting: We focus on our traces while being unconditionally supported by our surrounding. We paint on our own but with others in the room.
To practice creative expression through painting, is a way of living up to a “what if”. “What if” something small and ridiculous does feel good and different. “What if” my contribution as odd as it may be is valid and relevant? “What if” withstanding feelings of imperfection, shame and insecurity dissolve into joy, enthusiasm and playfulness? What happens during the painting session is not intellectual but an experience.
– As such, the painting game is a training. A training for much bigger things. Just like we have learned from children’s play. The painting game is a way of preparing to embrace critical voices outside the protected space. It is about a sense of experiencing ourselves instead of staying in the mind. A way of accepting vulnerability while staying in a creative process. It is training for change, a change that is felt through the body not just through an idea but a practice. Such experience of creative expression not being an easy given but an acquired freedom, is part of building a new, sustainable and “creative” society.