By Marian Connor

I was thinking…

How important it is for me to look at and experience interesting and beautiful things.

Without regular shots of art and visual stimulation I begin to feel less than well, as if I have been cooped up in an airless room for a moment too long.   I need the oxygen of art.

This visual fix could be made by human hand but equally fashioned by nature, for this I need to allow myself to really see the beauty of the sky, a sunset, trees or water which are all around me. Yes, even in the middle of London!

Exposing yourself to loveliness can change the shape of a moment or a day and influence your life. You allow yourself to explore other people’s thoughts, at a level that urged them, to create an expression of those thoughts and feelings in a way that I can experience too. This will often reach us on an unconscious level.

Another person’s need to express the world in a particular form can talk to us and provoke thoughts and feelings which often feel completely disconnected to what we are looking at, or listening to, but effect us none the less.

Sometimes we are touched by sheer beauty but equally it could be the subject matter, the colour or shape, the vibration of a note or a smell. Other times what we encounter may not please us consciously but somehow seems to whisper to something within us that commences a train of thought which can lead to learning new things or overcoming old problems.

I admit I am a bit of an art junkie. It is necessary to my well being and makes me feel good and in this I am not alone, we appear to be wired for ‘beauty’.

Recent research at UCL showed that a part of the brain involved in emotions, reward, pleasure and decision making, known as ‘field A1’, lights up strongly when volunteers in neurological experiments were experiencing ‘beauty’ and this doesn’t need to be conventional forms of beauty and art.

“People live in art. We read stories, and watch them on TV, and listen to them in song. We make paintings and gaze at them on walls. We beautify our homes like bowerbirds adorning their nests. We demand beauty in the products we buy, which explains the gleam of our automobiles and the sleek modernist aesthetic of our iPhones. We make art out of our own bodies; sculpturing them through diet and exercise; festooning them with jewellery and colourful garments; using our skins as living canvas for the display of tattoos”.            (Jonathan Gottschall, 2014)

I recently visited the William Morris Gallery. He felt art was for all, and whilst watching a BBC Culture Show on Kenneth Clark he said art was for everyone.

I think everything can be art. I can derive as much pleasure from the cheap gaudy embroidered motif that I bought in Walthamstow Market as the beautifully executed pieces within the William Morris Gallery. Although they do have a beautiful wooden settle that is adorned with gold plaster putti and that did shiver my timbers. I often get as much pleasure from the contents of Topshop as that of Tate Modern.

Art is a good companion. When I feel a bit battered by life I immerse myself into interesting and beautiful things, books, galleries, music and nature.

This acts like a balm to my spirit, it’s like meeting a good friend who hugs me and transmits a feeling of care. Information is exchanged as if by osmosis. I feel better and my curiosity is nurtured.

One of my most favourite places is the V&A, a wondrous building packed with beauty, craftsmanship and knowledge, where regardless of how many times I visit will always bring surprises. Turning corners on my way to old friends to encounter things I have never noticed before which will waylay me for ages and become new acquaintances.

In a recent weekend supplement I read an article about John Lewis. The writer felt that John Lewis was a place of safety and that nothing bad could happen to him there.

I feel that way about the V&A, nothing bad could happen to you in that space. A building that exudes its own history, its contents of artefacts, glass, enamel, ceramics, jewels, photographs, sculpture, all channel the energy of those minds and hands that created them, creating for me a safe haven.

Do you have a favourite space? What is it? When was the last time you visited?

I suggest for your own well being you let some more twinkle into your life. Revisit those old favourites but also explore things outside of your everyday to add more variety to your life. Because the more things you take pleasure in the more opportunities there are for pleasure.

My Oxygen Fixes for Last Month:

V&A – The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945-2014

Barbican Art Gallery – The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk

Tate Britain – Kenneth Clark – Looking for Civilisation

Post updated by adding the following links on the 9th May, 2015

Barbican Art Gallery – Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as a Collector

Wellcome Collection – Institute of Sexology & Forensics: The anatomy of crime

V&A – Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty


Image: Tile/Header – A postcard of the V&A Lover’s Eye brooch – yours for the bargain price of 60p at the V&A Shop

Quote:  Jonathan Gottschall, an extract from his article ‘There can be no science of art’, The Observer, 12/01/14


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Photo of Marian Connor and black text saying "Always looking over the horizon to discover treasures to share. Often times whilst partaking of a fine red."