It’s our 8th day in Bangkok and the souvenirs on offer are still coming thick and fast. We’ve more or less resisted the ‘Fans that turn into hats’, the ‘Packs of Spices’ and ‘The pencils that look like Twigs’, all the time being on the lookout for that “authentic”, “cultural”, “real” souvenir. Last night whilst walking through a very touristy part of town we very nearly missed an artist plying her wares, she was sitting modestly on the floor amongst beautiful pastel drawings of ladies in hats and scarfs and hand drawn book covers – We nearly walked past because her work was not immediately “Thai”, “Cultural” “Authentic”, “Real” – But luckily the beauty and ‘connection to something other’ that was her art managed to break through our blinkers, we stopped, we looked, we walked away, we came back, we looked some more and left with four wonderfully quirky and original pieces of art bought directly from the artist.
This purchase has forced us to consider our preconceptions, it’s fine walking around proclaiming you’re not a tourist but your attitude and buying habits may reveal otherwise (it’s amazing how many hate the idea of being a tourist, in fact I suspect that is part of the definition for BEING a tourist). I was heartened by this purchase, this artist created something unique and original and, in the words of Seth Godin, managed to “ship” it in one of the most crowded markets in Bangkok. This purchase made me realise that true art cries out, grabs attention, sing because true art is a connection to something greater than ourselves and that greatness, that connection to the other is what we are really buying when we invest in great art.
Today the souvenir offerings reached a new high as we bobbed along the Floating Markets where stalls are replaced with beautiful paddle boats. Yet again we saw all the same old offers of ‘Fans that turn into hats’, ‘Packs of Spices’ and ‘Pencils that look like Twigs’ and time and time again we saw tourists not buying the wares that they had undoubtedly been offered a hundred times over. However what we did see sell was food! And why? Because the artist is present, the artist is creating on their boat tossing carefully chopped vegetables into sizzling oil, painstakingly spreading roti mixtures onto hotplates, carefully rolling leaf thin pastry into rolls.
We also found that amongst all the same old fare, we came across other artists that did not try to sell us anything, yet had us agape at their stalls as they skilfully applied gold paint with an implement no thicker than a human hair to porcelain, or sat, meditative like, amongst their vast body of hand painted masterpieces. These artists were in their element, I have no doubt that they do very well, their art sung and they were clearly at this floating bizarre to create and “ship” their work – something very different to the individuals who were purely there to sell.
All this got me thinking about my own work as I sipped Americano’s below an incredible art gallery featuring the work by two amazing artists who sat smiling by its doors. I appreciate the need to ship my work, to get it out to the public but this can never be the focus, the focus must be the act of creation itself, the act of connecting with something bigger, the “shipping” is a must, but is more of an honouring of the work, the means by which we share the connection we hope to make.
As I made the finishing touches to a funding application these thoughts ebbed and flowed and the process of writing the application gained a deeper sense of pleasure, here was another means of shipping my work, of sharing the connections I hope to make, of making my work float.