Well, for August I have chosen Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. I wanted to do a fairy tale by Wilde because when I first read these, my own children were young and I loved the stories. Having re-read them now, I find them a little sentimental and occasionally too moral but still worth reading. Stephen Fry wrote in his blog back in 2008 that the tales were triumphs of the imagination, and I’d agree. They also include, as you would expect, sharp social asides and quick quips. Some of the tales can be found here: http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/oscar-wilde/HappyPrince&othertales6x9.pdf
There are so many lovely visual images in the Happy Prince, from the waving reed to the Tomb of the Great King, the prince’s cloistered palace where all was perfect to the tired seamstress embroidering passion flowers. However, the one that catches my attention is that of the mathematics master tutting because children should not be allowed to dream. Quite apart from dreams and imagination being completely necessary for children to grow, maths is a subject that requires a lot of imagination both to understand properly and to research.
On the subject of imagination, I have just had to write an artists statement for submission to a magazine. I usually feel that I need to provide a theme for my work, that somehow it isn’t good enough to have skill and make something that you are proud of unless it has some kind of ‘meaning’. In the past, I have struggled with this. There are all sorts of reasons for making pieces of work, all sorts of ideas to explore. By insisting on a linked theme for everything that I do, I am restricting my ideas or at best making them fit in a tenuous fashion. I don’t find this either liberating or inspiring. I have come to realise that the best I can offer is to make work that I enjoy making in the hope that it gives as much pleasure to others.
And here we are, back to the Happy Prince. He just wanted to make his subjects as happy as he could, with whatever he had to offer. So my plan for this month – call it my own cop out if you want, but I intend to view it as a blueprint for the future – is to enjoy making something that I hope will make other people smile too.