Healing Portrait

The more you do, the more you see. The more interests you have, the more things interest you. Obviously. As I said in a previous post, I am almost afraid to open a paper these days for fear of more avenues to pursue, when my list is already unmanageably long. Everything sparks my interest, but so far nothing stands out.

Dry rot, is what it puts me in mind of. I remember years ago, dry rot was discovered behind a built in wardrobe that we tore out. It  jumps up to a meter, and then sends out more spores that jump up to a meter. Boing boing boing, like a game of checkers. In the end we had to remove the wall between two bedrooms, and their entire floors as well. That was interesting. I guess it was stressful and expensive, but in my memory it was just kind of funny. Seeing the house as a shell. Very Rachel Whiteread. I can’t remember where everybody slept.

Today, in a spirit of experimentation, I went to a ‘healing portrait’ workshop. (Plus, my eldest was going to see her dad, and I didn’t want to be moping at my desk. Funnily enough, it was not only at the exact same time she subsequently agreed to meet him, but turned out to be in a grand old building literally behind his. Everything is connected, but that was a connection I could do without, because as we drove round Hyde Park I reflected once again on how different our fortunes and lifestyles are, post divorce.)

I got chatting to another participant, a sub-editor on a daily paper, who was describing being quizzed about her hair by a monk in flowing robes. I asked if she would agree to be interviewed by me about her work, and she gave me her number.  (Roosevelt mission, informational interview, shift, whatever, all merging into one.)  Then we all sat in a circle in the big, airy room. Maryam the artist and Maria the healer/ hypnotist introduced themselves. We closed our eyes and were taken into a sort of trance, then asked to imagine the energy in our hands. This sort of terminology does not sit easily with me, though my Alexander training has made me aware of the benefits of taking attention to different parts of the body.

For the first drawing task we were asked to make random curved lines on the paper. Not too even, not too neat. I noticed the urge to make a pattern rather than a mess.  After doing this scribble scrabble for a while, the instruction was for straight lines. Then we had to switch to our non-dominant hand and begin again. (I have only one of my own works on display at home – a life drawing in charcoal, made with my left hand, which astonished me by being the best drawing I can remember ever having done.  It is hung as a reminder.)  Lastly we were invited to attack the paper with our pencils and there was a burst of happy aggression. We all laughed.

We turned to face one another in pairs. For what seemed an interminable period, we just looked at one another. Staring at someone so intently at close quarters can feel awkward enough, without the thought that they are doing the same to you. It reminded me of the work of Liberators International; their projects about maintaining eye contact with strangers. I love that. Also an incredibly moving video of artist Marina Abramovic performing ‘The Artist is Present’ and unexpectedly finding herself sitting publicly in silence opposite her former lover. Always makes me cry. (And then I wonder: did they see each other again? Was he an arsehole?  That slight tick, the ‘waddya know?’ jerk of the chin, makes me think he might have been.  But maybe not.)

We could do with more eye contact, it seems to me.  Though the other day, in the National Portrait Gallery, I found I could not watch David. It seemed too intimate and I had to look away.

From the ‘drinking each other in with our eyes’ task, we moved in stages to create a portrait of our partner. Interspersed with the stages were meditations led by Maria. There were ‘exchanges of energy’ and feeling, with closed eyes, the energy of unseen portraits, which sounded odd to me, though perhaps I was the only one.  Relaxing use of imagery, talk of blessings.

At the end, we examined one another’s portraits, talked together about what was evoked, and hugged one another.

All in all, an enjoyable way to spend a Sunday. And while I do not think it will have a direct bearing on my career going forward (I’m no artist, and while a friend has told me I should be a healer, the notion makes me squirm), I did find myself totting up the takings, wondering how much they paid for the room, and reflecting that it would be an EXCELLENT place to hold an Alexander workshop. Plus I got to speak a little Farsi, so there’s another rusty cog turning a smidgen.


PS Just remembered with a shock that when I signed up for the course I was under the impression that we would be doing self-portraits.  Image is of the portrait done not by but of me.  Not sure that it is healing, but if it prompts me to lose weight it may be.


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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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