Five nights away, three different hotels. This night is the first one, a hotel in Birmingham to make sure of an early start tomorrow morning and a long week ahead.
It’s cold but I don’t want to turn on the hot blower before going to sleep. I’ve just caught up with (some) of the newspapers and I don’t feel inspired by the book reviews – as I usually do. So I’m skipping those. What I do like however, and want to share, is an article by Waldemar Januszczak on the forthcoming exhibition Picasso: Challenging the Past’ in the National Gallery. That is partly because I like Picasso’s paintings, but much more because Januszczak ponders the question ‘what it is to create’. Picasso was not the ‘spontaneous’ genius that we have sometimes been led to believe. Rather, he owes a great deal to his ‘forefathers’, painters such as Velazquez and Goya. He did not ‘invent’ some of the stark images, rather they were developed out of earlier masterpieces.
This is very reassuring in a way: pure genius is something out of reach for most, even gifted painters and writers. However, it seems to me that literature also evolves in a similar way, that in order to write well, one needs to understand and have read (at least some of it) what has gone before and that ‘Instead of the big bang theory of creativity, which sees the making of art as the production of something out of nothing – a quasi-divine act – we are able these days to understand it as a process closer to Darwinian evolution. Someone makes A. Someone else makes B out of A. Then B becomes C, and so on.
Although Januszczak is talking about painting here, and in particular Picasso’s paintings, I think the same goes for literature and writing. That’s probably where all the writing courses come in, the trying out, the imitation, the working according to precepts and ‘standards’ even though the end product, to be successful, has to be original.
Well, at least this is giving me something to think about on this Sunday night, in this hotel room, quiet, chilly, away from the world. I’ll put this exhibition on my ‘to do list’, definitely.