Letter from Pluto
When I set out to paint a picture I never give it a title as I then immediately limit my scope - I must paint that image or scene. Rather I have a general idea in my mind and I let the brush take me where it might.
Similarly, when I have finished the work I never name it lest it confine the viewer to seeing what I have said I have painted OR look for it. Better the viewer decide what I have painted based on all she or he brings to the viewing, inspired by her or his own space and place and state of mind: that is part of the mission of the artist, to free, empower and enrich the viewer.
|"The Kiss" by Caravaggio|
I would have called this ‘Illumination’ because although the artist needed the light coming from an unknown out of picture source on the left, it is the lamp holder who is in fact ‘illuminating’ the scene; a metaphor for the artist’s role and purpose, inviting light into dark places in order to help the viewer to see and perhaps understand the world from a different perspective. This is particularly so in this painting as Caravaggio painted his own face for St Peter holding the lamp; we do not see the artist’s face as St John, or Judas, or Jesus, or one of the soldiers but as the holder of the lamp, illuminating the scene.
To further my point, I do love the Dutch Masters, although I have some sympathy with van Gogh’s view that:
“Those Dutchmen had hardly any imagination or fantasy, but their good taste and their scientific knowledge of composition were enormous.”
This pair of paintings by *Metsu are called ‘Man Writing a Letter’ and ‘Woman Reading a Letter’.
This leaves nothing at all to the imagination, but what technically superb works.
|"Man Writing a Letter" by Metsu|
|"Woman Reading a Letter" by Metsu|
And, another example is *Eva Gonzales's 'Brother and Sister at Grandcamps'. Could we not be left to imagine this, thereby transporting us to a place of our choosing with a person of our choice?
|"Brother and Sister at Grandcamps" by Eva Gonzales|
*Picasso on the other hand, in most of his work, empowered the viewer and although he did name his works it was an interesting journey for the viewer deciding what he or she saw before him or her and wondering about what the artist believed he was painting! And Picasso did not mind what we took away from his work.
So, where am I going with this? Perhaps to suggest that in all we do in our lives, including in our professions, we should not seek to compel or persuade those with whom we come into contact that there is only one way to approach what we do and what we see (my way?).
With education I am inclined to the view of Doris Lessing:
"You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself—educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society."
And I am reminded that in the teaching of surgery, which one would think is all about science, the trainee is constantly reminded that surgery is an art as well as a science.
Thomas Schlich writes:
‘The proponents (of surgery as science) claimed to manage the uncertainties of innovation through making surgery more scientific, drawing on the ideals of control, rationality, objectivity, and predictability. The critics (of surgery as science) mobilized another discursive pattern. They considered surgery an art and emphasized the individuality, contingency, and situatedness of medical practice’.
So what about what we do professionally, you and I? Is there room for personal interpretation, is there room for art in what we do, or is it all about being told what we see before us, is it all about ‘science’?
ISQua has embraced the patient as partner in all we do and in doing this we expect also to be working with the patient’s network; family, friends, colleagues. At ISQua we commence face to face Board meetings with a patient story, to ground us…to remind us why we strive for what we strive for. Each of us around the table takes something different out of this and applies it in our own way to our work and our lives – I like that, not much science there. And I know a leading surgeon (and you know or know of him too) who when asked by a patient when he has done his science, ‘Will you stay with me for a while?’ will always say ‘Yes’ bringing a special personal dimension to his work.
And referring back to Doris Lessing, I like the fact that our Education Programme is ‘learner led’, that it is flexible and relevant and that it values the contributions of the participants. And the popularity of the programme suggests our participants like this too. Add to this that the research of our Head of Education, Yulianna, has found that while forcing people to undertake professional development education (through legislation or other means) may result in more being done and done more regularly, critically and much more important is that mandating CPD reduces effectiveness; in other words if I decide to undertake CPD it will be much more effective than if somebody else decides that I must do it. I believe this means we are on the right track.
So there is much to be said for allowing ourselves and others the freedom to dream, to express ourselves and not to label our paintings.
This is my last BLOG as CEO and I have chosen LETTER FROM PLUTO as its title – here I go, ignoring my own advice and naming my BLOG. But you have to admit the name could mean anything. I will let you decide what it means for you but for me it reflects my willingness as CEO to embrace new ideas and ventures however ‘from left field’ they may seem and from whomever they might come. I have to admit many of the most outlandish ideas were mine and were often labelled by my staff as ‘coming from Pluto’. So what else was I to call my final BLOG!?
Chief Executive Officer
March 25 2016
*Metsu and Gonzales died in their mid 30s, and Vermeer, who inspired Metsu, at around 40 – what precocious talent! Picasso on the other hand lived to see 91 and died happily at lunch in the South of France with his wife, family and friends! There has to be a message in that!