The Beauty of Multi-Storey Car Parks

So I have been out on the streets of Sheffield with my easel and a large sheet of paper looking for beauty. I’m going to try this all summer as a kind of meditation or prayer or call it what you will.

As with all spiritual disciplines and creative endeavours it’s hard work to start with and requires a fair degree of effort as well as the will to ignore that voice that worries about what people will think. However, once I put the pencil on the paper and begin to dig a creative well, the feeling of the place begins to shift and change.

I find that even the most unpromising of corners begin to open up if you look at them for long enough (drawing car park entrance ramps appears to be my penchant at the moment for some reason). Spending time there, genuinely being there and genuinely seeing what is, you start to experience the place in a deeper way. Maybe it’s the way the shadows fall across some steps, or the reflection of sunlight from an office window or the interweaving of different layers of the city, stairs, underpasses and multi-storey car parks. Something will eventually catch your eye and, like a seedling pushing its way through concrete, beauty breaks through.

 

But more than the beauty of the physical is the beauty of the stories that interweave in that space. There is no surer way to get people to come and talk than setting up an easel and starting to draw. Somehow it breaks people open. Even before I start and I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper passers by will glance or smile or stop to chat.

And people share moments of their lives offering glimpses of who they really are…

…The little girl hiding behind my easel with a water pistol ready to jump out and squirt her mum…

…The lady in a summer dress and the aura of alcohol at 2pm touching my arm and telling me to remember her as the first person who told me how brilliant my work is…

…The elderly gentleman manoeuvring his mobility scooter to get a better look and then showing me the miniatures he paints to sell in a charity shop, telling me about the paintings he has hanging in galleries across Europe and about caring for his wife with dementia…

…The skater dude with a tightly rolled cigarette in his mouth talking about how he spent days drawing a bowling green when he lived in Spain…

…And so on – the weaving of people’s ordinary stories in an ordinary place – until I am overwhelmed by the intensity of the experience. 

 

I hesitate to say that every space is a sacred space, by definition if you say that everywhere is special then nowhere is really special, but perhaps every space has the potential to be sacred no matter how unpromising it may seem at first. So, when anyone stops to notice and waits in order to see what is really there. When someone stops to listen and hear the unheard stories that criss-cross each other without ever touching, the sacred comes to birth.  

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