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"Art's Whatever You Choose to Frame"

Updated: Feb 15

I came across this quote from Fleur Adcock's poem, Leaving the Tate, shortly after making a visit to the Tate Modern in London.

In the gallery, I had watched Wael Shawky's video Cabaret Crusades in which he enacts the 1095-1099 Crusades with 200 year old marrionette puppets, using Arab historians' perspectives to guide the narrative. This 2010 installation had a particularly haunting effect on me given the current state of war and the devastating suffering that is being inflicted on children, like mine, and mothers, like me, using rhetoric I might call upon to justify something to which I feel entitled. I felt the horror and sadness of the current circumstances in the face of a protracted history of violence, religious fervour and academic and political misrepresentation.

This is an experience of grief – one we often disavow because we feel so helpless in the face of it or because it seems that we have no right to grieve when we are not directly affected. We might get busy campaigning against war and injustice as a way to deal with this emotional dissonance. I'm not arguing here against war protests – I too have marched and petitioned – but, as I allowed the impact of Wael Shawky's work to be fully felt, I reached, in my mind, for the tools of the Grief Recovery Method. This is an emotionally authentic response and one I invite you to share with me. One of these tools is to weigh up kindly what it is that needs to be forgiven in a particular relationship or in relation to a particular situation, what there is to apologise for and any other significant emotions that need to be expressed. It's a simple devise but don't underestimate the power of it.

As we bring peace to our own hearts, we do not forget those whose peace is shattered by war, but we are able to perceive with more clarity and compassion, and this is a saner standpoint from which to operate than from a heart riven by war and driven by fear. When there is inner peace, born of forgiveness and authentic apology, we perpetuate peace in ways we do not yet understand. It may appear to have no impact on the bombs exploding in children's bedrooms or do nothing to assuage the heart rending grief of parents ripped from their children or fail to bring understanding instead of divisive rhetoric but, as we understand more from a quantum perspective, we begin to see the possibility of how peace evoked here, in our hearts, gives shape to the peace that is wrought there. The peace in our hearts also moulds the way we discuss the war with our children, giving rise to a history telling that has the quality of forgiveness rather than blame, cauterizing the vindictive misrepresentation of one peoples against another.

My mind was full of these thoughts as I stepped out of the gallery and was confronted with Carmen Herrrera's painting of Green Leaves (1950). The question posed beside the painting, 'How do the different shades of green used in this work make you feel?' pressed me to notice how captivated I was by the colour and play of shapes. And, how grateful I am to be able to stand quietly in an art gallery enjoying the pleasure of colour and form without fearing that the harm of war will suddenly befall me or my children.

Crochet crocodile stitch
Peace in My Heart by Unheard of Artist, Rachel Gwilym

On the train home, I looked down at the crochet I was doing and, Fleur-Adcock-style, I framed it, and it became a companion to Green Leaves and Cabaret Crusades. This little bit of mundane textile, now a symbol of the peace that was evoked in my heart in response to the convergence of a retelling of the crusades at the time of a contemporary and bloody war and the encounter with pleasing green shapes.

If you were to frame anything and call it Art – what would it be?

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