Identity

How does it feel to be you?

Been human is a gift I think, as there are so many other things we can be but none of those would be you.

Sometimes I stop to ask myself if can choose to be something or someone else what or who would that be. Of course, my answer differs depending on my frame of mind. When I’m sad I want to be an unfeeling thing, something that has no heart and feelings so I don’t hurt. In happy times I just want to be me. No one knows what I feel or think, how my stomach flutters my pulse race, exactly. We all think we know what it feels like but none of us can certainly say “yes that’s exactly how I feel!” its all speculative because we are all different. We experience life differently because our circumstances are different.

Yes, we have common traits but the precise embodiment of a feeling is completely differently expressed. Appreciating the warmth of the sun on my skin could be a curse for someone else as their bodies may not be acclimatised to extreme heat whereas I might be born and raised in the desert. The same for our emotions. No two people react the same even if the same probabilities apply to both. The difference is our culture, race, language, nationality, religion etc. It all plays a role in the formation of our self-worth, our identity. Defining who we are is subject to knowing who you truly are. Honesty, discernment and integrity all inform the individual of their self-worth but it is not the be-all and end-all of humanity.

Humans are very complicated and can’t be placed into tidy little boxes because we are reasoning and creative beings who are always on the lookout for our “la raison pour d’être”.

There are many external factors that differentiate us but our inner psyche is similar. We all have basic needs as human beings; love, kindness, security and hope means the same to a baby as what it means to a 90 year. That inadvertently confirms that our soul is the epitome of humanity.

We have overcome many struggles, we are overcoming present struggle and we shall overcome future struggles. Present-day problems are numerous but the one to find, the individual is the utmost important one.

Our young people deserve a better future, a future where differences in class, race, religion, sexuality and physical ability do not define the person but a world where everyone is encouraged to be their best selves with no fear of shortcoming.

Who am I then? Im someone who values other people, try to be my best self, learn and teach where I can. I am human, black, African, woman, daughter, sister, friend, mother, aunt, grandmother.

A vessel to fill up and be filled.

I am from dust, I am speck of grain.

Perception

artwork by Linda Cassels

Have you ever wondered why we react to negative feedback in a certain manner and when people are randomly kind we question that?
I was chatting to a friend last week and at the end, I gave her some of my vessels. Her response was “Why?” I was struck by the question and it made me ask myself why did I offer it and why did this question feel so uncomfortable. I recalled another of my friends questioning why I was so “friendly” towards young people. This got me thinking, ‘Why, really?’ why are we so quick to judge and react to positive behaviour and we don’t question negativity that easily.
It took me down memory lane and I remembered that growing up as a child we never really had people to encourage us outside of your family, except for those whom you admired, but it did not necessarily mean that they would encourage you to be your best self, no at times this gave them the green card to behave badly; be obnoxious, condescending and classist in a way. The worst one’s were the kids whose parents worked and they had a steady income. We all wanted to be them. but most of us could hardly afford a new dress unless it was your Christmas dress. That was the only time we could become excited about anything in the future as nothing else was almost guaranteed other than most likely new clothes for Christmas.

Our society was so divided that most young people did not make it past the middle-high school, as many of them had to go find jobs to help the family or raise their kids (teenage pregnancy rate high). Which means the cycle of poverty continues. Granting that we lived a depraved society where the government basically enacted poverty to the black people for being black! Having ideals of been a tv actress was just that, dreams. For those who managed to finish high school and attain further education, it took tremendous self-belief and sacrifice as part of your make up, as there were so few examples of what success looked like. In my youth, I had 2 people who actively encouraged me, not by telling me what to do but being brave to make the best of what they had for better life quality. We did not have the luxury of the internet and cellphones. We relied on what society taught us and in my case it was you are black, you’ve got no chance. Gosh most of us did not even have a house of your own let alone electricity! This did not stop some to try to find a better life. Knowing how I struggled to accept me for me, I decided a few years ago to be an encouragement to young people. Yes they have access to everything, but positive confirmation from someone outside of the family is helpful and sometimes life giving as not all our aspirations lines up with what is expected from you as an accomplishment. At times it is hard as a parent (especially single parent which i am one of) to be the constant source of inspiration for their children, and most of them do, but society is made up of many components and having a positive influence in the larger society help to build a better self-image in the developing young person. Its not say that what teens learn in the home is not important, it is of utmost importance, but having examples in the community reaffirms what we teach as a society. What we learn in the house is important but so too is what we see outside of the household.

When we are met with kindness we reciprocate kindness, self-worth and possibility. Our lives are interlinked, no matter how strong you are as an individual but if your collective is not the chain will soon collapse. what did I learn? I learned its important to support each other, its okay not to know everything and that it is only by looking and seeking that we find the thing we miss. It teaches me that no matter your station in life there is something to learn from everybody irrespective. Worthiness is not ascribed to a certain type we are all worthy. Knowing your worth is more difficult to internalise but it is not necessarily the truth. Having access to people is what makes us human and that there specific requirements for these qualities. Being true to yourself with ease is an elusion as there will always be those who question you.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

Piet Mondrian

Pieter Cornelius Mondriaan, later known as Piet Mondrian, was born in the Netherlands in 1872 and died in  Feb 1944. Mondrian was a painter and theoretician.

Mondrian is known as a pioneer of abstract art. He started off painting realistic scenes and his favorite subject to paint was trees.

Mondrian slowly developed his painting style by focussing on the vertical and horizontal lines within trees and eventually his work was stripped of all referenceable signs of identifiable subjects.

He collaborated with another painter Theo van Doesburg in 1917 and they formed an art style known as De Stijl, which means style in Dutch. This art form initially started as a publication where Mondrian wrote extensively about his work and ideals. De Stijl became a phenomena and was not restricted to art only, it pertained to architecture,painting, fashion etc, much like art decor of the 1930 

Examples of work by Theo van Doesburg

Composition XIII, (woman in study)

example of architecture by Van Doesburg

 This new art form De Stijl was also known as Neo Plasticism. The basic elements were colour, line and form in its purest state.

They only used primary and non-colour, squares, rectangles only horizontal, vertical and

asymmetrical lines.

Mondrian never used paint from the tube he insisted in mixing his own paints.When arranging his composition Mondrian never drew any lines but plotted his composition  beforehand. 

The influence of De Stijl  movement on the formation of the Bauhaus movement is well written about.

 His paintings can be classed in three separate stages,

 Representational in his early years

self portrait 1900 in oil

Limited colour  palette, and background is treated with big loose brush strokes but works well in contrast to the lighter colours on his subject in foreground. 

Boerderij met wasgoed aan die lijn 1897

 In these works I’m struck by the broad and  looseness of his brushstrokes. His colour palette is predominantly dark and seems sad and forlorn in a way. It has an impressionistic appearance. The treatment of the trees in the background suggests a vast forest to be explored but also very eerie as it seems thick and dark.

In earlier work you can see him experimenting with composition and lines as shown in St Jacobs church, 1890  

Mid season 1907 t0 1920

Here we can see a distinct change in his work. All though he still uses all the formal representations in some of his work there are definite elements of abstraction appearing. He uses more form and stark black lines to define shape as seen in these examples of his work:

still life with gingerpot 1,1911

Still life with gingerpot 2, 1912

In these examples it’s clear to see how he erases the reference points and is becoming more gestural in the second composition, whereby objects are replaced by lines within a limited colour palette.

1913 study for Tableau no II

Molen bij zonlicht, 1908

study of Tableau II, 1913 

Tableau no v 

  Tableau no III, 1913

 here it’s clear he is experimenting with colour and lines. The composition is made up from lines and the colour  provides tone and structure to create contrast and shadow and light.

Later works.

Mondrian had a tendency to paint figuratively every now and then as if to silence naysayers or to prove to himself that he can still do it. The best example of this is still life; White rose in glass, 1921. Whether it was a commission or something he wanted to paint, this is slab bang in the middle of the era when most of his work was abstract, which was a very new thing at the time.

White rose in glass 1921

This is an exquisite example of his draughtsmanship. With the use of mainly yellow and white he is able to narrate a story of life and vitality in a glass.

The following examples are his best known works in which he works in pure abstraction.with no obvious references to life but forms the essence of life.

Composition 10

composition with red yellow and blue

1930 Composition no I; Lozenge with four lines

1931 Ruitvormige compositie met twee line

Trafalgar square 1943

Work inspired by Mondrian

Lockdown.2020 oil on board

The premise of this work is about having to experience an intensely emotional and uncertain period of time. It’s about having lived an emotional rollercoaster and as if 5 months was 10 years of problems. A feeling that the time you have was not enough so you needed to borrow more time and space, hence on subject matter on two canvases. It’s about mapping out the first 3 months  but the rest of the canvas is empty just much like what lockdown felt.

.study to lockdown

oil painting on board

Compassion

What is the definition of COMPASSION?

Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

According to Merriam Webster, (merriamwbster.com), the definition of Compassion is – “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. You feel so compelled with others suffering that you want to make it better. 

Compassion is the source of motivation for those who feel the suffering of others and want to alleviate their pain. Compassion is also a pre-requisite for good leadership. Without compassion you cannot be of service to those whom you serve. It is very hard to understand hunger pangs if you never had them. However by interacting with people you can see, hear and feel the hunger they have.

You do not have to go through the same suffering but you must have an understanding of the pain they experience and have the consciousness to improve things. Like Aristotle argues, ” When one encounters a horse, for example, one may see, hear, feel, and smell it; it is the central sense that unifies these sensations into perceptions of a single object (though the knowledge that this object is a horse is, for Aristotle, a function of intellect rather than sense)”. Being able to recognise people’s suffering and taking steps to change can only happen if you are well versed with what is happening on the ground. Recognising the problems and put plans into action to make things better.

‘Know thy self’ is one of the 24 well-known phrases by Socrates. Knowing yourself makes it easy for you to understand what others need, as our basis is similar if we ask the right questions. Of course, not all of us have to live the experience of any particular kind of suffering to understand the grieve, but if we don’t place ourselves into that scenario we may never have an inkling as to what might be of help.

We can imagine what loss is because we have all lost something. In addition, not all of us have experienced a painful surgery, yet this does not mean we can not appreciate the pain that person might have experienced as our physical bodies all function the same. Empathy and anxiety are expressed by all but not lived by all, but this does not make it any less of an experience whether you have lived it or not.

If I know myself and understand life, it comes to reason that the world we live in is a repetition of me. Furthermore, if all I want is to be is happy, content and free then it is true for the collective, we want to be happy, content and free.

Compassion then is a prerequisite for a thinking reasoning man, as we all are the same.

What does this teach me?

Questioning teaches me that the more questions we ask, the more we understand what makes us happy. Moreover, through questioning ourselves we can begin to understand the true meaning of life and the utmost forms of humanity and virtue. Socrates believed that questioning thy self translated into politics with the best form of government being neither a tyranny nor a democracy. Instead, the government worked best when ruled by individuals who had the greatest ability, knowledge and virtue, and possessed a complete understanding of themselves. Virtue is an important ingredient to best practice thus understanding what that means may shine a light on the essence of humanity. Virtue is a noun.

Moral excellence; goodness; righteousness. … a particular moral excellence. Compare cardinal virtues, natural virtue, theological virtue. a good or admirable quality or property: the virtue of knowing one’s weaknesses. if we argue that virtue then is an admirable quality and something to strive for what drives us to this thought? According to Aristotle( who was a student of Plato in advertently Socrate) the epitome of exellent human exitance are pillared on the seven principles…”

Prudence;

1. the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason

2. sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs

3. skill and good judgment in the use of resources

4. caution or circumspection as to danger or risk

Fortitude;

1. strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage

2. obsolete STRENGTH

Justice;

  1. In philosophy, the concept of a proper proportion between a person’s deserts (what is merited) and the good and bad things that befall or are allotted to him or her. Aristotle’s discussion of the virtue of justice has been the starting point for almost all Western accounts. For him, the key element of justice is treating like cases alike, an idea that has set later thinkers the task of working out which similarities (need, desert, talent) are relevant. Aristotle distinguishes between justice in the distribution of wealth or other goods (distributive justice) and justice in reparation, as, for example, in punishing someone for a wrong he has done (retributive justice). The notion of justice is also essential in that of the just state, a central concept in political philosophy


Temperance

  1. temperance noun[ U ]   formal UK  /ˈtem.pər.əns/ /ˈtem.prəns/ US  /ˈtem.pɚ.əns/control of your own behaviour, such as not drinking or eating too much the habit of not drinking alcohol because you believe it is dangerous or wrong Thesaurus: synonyms and related wordsSelf-control and moderation

2. and theology added

Faith;

  1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Hope;

  1. a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen

Love;

  1. an intense feeling of deep affection.
  2. a great interest and pleasure in something

Conclusion:

If we as humans possess all these qualities of compassion, why is it that we see so many atrocities still? My guess is that humanity is a constant checking of your motives, questioning yourself, trying to make a difference to those around you by attempting to solve the problems that are stopping them from being their best selves.

Be disciplined but do not be overpowered by your own temptations. Instead, hope for the best for all. In this we build bridges of hope and love and trust in the faith that fortitude and just will win.

all photographs and art work is Linda Cassels property

  • https://understandingcompassion.com/articles/
  • https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aristotle
https://www.britannica.com/topic

The Big House

Master Cambridge
Lady With A Mask
6th Duke, Lord of the View
Duchess – Screen Print 1
Duchess – Screen Print 2
Investment – Mixed Media

The artworks above are of mixed media including painting and printing. Following a residency at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire Linda Cassels produced these works. Her work explores the notion of identity and how this reflects within the human experience.

Acknowledging that being human is a very complex and personal experience and are dependant on a vast number of influences within society. Humanity is the assertion of identity and this is a complex idea.

Nationality, race, gender, fashion, culture and language all affect the formation of an individuals identity but most importantly its the individual assertion of that ideology that becomes the platform on which personalty and self-worth are built. Linda explores these tensions been different in a collective but still needing to belong within this society and how this influences the notion of the individual character.