Tag Archives: jeremy millar

Guiding Spirit (JM part 2)

Celtic Cross, Sancreed churchyard

Celtic Cross, Sancreed churchyard

To continue with the Jeremy Millar theme (previous post, Cosmic Coincidences?) he ponders the age-old question of where does art come from?  He also queries the possessive label we attach to a work as being ‘my‘ work?  After all, how can you quantify something that has had some level of appropriation taking place in the process?  By the same token, you could argue that this post is not strictly speaking, ‘mine’.

Celtic Cross in Churchyard, Sancreed, Cornwall

detail of cruciform man on cross


He suggests that in answer to the former question about where does art come from, we might consider the notion of genius.  Not in the modern meaning of the word as someone who is exceptionally talented and original, intellectually and creatively, but more in the  sense of the ancient cult of genius.  In ancient Rome, the genius was the guiding spirit (or soul) of a person.  The noun is related to the Latin verb gigno, genui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce.”  (Apparently, it wasn’t until the time of Augustus, 1st Emperor of the Roman Empire, the word began to acquire the more modern interpretation of genius as someone associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight.)

The guiding spirit or guardian angel, is the personal deity or daimon of an individual.  It was something you were born with and remained with you until your death.  It needed to be nurtured, fed, indulged and if you respected your genius, that made you a ‘genial’ person.  Every person, place or object possessed their own genii and were linked either to family gens, to things, or to a specific place genius loci, each taking on certain attributes of the Gods and Goddesses, the supreme deities who ruled over the ancient Greek and Roman worlds.

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The notion of clan or gens, can be seen in our own Celtic cultures – and later formalized religions – who also had their guiding spirits or guardian angels.  Does it also account for the behaviours we exhibit that seem to shape our characters? What drives one person to be a minimalist and another an avid collector?  Why do some artists want to be hands-on sculptors while others want to make 3D work using digital media?


crucified beach man

As readers of this blog, I know the eagle-eyed amongst you may have already realised something about me that is fundamental to the way I work.  I’m a collector.  Not of valuable antiques (I have a few treasured family pieces) or priceless artworks (only works by friends which may or may not be priceless but are of huge value to me).  I collect ideas or inspirational quotes and appropriate them for my own purposes.  My studio is organised around the discarded detritus that no-one else wants.  I find textural beauty in the rubbish that a storm throws up and dumps on our shore.  Instead of throwing away my kitchen china when it breaks, I gather up the pieces and put them carefully in the box marked ‘broken china’ where all the other shattered shards are stored.

Votive ribbons adorning a tree near Sancreed well

Votive ribbons adorning a tree near Sancreed well

Sometimes, something will trigger my interest, or I will feel compelled to do something for no apparent reason.  Its latent meaning will remain dormant for a while until something happens to reignite my interest and, ‘ping’, a connective synapse is made.  Call it coincidence (for want of a better word), serendipity or whatever.  I believe my guiding spirit – or my genius – is showing me the way with gentle nudges of recognition.  When those light bulb moments happen I cannot help feeling that they can only be divinely inspired and find myself raising my eyes to heaven with hands clasped, graciously thanking my guiding angels for their incredible gifts.



Filed under my sketchbook pages, Nature / Nurture Project, Personal Philosophy

Cosmic Coincidences? (JM part 1)

“I don’t have any imagination!”  A surprising statement from anyone, let alone an artist.  But that’s exactly what Jeremy Millar, artist and tutor in art criticism at the Royal College of Art, London, said last week in one of the MA Art Lecture Series (in the Woodlane Lecture Theatre, Falmouth where I have attended many and excellent talks at my old alma mater).

IMG_7939 brightenedBy way of an explanation, Jeremy Millar says his art is about making connections.  Connections between disparate things that can cross cultural or historical boundaries.  It is about affording attention to something and recognising affinities between things physical and metaphysical by short-circuiting those connections and making leaps and loops in time and space.  Recognising potent motifs and however uncompromising, intangible or improbable the connections might appear, it is about waiting for the ‘it’ to present itself to the point where ‘it’ becomes ‘work’.  Above all, it depends on intellectual curiosity and coincidences and being patient because projects might sit in the background gestating for a very long time.  It is about never saying never.  Anyway, he concludes, reading a lot, hanging out with people with interesting things to say and taking notice of everything around you is not a bad way to live!  Who’s to argue?

This talk which I have tried to precis from my notes (see pic!) resonated on so many levels.  I was pleased I had listened to that tiny voice inside me (instead of my reasoned mind telling me to save the petrol) and made the effort to attend.  At this point, I feel compelled to mention that Jeremy Millar’s talk took place at the same time as another very real bolt from the blue was happening.  One has to wonder does this have any significance or is it purely coincidence? Of course, I am referring to the bus-sized, ten ton meteorite that crashed into a frozen lake in the Ural Mountains, affecting more 12,000 people who were injured by shattered glass from the sonic boom it created in its wake.  Within just 24 hours of this extremely rare occurrence, we witness yet another extremely rare cosmic happening. An asteroid, the size of an Olympic pool and measuring 47 metres in diameter, passing just 17,000 miles above the earth nearer than ever before.  Space rocks can take us by surprise, but two extremely rare occurrences in such close succession?  What’s all that about?

My conclusion – for what its worth – is that it reinforces my notion that there is no such thing as ‘coincidence’!  I don’t know how it works but something ‘other’ has to be orchestrating these things because it happens too often to be merely chance.  I’ll take a leaf out of JM’s book: I’m paying attention but the meanings are a little more elusive at this stage.  Any ideas?

N.B. If you would like to see where I’m going with this thread, do take a look at my next post, Guiding Spirit for part 2.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Personal Philosophy, Studio Practice