Like so many of us, I’m looking for balance. I’m seeking that perfect blend of work and play, excitement and peace, rush and pause. Ramp me up, calm me down. Give me time to completely zone out. But then give me an experience that takes my breath away.
Here in 2023, it’s already February and time feels like it’s going faster than ever. It could very well be that time does speed up as you get older, the body hurtling toward demise, the brain grasping at experiences in some sort of panic along the way.
“Which experience is more meaningful?” we ask. And then: “What shall I pack in to suck more life out of life today?”
This weekend just gone, I went to Canberra with two friends. Together, we absolutely sucked the marrow out of life – there was barely a moment for pause as we made the most of every available minute, the intensity of the experience both exhausting and exhilarating.
On this trip, we had the absolute joy of finally seeing the Cressida Campbell exhibition that I’ve been dying to see for months and months. You might remember that I wrote a blog about her a while ago – well now my admiration has only increased since I’ve seen her work close up.
In Campbell’s work, it’s the detail that’s divine. Her process is so intricate. She carefully draws, then paints, each piece on a woodblock that she then carves with a fine tool, painting again until she’s ready to make just one print from the block she has created.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the painstaking effort she takes when, really, she could just paint. But it’s the intimacy that she creates with each piece that makes it so unique. Each piece the evidence of her complete and utter investment of time.
You might also remember that I’m currently reading Proust’s novel, Swann’s Way, the first volume in the series called In Search of Lost Time. There’s an unusual similarity between Proust and Campbell’s work: it’s the detail that they hone in on and the way they do this so lovingly. And ultimately how this forms part of a whole. While each of Campbell’s paintings is a standalone marvel, to see them as part of her entire body of work, well that gives a deeper understanding of just how beautiful, consistent and strategic her aesthetic is. Which is just like Proust. Complex, detailed scenes form part of a beautiful whole, every word strategically placed.
And then I start wondering: How do (or did) they have the time?
Proust was a complicated soul who spent much of his adult life bedridden with asthma. Campbell actively pursues her solitary career, literally carving out time in her woodblocks, absorbed in intricacy.
And so I wonder if I should emulate them, these uber creatives, these humans who have reached the pinnacle of artistry.
I love honing in on detail when I’ve got the headspace. It’s the interruptions that are killing me. The reminders, the appointments and meetings, the intrusive thoughts – all of it adding up to an intensity worsened further by the fear of missing out.
My experience over the weekend in Canberra meant that I didn’t miss out. First and foremost, I got to see the Cressida Campbell exhibition (it closes on 18 February, so you’ve got a couple of weeks if you haven’t seen it but you’re keen). I also got to see Feared and Revered, a fascinating exploration of female icons and artifacts throughout the centuries. I got to swim in the hotel pool, albeit briefly. I had breakfasts, lunches and dinners out with my friends, having fabulous conversations that brought us closer, opened my mind and taught me all sorts of new things.
In a brief moment of pause, I stood at the top of a hill at the Canberra Arboretum and let the view take my breath away. Cool, fresh air after a very hot day, strong blue skies and the quintessential Australian landscape with 360-degree views all heightening the experience.
I do like a bit of solitude. But I also love to be in the fray. I like to get feedback on my work, to collaborate and share ideas, but I like to get lost in my own thoughts and my own process too. So this week I’m thinking that there must be a way to strike the balance, to find time for both and to fulfill all the things I seem to want and need in my working life.
I’d love to know if you’ve managed to strike this kind of balance – even just for a brief period. I hope that you’re finding work fulfilling and that you’re making time for creative pursuits, potentially even blending the two.