Whether your office sits in a corner of a room or a chair at the kitchen table, I suspect that millions of us have stared at the same patch of wall for years now.
Over Christmas, I cleared my desk. On it, I placed some art and objects that make me smile. When the New Year swung around, I had become attached to the new decor. In report writing, I’d fix my eye on the brushwork, trace the blue sky or try and find a combination of words to describe the artist’s style. I wanted to crawl into the canvas and immerse myself in colour. And I wondered if I was alone in feeling this way.
It brought me back to thinking about space and place. If something colourful in your eye line helps loosen your synapses just a bit?
I remembered colour theory lectures in art college. My fascination with Albers and the primary palette of Kandinsky and de Saint Phalle. I thought about the colours we wear, how the right colour temperature and tone can make you look shiny and glowing or lacklustre and grey.
I thought about office buildings, and their monotone shades, schools with breeze block walls painted over in beige. How can inspiration flourish in seas of insipid magnolia?
For many of us, our physical spaces are smooth and shiny. Flat and sterile. Piled with all the paper digitization promised to save. What a fallacy that was. Laptops getting smaller and smaller, and smartphones bigger and bigger.
I thought about curiosity and connection. The first sated by viewing the curated lives of others, while the second, feels further away than ever. Dopamine fixing as we doom scroll, getting high from ever-moving technicolour pixels.
Does loneliness, rated at epic proportions, come from this dislocation? You get a window in. But no human welcome. No one says, how about a coffee, would you like a sandwich with that? Something profound is missing. If these limitations of our work and personal lives are to be traversed skilfully, how do we move beyond them and reintegrate our senses, bodies and minds into this world?
Humans love the novel not the mundane.
We seek colour and texture, warmth and coolness. We appreciate the subtlety of tone and shade. We pour our stories over them and make new narratives, something precious and internal. We make meaning, we make memories, and we connect. We have become so disconnected from the earth we live on, and from each other that our senses have become stunted.
Research shows that if you feed your curiosity often enough, vitality and well-being increase. Synchronicity, chance meetings, found books, crazy conversations, great giggles. That’s what our souls demand.
Make some space for beauty
Maybe today, take a walk outside. Look for shapes, colours and textures. Tear out some pictures from a magazine and make your own art. Put something on your desk that has meaning to you. Change it often. A shell from the beach, a fallen leaf. A drawing by your toddler. Why not wear a bold new colour, and spruce up your socks if your work is formal? Carry a colourful hanky in your pocket. Keep a sketch in your purse. Find a cloud and remake it in your mind.
Why not visit a local gallery, museum or library? We are blessed to have free admission to so many public spaces in Ireland. Go back again and again. Bring a friend. Why not host your next office meeting there? Do a walk and talk. Go old school and phone while you stroll.
Let me know if your patch of wall feels differently now and what happened next.
Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox by Victoria Finlay
Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh
Handiwork by Sara Baume
By Mary Carty