Are attitudes cultural or habitual?

BLOG – David Hockney Insights

Just seen the David Hockney exhibition – 82 Portraits at the Royal Academy. Fascinating!   The colours are fabulous, really vibrant.   The brush strokes free and wild.  But what struck me was that nearly all the women were sticking their chins in the air and shoving their chests out rather aggressively (or defensively) while the men tended to drop their heads forward and pull in. Interesting!  There were only two or three who seemed comfortable with themselves and had presence.  It was great fun trying to guess what their professions were – I bet I was right most of the time!

The interesting thing was that most of the women had ‘dressed up’ for the occasion – they were in their party frocks.   There was only one lady who was wearing jeans and stripy teeshirt – and she was totally relaxed, open-eyed and fresh-faced.  Many of the others seemed camouflaged behind their costumes – masking their true personalities.

The portraits of youngsters were fascinating – the older siblings were confident and bold;   the younger siblings seemed shy and unsure, and often turned away from the viewer.

What about the men?   They adopted less formal poses.   They chose casual yet flashy clothes – one was wearing a yellow suit (a barrister maybe?).

Two or three stood out – they had real presence and looked fearlessly out at the world.

So are these poses – cultural or habitual or both?  All the subjects were comfortably provided for, and yet for some it was as if they had to justify their presence to the world in some way – as if they were ready for ‘all-comers’.  This was particularly true of the women.  They were still playing a role – that glass ceiling still existed for them.

I loved this psychological juxtaposition in the portraits – David Hockney had somehow bored deep into his subject’s souls and found their sticking point!  So fascinating and revealing.  It would be fun to do a study of the various characteristics.

I went round the exhibition in chronological order – the order in which they were painted – each one painted in 3 consecutive days.  And as I progressed round you could see how the portraits developed and how Hockney’s style gradually changed.    The same chair, the same colours, the same medium, the same artist but there was a continual movement and sense of change and progression throughout which is the universal constant of nature.

’til next time,


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Externalising everything!

At one time memory was highly valued.   The Greeks and Romans had many techniques to enhance memory.   They had memory palaces ad infinitum.  They told epic sagas that lasted for days from memory.   There were very few books so committing information to memory was essential if things were to run smoothly.   They honed their minds so that their memories were reliable.

Children at school used to learn by rote – poems, times tables, all kinds of things!

Similarly, the Greeks and Romans spent much time and effort on honing their bodies and being as fit as possible.

Everything was internalised – they took responsibility for themselves.

As technology has progressed gradually over the centuries all these processes have been externalised and outsourced.   Why spend time memorising phone numbers for example when an iPhone can do it for you?

When we put our backs out we go somewhere to get fixed, and when it goes wrong again we get fixed again!   It’s easier than preventing the problem by changing something in ourselves.   We’re handing responsibility for almost everything to something or someone else.

Is this progress by natural evolution?  Or is it a backward step?   Are we letting our minds atrophy through lack of use, and our bodies through misuse?

This is such an interesting question.

Using technology to advantage is obviously a good idea.   But do we really want to lose skills which were once so highly valued?   Can we find a balance ….

’til next time


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Exploring different spaces


Taking risks, going into unknown spaces – both exciting and terrifying.    The rewards can be fantastic – the risks huge but worth it.

Being submerged in sound as if experiencing the creation of the music itself in process, doesn’t often present itself – but it did last week.    A raw and innovative band of musicians led a motley audience into and through the beams of the South Bank Centre along pump room walkways and immersed the unknowing in an unexpected experience of vision and sound.    This could have been scary and unnerving – instead it was inspirational and mind bending.   Everyone was wowed!

As we suddenly emerged from darkness into bright sunlight, the skyscape of London inspired – and breath flooded in.   We were level with the London Eye.

Inspiration – the breath of life.

Inspiration – the root of creativity.

Inspiration inspires us to finish what we’ve started – to go the last ten yards and win ……

We breathe out ….. the breath comes in …..




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Four things you need to know about you!

Let’s look at a typical week and see what happens:

1. It’s Monday morning. You’re about to set off for work. A feeling of ‘glum’ comes over you. A long week stretches ahead of you before the next weekend. So let’s get into work mode. Are you hunching your shoulders? Is your head disappearing into your neck – like a tortoise pulls its head into its shell when it’s defending itself? Are you putting on your ‘work’ armour in preparation for the challenges ahead? Is your head going down to the floor? This is your natural defence mechanism when facing uncertainty or pressure.

The ‘fight or flight’ reaction.

Your head is going down to the floor. You feel heavy and fed up. But what would happen if the crown of your head pushed gently upwards to the ceiling? You aren’t looking down at the floor anymore. You are looking a bit higher. You are growing upwards. Your head is now on top of your neck and spine. Your head seems lighter. There is a spring in your step.

Your Head balances on top of your spine between your ears and behind your eyes

2. You get to the office and go to your desk. Are you already thinking about the pile of emails waiting for you? Is your head poking forward towards the computer? Does it seem VERY heavy? Well, imagine that you’re holding 5 kilos of potatoes in front of you with arms outstretched – that would be very awkward and you wouldn’t be able to do that for very long without dropping them. Well, when you’re poking your head forward at the computer – that’s exactly what you’re doing!

Your head weighs five kilos (or five bags of sugar)

which is pretty heavy and if it’s poking forward and hanging down then your neck if having to hold on to it for grim death to stop it falling! Your neck begins to ache and your back hurts! You’re hunched over your computer longing for the end of the day. What would happen if the top of your head pushed gently up to the ceiling? It’s drawn upwards so you’re looking higher at the screen – your five kilos of head are floating on top of your neck/spine (your neck is simply an extension of your spine). You come more upright. You are no longer being drawn into the screen. You are simply looking at the screen.

You have taken charge of yourself and the computer!

3. Are you sitting comfortably? Or are you slumped in your chair? Let’s    find out.

Slide your hands under your ‘bum’. You will become aware of two bones – your ‘sitting bones’. Keeping your hands where they are, under the sitting bones, sit up straight in the conventional way – you will probably arch your back, stick your chest out and push your head backwards. When you do this, what happens to the sitting bones? Do they move and if so in what direction? Do this once or twice. You may notice the sitting bones moving backwards. So you’re now sitting on the tops of your thighs. Hard work! You feel tense.

Still keeping your hands under your sitting bones, now slump backwards to the back of the chair. Notice what happens to the sitting bones. You will probably notice that they move forwards this time. So you’re now sitting on your coccyx (ie on the bottom of your spine)! Not very comfortable!

Sitting bones are designed to be sat upon!

Roll forwards gently, hands still underneath you, and then roll back again two or three times, and you will find that you are now sitting on the sitting bones!

YOU are supporting yourself!

4. It’s the end of the week. Half an hour to go. You’ve cleared your intray. Then you notice your boss approaching. “Darn it!” You think. “I’ll be late leaving!” You’re fed up. Your head pushes down into your shoulders. Your shoulders tighten. Your breathing is restricted. What’s going to happen to your weekend plans? Is this you? Do you see your colleagues going through this scenario too? Or can your head push upwards gently and balance on top of the neck/spine so you can sit on your sitting bones, and breathe more easily. No matter what happens, the weekend will be fine.

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