This post is a little different. It’s not often that an artist shoots an arrow of creativity deep into the soul, forever leaving its mark. This last week, I have been priviliged to have this happen to me.
The artist in question, is a guy from my home town of Brighton, who goes by the name of Ren, the track is Hi Ren. I’m happy to report, I’ve gone down the Ren rabbithole and he’s brilliant — a seriously impressive guitarist with an amazing voice, who raps, sings, storytells, and pointedly and poetically decribes our shared world. Dropped by Sony after becoming ill, he is independent and unshackled by conventions within the music industry.
This track is profound in many ways. He has served himself on a plate, as any great artist will, by reaching into their hearts and putting it forward for inspection. Everyone can relate to what he talks of because, at its centre is what it fully means to be human. We have our dark, fallible and vunerable selves, coupled with the ability to be joyful, cope and hold hope. We all have the internal voice, it’s doubt and nagging tone, and it’s opposite. It manifests in different ways for different people, but it is centrally human.
In a world where we are constantly told that we have the attention span of gnats, he has put out a nine-minute anthem. It’s gone viral and rightly so. Commentators have come from across music genre’s, from all ages and backgrounds. It has especially resonated with those who understand the struggles of life, which is pretty much everyone nowadays to some degree or other. Our chaotic times with these big global problems, the climate change and biodiversity crises, war, inequality, to name but a few. We feel these weighing on our collective consciousness. As a sustainability professional, myself and colleagues are fully aware of the toll our daily work involves. We feel the pain of knowing, whilst (wearily) continuing to tirelessly strive for a better future.
These feelings and emotions are real, particularly after the shock and repercussions from covid. Mental health challenges have never been more at the forefront. A chasm of inequality runs deeply through society, people are disenfranchised by the democratic process, and our representatives seem further away from everyday reality than ever before. We are flooded with news and images that reinforce our distance and differences from each other. We are sold fear and peddled false deliverance. Our fellow planetary species are disappearing so we can consume their space.
And yet… Within all this trauma, we have an unbridled creativity. This is the quality that art can explore, in whichever manifestation —materials, cultural heritage, music, perfomance, dance, writing. We have all (hopefully) read the book that can’t be put down, played the new song again and again, stood in wonder in front of a painting. I remember seeing Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for the first time, finally fully appreciating the explosion of colour that was reality. Olafur Eliasson’s installation The Weather Project at the Tate Modern in 2003, is another imprinted on my mind. I can imagine myself there, especially now in the misty mornings that the mountains provide. There are many, many more pieces of work that I have felt, and a few small wonders that I now own.
Art is storytelling and we need these new stories. Stories help us make sense of the world, they help us vision, dream and connect. Art can be big or small, an act of creativity by ourselves, or with others. Art allows people to process trauma and is well established as a therapeutic practice. It is an act of rebellion in a world dominated by logos.
It is also part of the solutions we need. Inspiring creativity in others helps them tap into a part of humanity that can never truly be replaced. As much as AI technology might be able to create beautiful, algorithmically designed images, it cannot feel the process in a beating heart or enjoy the journey of effort and practice. It cannot fathom the decision-making behind the completion of a piece, or the senses that are stoked within the creative process, or the loss of time during this act of manifestation.
Children are inherently imaginative, yet often this is moulded out of them early as mainstream education loses its creative curriculum. I’m resisting still, my now eight year old’s desire for some tech — I wonder whether I’m disadvantaging her or not. Instead, we try to focus on drawing, craft, observing and dreaming.
Art raises humanity and can guide it forward. We can explore collective heritage, look deeply into others’ worldviews, invent, play, and deepen knowledge. The story of history and our future is forever changing, we are reviving lost narratives and creating new ones. Using the creative process to vision futures, helps those I work with discover their power and innovate. Art brings people together.
When artists, such as Ren, break moulds and fight through the noise, fiercely independent and brave, they do make change. They inspire others and provide a beacon to those who are deeply touched. We need these stories, and if they can be presented with poetic clarity and honesty, lucky us.
If you like this article, please give it a clap — you can clap up to 50 times! I write irregularly but around every couple of weeks or so, follow me to be notified when I do. I’m a artist, activist and sustainability guide, building a new life in Portugal and growing trees. See more of my sustainability work at https://futurecologic.co.uk/. To support my work as an artist, visit — https://www.patreon.com/Postcards_from_Portugal or buy me a coffee https://www.buymeacoffee.com/GClaws. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy it, and get the conversation started below if you fancy.