Pablo Picasso and the paradox of the margins

Mike, a friend, has drawn my attention to ‘The Sacred’ in which Elizabeth Oldfield of the Theos Think Tank talks to various people about the sacred. In the most recent,  John Lloyd (producer best known for comedy television programmes as Not the Nine O’Clock News, Spitting Image, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Blackadder and QI) talks about  paradox. He quotes Niels Bohr, the nuclear physicist, as saying ‘How wonderful that we have met a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.’

Lloyd takes as his starting point the etymology of the word sacred, which comes from the Latin sacer, meaning both sacred and accursed: a paradox.

The paradox of the margins is, I believe, that the more that we are in the margins, the closer we are to the centre.

Lloyd himself gives the example of Picasso. Lloyd had a theory that Picasso, for all his fame and success as an artist – as well as the wealth, the mistresses the lifestyle to go with it – left that all behind him when he went into the studio. He needed the openness, the patience and the courage to fully engage with his art. Lloyd felt confirmed in this view when, later, he came across this quote from Picasso: “When I enter the studio, I leave my ego at the door the way the Moslems leave their shoes when they enter the mosque, and I only allow my spirit to go in there and paint.”

Perhaps the same is true of most, if not all, great artists, composers, writers and social reformers. That they are at their most creative, their most individual, when they are away from the centre of the ego, and engaging with the margins with a humility and an openness that will lead them along paths of uncertainty that allow the spirit to lead them in often new and unexpected ways.



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