Sunday, 15 December 2013

Mani Petty

Last weekend the artist colony dwelling on Eel Pie Island in Twickenham opened their studios to the public.   This ait is only accessible by footbridge or boat: no cars, no roads, no shops, no commotion.

There’s a rowing club, some rather unusual bungalows, a few contemporary flats and a disused shipyard where the artists ply their craft. 

Sure there are utilities, but basically the people who live on Eel Pie Island have chosen to be off the grid - especially the painters, sculptors, printmakers and potters.  Some of their working spaces are disused boats, propped up precipitously.  There's detritus of every form, from machinery to mannequins.

I love places like this because they remind me that there are people who are committed to a path less comfortable, certain and conventional; but to my mind a life infused with yearning, beauty and purpose.  As a friend once said to me many years ago, an artist is someone who gets her hands dirty and doesn’t mind at all. You know - so unlike those photos of David Cameron with his sleeves folded up his arms when he visits manufacturing sites.  People like Ai Wei Wei put their life where their convictions are and are willing to risk a great deal.

Even as we raise up the superstar artists to stratospheric acclaim, there are those who are sneered at by their professional neighbours and families.  It’s tough taking a stand for what you believe in: always has been, always will be.

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