Last week I had a catch up with Dr. Allegre Hadida of the Judge Business School. She showed me an amazing clip of a Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start With Why’. In the clip Simon speaks about the fact that most businesses start with telling us what they do and then how they do it, and then generally move on to a push for us to squire their goods or services.
He suggests that often the why gets ignored, when in fact it should be the first, central and primary focus of attention. He sees Apple as a business who put the Why first, making us as consumers aware of the ethos behind the company first, then the mechanics of how they develop their ideas and then, almost as if a by product, the things they happen to make (the what). it is why, for good or bad, we tend to trust apple products, whereas a lot of technology companies struggle to convoke us to buy products which shift outside of their normal range (the failure of the Dell Mp3 player for instance).
Allegre suggested that this approach could and should be relevant for any industry. I had been telling her about one of the projects I was working on, but had been focusing almost entirely on what it was, and even more on worries over how I would go about fulfilling the ambitions of the project. Her suggestion, and one I agree with, was that I needed to pin down and then articulate the question of Why. It struck me as a question which runs further than this one project and onto my work in general, so I thought it worth trying to apply this business philosophy to my work, not for a business end, but for a desire to help best understand the why, how and what it is I do. For it is true that previously I have tended to tell people what I do (the types of paintings and projects), then focused a little on the how I do it and not necessarily the why.
So, here goes, a draft attempt at the Why in my work.
I believe that story telling is one of the traits that defines us as human. Painting images is one of our oldest modes of communicating these stories. Humans seek out images and stories in everything they see. Today we have a vast array of other mediums to explore narrative, non of which invalidate painting, but which instead should be seen as a rich and varied landscape of possibilities, of which painting is one. I want to find a way to explore the medium of paint, create images and construct stories which are relevant to us today and which emerges out of this rich multidisciplinary history.
It is this which drives the How (the process) and the How which drives the What. The why is what drives you getting out of bed to do the thing you do, the How is what you spend all day doing and the What is the thing that comes out of it at the end of the day.