When I was in what we called the ‘infants school’ (aged around 6 I think), we used to have a class called ‘music and movement’. Looking back, this may have been a way of using up time on wet days when we could not go outside. But nevertheless, it was an early introduction to the concept of engaging with and reacting to different sorts of culture.
The teacher would usually play a piece of music. Very occasionally we might be shown a painting. And then it was over to us to act out our own story, all play the same character, or work as a group with assigned roles. The whole thing was non-verbal and – something which I recall feeling to be most grown up – undertaken in bare feet.
It has struck me literally only now, as I type this post, how much of an impact these classes had on me. I was reminded of them because I had wanted to try describe to you the physical feeling I get when I engage with great art.
Mr Tracks and I visited a most wonderful exhibition today at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art of the work of Scottish Colourist, SJ Peploe. The Gallery’s site has some examples of the work on show, but take a look at this link to get a glorious view of Peploe’s work as a whole.
These images on the screen do not do the real works any kind of justice. Seen in the flesh, as it were, you are witness to the merest hint of a line which brings a flower to life; layers upon layers of paint which still look wet and dance on the surface of the canvass; near-monochrome still-lifes which hypnotise you and make you feel like you could never walk away.
I have written before about walking round art exhibitions with a lump in my throat, so moved was I by the sublime work on show. Today, though, was different. I could still feel the pressure of emotion within me. But the atmosphere in the Gallery was somewhat unusual and I could not completely relax into the whole experience.
Firstly, a young family were ahead of us. The baby twins and the toddler weren’t much interested in the pictures, but they loved the fact that the sound of their voices echoed throughout the Gallery’s high-ceilinged rooms. Their chuckles and gurgles were delightful, yet ever-present. Secondly, someone else in the Gallery had a tendency to whistle a few bars of ‘Tom, Tom, The Piper’s Son‘ over and over again.
The combination of these sounds were not the ones which I had expected to accompany us while we contemplated Peploe’s marvellous legacy. But reflecting back on those classes, you never knew what task you would be asked to pair with which sounds, music or painting. It was fine then and it is no different now. It’s important to go with the flow in life. I can take this lesson from my 6 year old self with me when I go back to the exhibition for a second look.