Creative Leadership – Memorative Art

My latest trip to the USA was great fun. I met a lot of friends, saw some fantastic sights and did some really interesting work. All these things are memorable, and is there something that really anchored the trip in my mind?

Maybe it was that I happened to be in Chicago at the same time the Art Institute was showing an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s work? I’m a huge admirer of Picasso. I find his work often moves me to tears, it’s incredibly powerful stuff. Bold, abstract, conventional, unconventional, prolific. The exhibition in Chicago is a remarkable walk through the life of Picasso. You get to see aspects of every kind of art he produced and although the exhibition contains mainly lesser known pieces, its breadth and depth is outstanding. The exhibition also referenced a piece of public art I was previously unaware of.

Untitled by Picasso

Picasso donated this untitled sculpture to the city of Chicago in 1967 without ever explaining what the sculpture was intended to represent. I got talking to a woman at the exhibition who told me most people think it represents a horse. She also explained where the statue is located so I headed off to take a look. Checking in at 50 feet tall and weighing over 160 tons, it is huge, quite a sight to behold. You can walk right around it and I did, stopping here to appreciate its beauty from another angle.

Untitled by Picasso - Side View

It is this image which now evokes memories of all the other interesting and exciting experiences I had in Chicago.

This visual, artistic experience led me to think that often when we endure a presentation – there are lots of words on the screen. This creates a disconnect between the audience, the presenter, and the material as people tend to focus on either the slide or the presenter. Using a handful of words and a few relevant images to support your talk usually creates a much more powerful, memorable encounter. Often people will recall to me a talk I’ve given in the past, and their memory of it will be drawn from one or two pictures and phrases that have stuck firmly in the mind.

In the field of personal development it’s widely acknowledged there are different learning styles. What’s less well known about, is something called Memorative Art. This method, which has been around for thousands of years includes ‘the association of emotionally striking memory images within visualized locations, the chaining or association of groups of images, the association of images with schematic graphics or notae (“signs, markings, figures” in Latin), and the association of text with images.’

I already use some of this thinking in my work, and I expect plenty of you do too, even if you weren’t consciously aware of the Memorative Art method. It’s a powerful example of the connection between art and work, and is part of what we can usefully employ when exploring pathways to creativity and collaboration.

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