Michèle Cooke

Walking home from the woods on a winter’s day. A crescent moon caught in the branches of a tree. Stark and simple in the twilit blue. Each twig and fluttering lime-leaf etched against the sky. Knots and gnarls and bark-peel, A bird bunched against a sliver of white, too cold to sing. Do they know how honest they are? Nowhere to hide. Their beauty and their frailty on show for all to see. Just by living. Of course they cannot know.

‘A man who owns all his sensations and is abashed by none of his desires.’ So wrote the Australian art critic Robert Hughes about Joan Miró (The Shock of the New). To paint like that, with such courage and honesty, is a wonderful thing. Can any of us live that way? Go out into the world every day and say: Me voilà! This is me.

All artists must do this, must be true. Otherwise they do not touch us. Why do we, in our everyday lives have the need to hide ourselves, to perpetuate our own emotional exile? What is the source of an artist’s courage? And what is the source of our fear? Why are we abashed by our desires? What forces us to disown our sensations? Before the fear that others will not take us as we are lies the deeper, most terrible fear of all: that we ourselves will not like what we see.

An artist must have faith that someone, somewhere will listen to what they say. Will want to see what they see and feel what they have to tell. Art is an act of trust.

It is also an act of love. Which is the other side of trust. For if we hide ourselves, run away from our desires or disown our sensations, we are duping those around us. Not respecting them enough to show them the truth. And the sad thing is, we all know it. Yet we persist, living from hand to mouth on the tightrope of dishonesty. Knowing that the fall will always come, and that the abyss never closes.

Perhaps we never can escape it. Perhaps we will never own all our sensations. Perhaps, after all it is the striving to own them that will save us. The leap of faith that gives us the strength to look. And to let other people see. Trusting their honesty enough to give them a chance to say: Yes me too. At least to themselves. The leap of faith that gives us the courage to allow others the chance to be kind. And to understand. We live in trust, or we live in fear. It ain’t easy. But it is that simple.