“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled. Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and knows the great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And, who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and cruel souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
This famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt was the inspiration behind the title of author and researcher Dr Brené Brown’s latest book Daring Greatly. Daring Greatly encourages us to show up, to let ourselves be seen, to try even when we are not sure if we will succeed and to be willing to be vulnerable. Based on 12 years of research, Dr Brown argues that it is by embracing our vulnerabilities and imperfections, by choosing to live wholeheartedly that we find the courage to fully engage in our lives. The risks and emotional exposure which we all experience daily are what it takes to be vulnerable and to dare greatly. Dr Brown argues that vulnerability is not weakness, on the contrary it requires great courage. Instead of asking ourselves the question “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”, we should ask ourselves “What is worth doing even if I fail?”
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Brené Brown
In addition to writing The Happiness Experiment blog and running my translation business, I am also a mosaic artist and, with Brené Brown’s sound advice ringing in my ears, I recently decided to submit my work to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition along with a printmaker friend Suman Gujral. (Suman also had the courage to appear in The BBC Culture Show Programme about the Summer Exhibition which aired on television this week.) Over 12,000 artists courageously submit their work to this open competition every year and around 1000 works are selected for display in the exhibition. Neither of us were selected.
In The BBC Culture Show Programme art critic Alastair Sooke asks what makes someone an artist and why do they do it? Where does the compulsion to create come from? For some the compulsion to create enables them to lose themselves in their creative pursuits, others are compelled to create just for the love of it and would do so regardless of physical surroundings or challenging personal circumstances. (Try Happiness Experiment No 11: Go with the flow.) Many participants in the Summer Exhibition have submitted work year after year in the hope of being selected.
Despite the fact that my work was not selected, I found participating in the competition a hugely inspiring and exciting experience. When handing in my creative efforts to The Royal Academy for scrutiny by this year’s emminent judging panel of experts, I was really touched by the sheer outpouring of creative activity coming from such a broad range of people. I was impressed not only by the fact that so many people were attempting to express themselves creatively, but also by the fact that so many were willing to be judged for their efforts. Both the artists who were not selected for the exhibition and those who are fortunate enough to have their work on display from in the Summer Exhibition from 10th June – 18th August have to be willing to run the gauntlet of criticism. Facing up to the critics and the potentially vitriolic reviews of the Summer Exhibition, such as the article recently published by art critic Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard, takes a special kind of courage and in my view that courage should be celebrated.
After watching the recent The BBC Culture Show Programme I have also been pondering the question of what art is for and why artists create? I used to think that art was the domain of the select few whose innate creative talent, honed over years of training and practice, allowed artists to create beautiful works of art for our pleasure and entertainment. After recently taking a drawing class at the V&A Museum with Sketchout, I realised that great artists not only have outstanding creative and technical ability but above all they have the ability to really see. One of my tutors at The Hampstead School of Art recently told me that art is less about what the artist sees and more about what the artist enables others to see.
‘Una Tazza di Te’ by Anita Klein
I think the ability to make other people see is a wonderful definition of what art is about, and the truth of this definition became obvious to me when I visited the private view of Anita Klein’s new paintings at Eames Fine Art Gallery in Bermondsey St last night. As an established and highly respected painter and printmaker, Anita Klein has her own very unique style and voice. Although I was impressed by both the originality of Anita Klein’s beautiful paintings and prints and by her technical ability this is not the what resonated with me most. It struck me last night when observing Anita Klein’s work that her art is both the perfect embodiment of someone who is willing to dare greatly and to be vulnerable. Her ability to help us see the possibility of happiness in life’s small moments, from enjoying the simple pleasure of a cup of tea to sharing a tender moment with loved ones, is a wonderful reminder of what life is really about. The cost of Anita Klein’s paintings ranges from £900 to £9000 and I’m sure her exhibition, which runs from 13th-19th June, will be a success. On the one hand the cost of purchasing an original painting or print is not within everyone’s pocket but I would encourage you to visit the exhibition nevertheless. On the other hand, the value of realising that happiness is within everyone’s grasp if only we chose to savour and appreciate what we already have is priceless. The ability to remind us of this fact is, in my opinion, the real talent of Anita Klein.
Would I apply to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition again having been rejected this year? Absolutely! It is not the critic who counts.
Posted by Shona Lockhart on 13th June 2013