The Invisible Third

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Posted on October 25, 2013


Last month Rob and I went to the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal to hear and see presentations from a number of artists who opened their studios for C-Art. Each artist showed 20 slides, each for 20 seconds, using just 20 words per slide to describe what they were showing.

The result was a surprisingly deep insight into an eclectic mix of art by a small selection of Cumbria's talent, including Jamie Barnes, Julia Wilmott, Sally Bamber and Alex Jakob-Whitworth.

In an open discussion after the presentations, Sally (who paints portraits) and Alex (much of whose work focuses on horses) were asked about the relationship between sitter - or subject - and artist.

Alex's reply struck a chord with me. In her experience, when artist and sitter come together there are three present: artist and subject, and an invisible third, which is the relationship between them. This invisible third can only ever exist when the two come together. It is not the muse - it is the result of a meeting, an interaction. I can identify with that. Because it is not just the visual or sensory aspect of nature, or of an event or scene, that triggers the impulse to capture it on film or in words; there is also a flow, an invisible energy, that sparks and continues to be nurtured by creativity.

This invisible third it is what makes the act of writing or working with photography, the experience of being 'in the zone' while creating, both precious and memorable. It's dynamic, flowing, vital and often unpredictable. And in a relationship it's the same: it's awake even when you sleep, it can be both background and foreground; it can hold and contain you, and it can push and drive you; it can be soft and gentle, or insistent and vigorous. This invisible third is what we miss when we're apart from a loved one, or apart from the environment or subject that stimulates us. It's what we mourn and can never get back when a relationship falters and fizzles out, or a loved one passes away.

These past few weeks while Rob has been in Nepal I've been missing that invisible third and the creativity and energy that arises in our partnership. I guess I'm reflecting, that's all, on the way that one plus one actually equals three.

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