Cecil Collins: painting angels and fools

Cecil Collins combines sombre, serious tones of voice and paint with beautiful and occasionally joyful images and words, in this rather melancholic but thoughtful documentary “One pair of eyes”.  In particular, he paints angels.

“What my painting really is: a response to the miracle, wonder and the mystery of life”

This documentary is fascinating to view thirty years after it was recorded – because of its subject and the way it looks at him.  So different to how an art documentary would be made nowadays.  There is no record of his sales and financial success.  And Collins speaks on his philosophy of life, which covers childhood, education, art, and the state of being human in the world.  He’s obviously a deep thinker.

Education and Creativity

Speaking in 1983, Collins is alarmed by the development of computer education, which he sees as eroding childhood which is the foundation for direct perception.  He feels that education is turning its back on direct perception and is now a commercial education – simply preparation for careers and exploit and manipulate experience, for profit.

“As creativity is all to do with relationship, with life, with each other – nothing kills relationship faster or poisons it than this whole idea of education for exploitation and manipulation.”

“Our civilisation has a very brilliant technological surface to it – but underneath there is an emptiness, an hollowness.”  He sees science as being unable to speak to much of human experience.

“If you contemplate perpetual violence, that is the world you become.”

“What we lack today is education to contemplate images – but I see the contemplative life, the life of leisure – absolutely basic”.  He foresees massive unemployment in the future and therefore masses of unemployed people with “terrifying leisure which will either prove the saving of them, or the destruction of them and that’s why image, music and the arts will play a great part – but only if they’re creative and not destructive.”

“All creativity is a beginning”.

Thirty years after this documentary was made, I think Collins would be horrified at the swinging cuts in arts and music in schools, especially in primary schools.



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