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Columns : Art Life - Susan Mackay Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM

A State of Brilliance
By Susan Moir Mackay
Jan 13, 2009 - 9:16:32 AM

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Those that know me ...they know.

They know that when the wind has turned and the moon is full and fates are whispering I will rant.

My rants have been far reaching in topic and tone.  Some would curl your hair and your toes with their um ...'unconventional' tone.  Others may surprise you by my fairy naiveté.

My latest rant:  It was a windy day - I confess.  And the march up and down Midshipman had done little to quell my feverish mind.  So by the time my friend happened to bump into me on the last stretch before the corner to my house, I was still burning with words that had not managed to be tugged out of my head by the wind!

A patient woman - she stood and listened.

We ended with an agreement to make crowns for her upcoming birthday.

Sadly we didn't, some ideas need preparation to be born….but my topic that day has still been gestating in my mind.


I fear I almost screamed, ostensible to be heard over the wind and cars but truly to release the energy!

"Brilliance" (Yes I did repeat for dramatic effect!)

"Why is there no Brilliance anymore????"

Before the poor woman could open her mouth, I continued…..

"Mundane!!!  MUNDANE" (repeated again for the same dramatic effect.(or was the word MEDIOCRE?))

"Why is everything and everyone Mediocre….I want BRILLIANCE…..I want to be Brilliant."

I ranted on till my breath was gone and I apologised because my brilliance, as always, had to be suspended by parental obligations of pick up at 3pm, then subsequent play dates, ferrying, shopping, housework, dinner, dishes, homework, chores, bedtime etc.

"Did Picasso have to stop working to cook dinner then do the dishes???" I continued to rant to myself as I hurry home as the time is sternly close to 3pm.

The topic stays with me and with a calmer mind and ambient I come to my conclusion that Brilliance is the moment when you step out of your own comfort zone.  It does not require a great result or even a brilliant result…..(I believe) Brilliance then is an attribute that we all have, if not at our fingertips, but deep inside of us.  A potential that may take a deep breath, audacious heart and a belief in something outside of the small world we have built around ourselves that is often suffocating in its proximity, to stretch out of those self made confines and step over the edge into.......just that, the push over the edge - the millimeter more.....that has the potential of infinity.

Since my last article I have been painfully self conscious about every thing that I use, how I use it and if indeed my premise is correct that I truly have everything I need.

In an act of proving my own point, my own art work this week has been focused on objects that are certainly not only found but given…..

However a night of trawling the internet brought me a surprising new perspective. Surfing the net is a bizarre occupation that it seems most of us get lost in from time to time.  The fascination may be the random way a link links to another link and we seem to fling ourselves from one concept, country and idea to another with no moment for jet lag!

Sometimes it offers a gracious surprise.

I found myself watching a small video clip of an artist in London.  He is standing in front of some post war style blocks of flats that seem beyond sad at witnessing the unflinching grey of a British sky for another day.  A young man with a slightly foppish air and a puckish face is talking.  I can't quite hear everything that he is saying; the volume is not working properly.  But through my straining I can hear he is saying something about the buildings and their position in London.   They are condemned.  The camera pans over some graffiti. "Game over".

I am not impressed; in fact it's one of those nights when I think that Nothing will impress me.  I continue watching with skeptical eyes.  He has a bunch of 'specialists' they are peering into the roof of one of the apartments.  I look at all the equipment and raise a desultory eye. Feeling strangely proud of my parsimonious attitude towards art and life, I continue watching.

They are pouring something with a tube into the apartment from the roof.   Whatever – right?

Except suddenly the camera takes us into the apartment and the artist is doing a voiceover explaining that it all might have gone horribly wrong ... except it didn't ...

For there, in a condemned bedsit (one-room apartment) somewhere in London is a room that has been transformed from mundane to brilliant.   Bright sparkling crystalised and blue.   90,000 litres of copper sulphate solution blue I mean.  The whole project that might have transformed into a lame toxic dust but it successfully altered and covered the whole bedsit in thick crystals.

Floor to ceiling, a new world has been created.  Like some Disney pixie has flown in to create a new movie set.  Its magical.  Simple lights reflect off the impossible sparkling, edged surfaces.  The artist talks about the natural decay of the crystal, by the corruption of people coming in to experience this Aladdin's cave, in an unlikely bedsit somewhere close to Elephant and Castle, close to the horrific stabbing of an adolescent boy some years back- so I have subsequently found out online.

I had to.

After that night of late night forages on the web, the next day my thoughts kept wandering to that internal palace of blue.

For all my thrifty thoughts of frugal artistic endeavours…..I felt gratified to know that some obscene amount of money had been spent on this project.

That, in this dark and despairing time of war and economic crisis, an artist had created this almost (forgive me) frivolous beauty!

It haunted me.  In a good way.

I felt that if a magical blue room could be created in a derelict condemned building then anything is possible.

Jung and other psychoanalysts and dream interpreters, acknowledge the house as a symbol of the soul; The basement – our base desire, the attic our higher aspirations; The state of the house a clear picture of the state of the self.  When considering some of the slightly unpleasant people/situations I had witnessed the day before that had given my eyes their jaundiced odour, I am enthralled to imagine this metaphor and that if it's possible to create something so magical, impossible and breathtakingly beautiful, in a place so steeped in despair, indifference and death, then anything wonderful can happen not just to derelict buildings but to people too.

The artist, Roger Hiorns, whose name I have discovered on my return to the internet to research, does not share my opinion.  He is interested in the tenacious nature of the crystal chemical, how it will continue to thrive and grow ... so he says hinting darkly at some horrific contagious virus.

But he won't transform my excitement.  In the midst of a mediocre mundane part of London, within the confines of that dull existence, a concept pushed through comfortable  into brilliant and DID succeed to create brilliance ... and guess what, according to the artist, it is insidious!

About the author: Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Susan Moir Mackay is a professional artist with a B.A. (Hons) in Art and Design from Edinburgh College of Art. She is an impassioned advocate of art and has a deep abiding belief that art benefits individuals and communities. Susan has travelled extensively, observing art in all its forms and has invested much of her time to art education projects, as well as developing her own art works and exhibitions.   Susan currently lives in Freeport with her two children, Fiona and Dylan. She can be reached at sozmac@hotmail.com

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