Creativity and Children

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(My son at the Serpentine Pavilion, 2015)

I have two children- one is now a teenager and the other one, nearly one.  For all their lives and most of mine (and there were seven pregnancies with two live births), I have worked, starting with my first lowly job as a teenager working as a receptionist for a dentist.  I am now an architect, author and artist.  My children have always seen me working inside and outside the home.  Therefore I was surprised to view this recent broadcast on BBC Two (3rd July 2015) presented by the model and entrepreneur Lily Cole ‘to debate whether having children inhibits or enhances an artistic lifestyle’.  Perhaps, not surprisingly, the people she interviewed were mostly women- only one man appeared. Gavin Turk, the artist, was also interviewed but together with his wife, Deborah Curtis, who is also an artist.  The programme was based around the infamous quote by the critic Cyril Connolly, ‘There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’. One got the feeling that Lily Cole, who was then eight months pregnant, was exploring her own fears about whether she would continue to be creative after the birth of her child.  Barbara Hepworth also featured- how did she manage to be creative despite having four children, including triplets?  But the possible dilemma of her husband, Ben Nicholson, the artist, was ignored.  So I wondered if Cole meant to imply that this is a woman’s problem only?

The modern creatives- Holly McNeish, the spoken word poet, and Turk and Curtis- were sanguine and funny about the whole experience- breastfeeding in a public toilet, bringing babies to art shows, and doing those other crazy things parents have to do when they don’t have childcare, either paid or unpaid.  My life was like that too- I brought my sons to business meetings, construction site visits, art shows and lectures and I know of other parents who did that too.  Lionel Shriver, the author, who has chosen to be childless, spoke about the socio-politics of why and how only ‘white’ people were choosing to be childless or having less children- though her theories might be debatable (she appeared to have forgotten entirely about China, for instance).  This led me to think more deeply about my experience of having children. I believe my children have made my life more creative, not less.  It is far more simpler not to have to think about feeding and nurturing another person, about not having to argue with a teenager about pocket money, etc- instead just concentrating on being creative.  But is creativity limited to just what you produce?  Or is it about how you lead your life?  My life with children has really enhance how I live my entire life with creativity.  And I am proud that they are also known as creative people in themselves.  There will always be people, who choose not to have children (like my beloved Uncle) but those who care and nurture others (like my Uncle did with me).   I have creative friends, who are childless, and they enjoy my children’s company.  Creativity does not depend on whether you have children or not, it is a state of being, that continues, regardless.


Re-working the old


Sometimes, when you look at something you’ve created and it appears perfectly fine and then later, other things happen to come along that say the work needs something more- that is alright!  During my recent visit to look after my sick and elderly parents, I found many newspapers that reading now, suggested something darker was happening then- things that would be unacceptable now.  So upon return, I decided to use those historical references to my painting of the city of Jaisalmer in North India which I had made in January 2009.  I decided it was perfectly fine to revisit memories and through my art, to be exorcised of that past. Although upon first glance the painting glitters and there are flags reminiscent of festivities and brightness, but when one looks carefully at the newspaper cuttings, darker images emerge out of the surface.

Here is a reminder of the painting looked like for almost five years before-


I know I can’t take it back to where it was and now it reads differently, so I have to accept it is now where I am.  Art is an expression of one’s life and one can’t be too precious about it.  This work is also a representation of my eye problems because now my art has to be more tactile and contrasting.  Have you done something like this?

The Yarkovsky effect

Small things can make a huge difference.  When people say,”What’s the point of my doing x,y,z?  There are billions of others doing the opposite and its not going to make a difference!”, you have to remind them of the ‘Yarkovsky effect‘.

In 1900, the Russian civil engineer, Ivan Osipovich Yarkovsky, noted that the heating of a rotating object in space by the sun would cause a tiny uneven force of thermal protons that could influence the orbits of small bodies, especially meteoroids and small asteroids. This can lead the meteoroids and asteroids to change course and crash into another larger body.  The Yarkovsky effect may have been responsible for killing all the dinosaurs by making a meteoroid crash into our planet.

Thermal protons are tiny- with zero mass, and yet they can make such a huge difference. We who not only possess mass but also intelligence and emotions, can also make a huge difference.  Only one person needs to start it and if the idea is good, it will change our ‘orbit’- refer to M K Gandhi, M L King or Google!

The final embrace- the tale of two couples

The final embrace- the tale of two couples (click on this link to see the photo)

This my interpretative story of this heart rending photo- a story with two different endings in two different countries.

About twenty five years ago, two children were born- a boy and a girl.  Their parents loved them and they played innocently in the world of their dreams, wondering what they would do when they grew up.  When they grew up, they met and fell in love.  After marriage, came the children. Leaving their children to be looked after by the grandparents, these two made their way to work every day.  Saving up for their dreams, for their children’s and their parents’ dreams.

Ending One

They ended up in a sweatshop in Dhaka where they worked in a dark, crumbling concrete building, working from early morning to evening, sowing clothes. When they returned home, their children would be asleep.  They would eat dinner, talk in low tones and go to sleep, in a tight embrace- dreaming of the time when they would not have to work so hard.

One day, the building they worked in, crumbled away and fell.  Screaming out for each other, they found themselves in an embrace locked in by the concrete floors, closed out to the world in the darkness that enveloped them slowly suffocating and crushing them.  As their bodies were photographed and displayed around the world, their dreams in their arms, the owner and the architect denied that they did anything wrong, The companies whose clothes they sewed said that they were not responsible.  And the buyers of these clothes asserted that they would continue to buy clothes from these companies because they were ‘worth it’.  Soon everything about the dreams of that embrace would be forgotten.

Ending Two

They ended up in a company in Detroit where they worked in an open office building, working from early morning to evening. When they returned home, their children would be asleep.  They would eat dinner, talk in low tones and go to sleep, in a tight embrace- dreaming of the time when they would not have to work so hard.  One day, a mad man decided to blow up the building because he hated someone or everyone.

Screaming out for each other, they found themselves in an embrace locked in by the concrete floors, closed out to the world in the darkness that enveloped them slowly suffocating and crushing them. As their bodies would be recovered and buried ceremonially, their dreams would be front page news in every paper in the Western world.  There would be a minute’s silence to remember them, the anguish of their children and parents would be told in endless ways in print and Internet over many years.  The mad man responsible for killing them would be hunted down by the police and given a death sentence. The company where they worked would pay for their children’s education and living through the insurance policies. Their dreams about freedom and love of life would never be forgotten.

End- Every life is irreplaceable and beautiful!