So, well, I'm in the middle of a very challenging week away. The most positive thing I can say is that I'm finding out a lot about myself, both good and bad, the ways in which I've grown kinder or more resilient with age and the ways in which, oh dear, I haven't grown at all. Getting to know yourself better is never wasted, I suppose.
Amidst this difficult time, a break for art. The balm of beauty, of aesthetic pleasure and surprise. A welcome move away from the domain of words - for the challenging stuff is all about words. The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts is a dream come true. Based on the collection of wealthy patrons of the arts Robert and Lisa Sainsbury and encompassing ancient and modern works from most parts of the world, what unites it is a clear aesthetic. "...works of art", Robert Sainsbury once said, "...have appealed to me irrespective of period or style... my personal reaction to any work of art is mainly sensual. Intuition largely taking the place of intellect." This is very evident in the collection, and I love it! It gives permission to look first at form and colour, to compare, contrast and connect first on that basis. It doesn't make you less interested in facts, in history or context, but it does open the field of perception in hugely satisfying ways.
Though it feels like a refuge from the horror words have been opening up for me, none of this seems irrelevant to the rest of the week's experience because the collection is overwhelmingly figurative and, feeling at such a loss, so undermined, I find myself drinking in human shapes, depictions of the personhood I have felt slipping away in a situation where I just don't know what to do. I look and look at all these figures, all these faces, from near and far, from down the ages and much closer to my own time, faces in every state of peace and war, private and public, broken and whole, decaying and only half born, and I recognise myself and am strangely comforted.