What is IT?
by Kirsten Harris
“The hallmarks of the Alexander Technique are creativity, spontaneity and freedom to change.” A.R Alexander
The Alexander Technique has been a huge influence in my life for over 25 years, but it is only recently that I have started writing about it in relationship to my artwork.
Recently my colleague and mentor, Japan based Alexander Technique teacher Jeremy Chance, likened the Alexander Technique in relationship to my artwork as being like the wind rustling through a tree.
The wind – undefinable changeable, spontaneous, invisible yet sculpting and shaping the environment, bringing energy and influence to the form.
The tree, the form that the wind touches, shapes, bends and sculpts, the change, the daily presence, the artwork made.
The metaphor really resonated with me.
I know that the Alexander Technique and my art are totally linked and bound with each other within me. Yet I have two websites, and have for some strange reason kept them separate entities in my outside life, the one that I present to the world. Yet I know that the the success of a individual artwork has always been in exact relation to the quality of my physical and mental attention in the creation of my work. My understanding of the whole self gained from training in the wonderful Alexander Technique. A quality both definable and undefinable. The wind and the tree.
I first became alerted to the fact that other people can notice this undefinable energy at my exhibition ‘African Rhythms’ about 15 years ago.
A customer had spent many hours looking at this large exhibition of oil paintings and drawings before finally deciding to buy a small dark chiaroscuro oil painting of a leopard.
‘This has IT’ She exclaimed.
‘Kirsten there is something in many of your paintings, I don’t know if you know it is there. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. It’s a kind of mystery energy. I want you to come with me round your exhibition so i can show you what you have done!’
She then took me on a tour of my own exhibition.
‘Look! This one has IT, and this one has IT, and so does this one. But this one does not have IT!’
I realised that what she was noticing was my present moment spontaneity, my total absorption in the moment of the artwork, my exploration into the unknown, my willingness to be totally present int the act of painting, my poise as a painter. (Yup, that sounds totally pretentious I know)
The paintings that had NOT got IT were paintings that I had struggled with – perhaps not had a clarity of intention, been distracted, let my ego get in the way, not completely shown up for, doubted myself, tried too hard, tried to make a good painting that other people would like …my insecurities.
I knew it myself but hadn’t known that anyone else could see it, could see how I am, my well being through the paint. She was reading me through my paintings as though looking into a crystal ball.