Tuesday, October 08, 2013

STILL CREATIVE EVEN IF...aging?

A few months ago I was invited to be one of the speakers at a prestigious conference organised by the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society which will take place from October 16 to 18 in Deauville, France. Of course I accepted, as you can see by checking the list of speakers here

UPDATE: the 'here' link doesn't work properly, at least on  my browser. It should go to the main Forum site with all speakers pictured and full program as a PDF. Try simply entering Womens Forum Deauville in Google.  
 
The subject I've been asked to participate in discussing on Friday, 18th October, along with Russian author Ludmila Ulitskaya, and Professor David Galenson from the University of Chicago, and Pamela Ryckman, American author and journalist, is: 

Creativity and, ahem, Aging
 
The ahem is entirely mine and explains why I am simultaneously flattered by this invitation and stupefaite that I have turned into someone who can actually be described as ageing. Moi? Vieillissant? There isn't even a French word for the process. I hear you say: fact of life, deal with it! I deal with it by the effective method known as denial. 

Who says denial is bad? For example, it is perfectly sensible to deny entry to burglars or cockroaches or poisonous fumes. So, by denying entry into my psyche of the concept 'aging' I am sensibly keeping out all the heavy baggage that comes with it - prejudices, stereotypes, theories, surveys, statistics. I'm not ignoring death, that would be idiotic. But let me cross that bridge when it comes. The period between then and now is the present and creativity is always in the present tense. 

Does creativity change in the same way one's body changes with time? I've spent my whole life in the creativity game - it is a serious kind of game - and I can't detect any great differences between past and present in terms of creativity. Rather than time, what has always deeply affected creativity for me are life experiences, relationships, places. I chose art as a child, never considering any other profession, and choosing to be a full-time artist is basically giving yourself permission not to join the adult world, the world in which people have proper jobs and proper careers and go on holidays and retire eventually and do that thing called 'aging'. A full-time life-long artist doesn't retire, doesn't like going on holidays, and denies aging. Voilà. C'est tout. 

Next week I'm off to Deauville. Will report, with pictures when I return. I leave you with a photo of 84-year old Matisse creating with cut-out coloured paper in 1952.



MORE

20 comments:

Hattie said...

How strange to talk about aging artists. What are they? Cheese? Overripe camembert,perhaps?

marja-leena said...

Being an artist is what is keeping you young! You are an inspiration. I need to get back to my work after the usual summer's distractions and fall visitors.

The conference sounds like fun and I'm sure you will shine as usual. Looking forward to the reports.

Lucy said...

Well it certainly looks like a pretty cool and interesting place to be, with some good topics and forums going on. Anyway, we're all ageing all the time. Have a great trip, and tell us all about it. Deauville's kind of nice too, if a little windswept. Will you get a chance to explore the area at all? The coast and countryside between there and Honfleur is lovely... I expect I'm missing the point; there you are hobnobbing with the movers and shakers and I'm thinking about timbered houses with houseleeks growing along the roof ridges, and apple orchards.

Roderick Robinson said...

"Can't detect any great differences between past and present in terms of creativity."

A quick question: better or worse? Less creative or more? You've got to be damned honest about this and there's no need to make the answer public. Keep it to yourself. Why? Because convention - especially English convention - says we must be modest in our public utterances. "I am declining - but doing so gracefully." might well have been scripted for a resident of Dorking.

On the other hand "I am better than I ever was." might lead to undesirable conclusions. Are you the best judge?

As to me I am the best judge of myself. My present fiction is better technically, structurally, even emotionally than it used to be. Big head? If you like. But what is important is the ticking clock. One may divorce oneself from age but not from ageing. It's a race. I'll be better tomorrow you say (or I say); I must spend time wisely. Ageing and time: virtually synonymous.

Sorry, didn't want to rain on your parade. Especially if your paper is already prepared.

Jean said...

I find Edward Said's concept of 'late style' (his perception that many artists' work is at its most daring or takes a newturn in the later part of their lives) an exciting one, and wonder if your panel will address that.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Hattie, cheese and wine, best consumed when aged or ageing. Not sure if consumed fits us 'mature' artists but maybe our taste improves with time?

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Marja-Leena, making art as a raison d'être is the secret to more or less eternal youth, combined with a great talent for self-delusion. Thank you for accentuating the positive in me.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Lucy, I vaguely remember going there with my parents as a child - it was a popular seaside resort then. I'll only be there for 3 days this time (then 4 days in Paris) and I doubt there'll be a chance to explore much outside the Deauville hotel where the conference is held. But some walks in the neighbourhood maybe.

Dick said...

Vas-y, Natalie! I'm looking forward to the pictures and the account.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Roderick, as you already know, my utterances, public or private, do not keep to English convention so I won't be doing any of that self-effacing stuff although I am naturally a quiet type.

"A quick question: better or worse? Less creative or more?"
Being damned honest: much less in the morning, about the same otherwise. But it's a complicated question to answer (I'll try at the conference) since it must deal with what triggers creativity anyway. I'm not preparing a paper since the format is more like a panel and interview than a speech but I'm making notes/memos. The ticking clock isn't an effective warning to me because I've always done my best to ignore it and those old habits die hard.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Jean, thanks, now I'll look up what Said said about late style. I've been asked to talk about my own experience so I'll have to try to condense that. But the Chicago prof David Galenson has written a book concerning this subject so perhaps he'll bring up Said's comments.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Dick, maybe I'll bring back some kind of illustrated diary of the event.

Tom said...

I like your argument re. denial, but of course we both know the argument is flawed. Nice try though :)

Enjoy yourself in Deauville. N12ice spot to visit.

Ellena said...

If you continue living youth till the end of your days, the emotions reflected in your work will be rich. My humble opinion.
I'm looking forward to reading about the conference.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Tom, well, it's sort of flawed and sort of unflawed. Allright it's flawed.

I'm looking forward to the sea breeze in Deauville to chase away all those ancient cobwebs.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Ellena, your opinion is absolutely spot on and I thank you for it.
Will report to the best of my ability.

Adam said...

bien dit! l'âge est un état ​​d'esprit, n'est-ce pas?

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Oui, c'est ca, et il faut changer son étât d'ésprit.
A bientôt, Adam.

hedgecrows said...

the D.O:B. question - brilliant, just brilliant, thank you for posting this Natalie, I showed it my partner who' just turned 50 and very much appreciated it! Sorry I've been pretty absent this year, life bowled us a couple of googlies, but things settling down a bit now.
Love the photo of Matisse, hope i'm still snipping paper at 84

Natalie said...

Thanks Phil and greetings to your partner. If you're both in London at the same time, give me a shout and we could fix a time for you to come over for a drink.
Hope your paper-snipping is leading you to ever more interesting results.