|Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel|
Paul Gauguin, 1888, Oil on canvas
72.20 x 91.00 cm (framed: 96.00 x 116.70 x 8.30 cm)
National Galleries of Scotland
I decided on Tuesday that I probably need to keep "a reintegration journal" and I did get a special notebook for the purpose because I am a good consumer just like you.
So part of me wants to write about what I saw and thought about being "out there" again and part of me wants to write about the 8 hours of union training I participated in for the past 2 weeks. I have four more hours of training next week as well. This has been a profound learning experience and very helpful to me personally, as well as seeing the larger picture for all artists as workers. Let's just say there are a lot of people out there thinking radical thoughts and working for the betterment of us all and that excites me.
Okay, so which route am I going to take?
Let's talk about that "outside world"
I think I was in three shopping centres this week and of course, the middle of the city is filled with places for you to spend your money and I spent some, but mostly I just marvelled at it all with love, disgust, and a humorous critique.
Armed with my "hardcore mask" on Tuesday I went to a well known open-air mall-style shopping centre in Leith called the Kirkgate. This place has a bit of a local reputation sitting at the foot of the walk. I know it well from living in the neighbourhood and I have always liked it just fine. It now has a Costa coffee and that makes it seem a bit more posh. In the Kirkgate, I popped into two chain stores and one charity shop and purchased just a few items I was after (I did have a purpose in my first wander of the week).
I felt out of practice at browsing and shopping - I have never been too good at it, to be honest, but this time was more laboured. I was like the tin man with rusty joints. The music they played over the shop speakers certainly didn't help. I wondered if it was real music at all or just manufactured for shopping, it sounded like something between a poorly written advertising jingle and sounds from an 80s radio alarm clock.
I moved on and sent a bad photo from the foot of the walk to a friend "I'm oot the hoose shopping."
I wandered down the road through tram construction to another charity shop - the one where everything is hung up high for giants. I never find anything there because I can't reach it. Then I visited another couple of charity shops nearby. Nothing there, grasping for treasure and coming up empty in mind, body, and soul - I decided that was enough exploring for the day. I meandered back to the Kirkgate, purchased an overpriced soy chai latte (because now I can) and took it to the cemetery - ah the cemetery (my safe space). The latte was mostly shite but still warm as I wandered around the graves realising how excited I was to see my favourite skull and crossbones, angel faces, and the script on the old stones. The sun was shining, birds and squirrels were playing and flowers were blooming everywhere. This was the best part of my outing and it has been available for the duration of the pandemic. Nature never disappoints and rarely asks you for your debit card.
On Wednesday, I had to head out to see a nurse about a blood test (routine). A pal met me outside and we took to the city for a bit more capitalism and culture. First stop, the antithesis of the Kirkgate, the New Saint James Quarter. I had heard good things (minus the golden jobby hotel) so off we went. I would have to describe it as dystopian capitalist chic, designed for future living - it was serving up Epcot centre vibes.
Multrees walk followed and that's all I'll say about that - some strong window critiquing happened there. We walked across St. Andrews Square and a mix of tourists and workers ate their lunches in the sun. We walked over to the National Galleries of Scotland to hopefully catch a glimpse of my favourite Van Gogh in their collection but it was not there, however it was just as good to walk into the red-walled fortress holding so much art of antiquity. Stepped right up to the DaVinci (I think most people walk right by its strangeness without even knowing). Enjoyed El Greco, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin - you know, the usuals...
I must state that being from Fayetteville, Arkansas I used to have to get on a big yellow school bus to go to Tulsa Oklahoma (2 hours away) to see art (and not of this calibre) when I was a child and only once a year - so when I can just walk into the city centre and see "proper" art, it always feels like I have landed at the end of the rainbow. I must also mention that the one Gaugin painting "Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)" 1888 that they have in their collection is one that I strangely chose to copy and write a paper about while studying art at the University of Oregon. Finding that painting in their collection on my first visit here and all the daffodils that bloom everywhere in the spring were two signs that convinced me I would probably be okay if I moved to Edinburgh.
After the art, another cemetery visit was enjoyed, sitting on a bench in the sun with a salad for lunch. My pal and I enjoyed a chat with a elder gentleman from the church with flowers, birdsong and the city, on all sides. I did step in a chain shop for that salad. Princes street gardens were also enjoyed and the gorgeous Parisian fountain. A hellish stationery store was visited and then on to Princes Street Mall for the paper I needed so I could write my thoughts on capitalist culture down. Jokes on me... as I type it all to you anyway. Then it was back down Leith Walk and into a wee local independent shop I had missed and then to a wee antique and vintage store for a nice chat about blankets and cats and then we ended it all at LIDL for some marzipan chocolate eggs.
I paid attention to what excited me about being out - walking and talking with my friend, the gardens, the cemetery, chats with strangers, and of course the paintings in the permanent collection - and the grand space for art - like a church of old friends.
On Thursday I mentored a brilliant artist and went to union meetings, all online - just ducking outdoors for a few walks in the sun. A good day for recalibration and learning - I enjoyed all of it.
Friday, it was back out into the world again, another bus journey into the city, this time staying in Leith. Popped by a friend's house in the morning, enjoyed a cup of tea around her kitchen table with the double doors to her garden wide open letting the sun and spring in. It was so nice to just drop in on someone and be welcomed with open arms and a cup of tea and a bit of a chat. Left there and popped into my studio building but didn't even open the door to my studio (telling) - I saw a studio mate for a wee chat and then went on my way to a favourite old charity shop on Leith walk that I hadn't yet visited since the before times. I was on a mission to get a vintage half apron from the window display, yellow with my favourite flowers in red and purple and then of course I had to get a crazy necklace of glass beads for next to nothing as well.
Onwards, walking down Leith Walk noticing all the changes, the gentrification is in full effect now. Feeling more like Stockbridge all the time. My shopping and mooching muscles getting warmer by the minute, stopped by Stories Bakery for a vegan sausage roll, Home Essentials for Nag Champa, and the Kilted Donut for a vegan jelly-filled that was over the top, passed another cemetery, sat on the bench in the sun by the water of Leith, and then on to the new ALDI "just to see it" and then the bus back home for two hours of art biz and life discussions with a dear friend back home over the phone.
The highlights of Friday - the friendly tea stopover, chatting with my studio mate, seeing some of my favourite daffodils blooming, supporting the charity shop by buying something that makes me happy, and just walking in the sun and sitting by the water of Leith. Phone call with a dear friend.
If I am going to reengage with this world again, I want to do it as closely aligned with my values as I can. I emerge changed and I am more certain of what I value and what I do not. I am paying attention and taking notes.
Scottish Artists Union: https://www.artistsunion.scot/
Artists' Union England: https://www.artistsunionengland.org.uk/
Praxis Artist Union Ireland: https://www.praxisunion.ie/