The Secret Artist #7: What Moves You?

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What moves you?

Dear Secret Artist,

This evening my exhibition opens. It felt incredible to see my paintings in the gallery space on fresh bright walls. It was like I was seeing my paintings for the first time. The presentation on the gallery wall, the space around the painting, created a whole new way of seeing. I felt emotional, it was like reconnecting with an old friend and suddenly seeing them in a different light. This is the power of beholding a painting in the flesh. We live in a time when the image is Queen, we are saturated in images, and they rain down on us from every angle; calling to us, often saying very little. In this haze of demanding images, it can be very refreshing to dialogue with a painting. Through an image we may receive information, but through a painting we have the potential to receive wisdom.

I believe in the power of art to transform. I have many experiences of walking into an exhibition as one person and then walking out as another. This is the mystery of art, the unfolding of an often very personal and private moment of understanding, of experience and of feeling. If we offer our attention to the work, the work will always respond and give unexpected gifts, in it’s own unique way. I can spend hours in front a painting. I have spent hours in front of a painting. It’s a curious alchemy, as the painting reveals its self more and more, with each breath.

This summer whilst travelling in Denmark I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art not knowing what was the main exhibit. To my joy and amazement it was Peter Doig. Room after room of paintings, many meters wide: open gateways into lush deep vibrant mysterious lands. To behold a Peter Doig in the flesh is to embark on a journey. A portal to another dimension.


Peter Doig, Milky Way (1989 to 90), oil on canvas

Paul Klee was another was another seminal experience that two years ago was like a fire in my mind. The exhibition went so deep into his process. I was moved by his unashamedly individual style, the plundering of his subconscious, the status he gave to signs and symbols, and to the development of his own visual language. His extensive writing informing his practice, immersed in a deep experiment of his personal experience. His sketchbooks were as much the art as the work on the walls. At this point the many sketchbooks of my own were in boxes, this feeling in my chest sent me back on a mission to re-discover myself through my sketchbooks and that journey has led me here.

What moves you?

What do you love? What do you hate? What are you jealous of? What frightens you? Any and all of these emotional responses are triggers, a guiding light, they are a message for you.

Here’s what I think and what I have experienced: if something moves you, then there is part of you that is called. I recently nearly exploded with excitement during a Pina Bausch performance: the fervent, luminous set design, surreal and fluid like a scene from a dream. It was like a jigsaw of my heart coming together: the atmosphere, the raw emotion of the performance, the humor, and the humanness, a 3D dimensional painting. It felt both exhilarating and terrifying, baffling and bewildering… why do I feel like this?

I’m not a dancer, or a set designer, but none the less some part of me is called into being, a part of me says ‘you can do this’, ‘you can be this’. My practice is inching towards performance, towards my fear, towards this emotional language.

I was 18 when I went to a Pierre Bonnard exhibition and I wrote about the exhibition for my university application. I had such a strong physical sensation of emotion as I witnessed his intense and sensitive use of colour. I felt the colours radiating off the bath tiles, I felt this rush through my whole body. I was full of tears and I felt like I was transforming into liquid, I exhaled. I thought everyone in the exhibition was experiencing the same feeling. Now I understand they probably weren’t. I didn’t fully understand that my body was trying to tell me something.

Now I know when I get that stirring in my belly or a hammering in my chest, that it is time to listen and not the time to ask how? Or why? This is like throwing water on the fire. Allow yourself the feeling, acknowledge the feeling, and don’t rip it away as the logical brain seeks to diminish with all the reasons why it can never be. As uncomfortable as that feeling may be, it is yours. A gift for you. I have thought a lot this week about how perhaps one of the hardest parts of life is to fully receive gifts. The gift of our potential.

What moves you?

Life. Life moves you. If Life beckons, don’t turn away. She is generous, forgiving and patient but she rushes by like a ghost.

See you next week,

Love and Best wishes,


exhibition publicity image

And The Dark And The Dark 6th-16th November 2015 A-Side B-Side Gallery

Gemma Kauffman’s practice encompasses a variety of strategies and media, which include painting, performance, installation and film. Theatrical and fantastical, her work is both compelling and dynamic. Kauffman is an advocate for the creative spirit of all people and has during the last 10 years pioneered transformative approaches to social engagement.

Are you a Secret Artist? Do you believe in the creative process? Interested in learning more about the journey of this Secret Artist? Then please subscribe HERE!          


  1. toby chown · November 6, 2015

    what a beautifully lyrical piece of writing. I love the idea of the body as guide and the affirmation of ecstasy. Thanks for the reflections on the difficult process of going from love of art, to personal inspiration, to completion and sharing. Good luck with the exhibition it sounds like it will be great!


  2. toby chown · November 6, 2015

    thanks for the signposts to other artists too that is great for someone who doesn’t have a great depth of knowledge of art world


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