Eriq Henri Madsen, an Artist/Educator, living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, offers simple tools to perceive life differently and return it to its wonderment.
Give yourself a few minutes to follow his guidance. – Jinx Davis
Those who know tend not to grow.
When was the last time you examined the stitching on a shirt you’re wearing? Really noticed the color of the thread and how it perfectly matches the cloth it serves. Considered the hands that were responsible for the meticulous work that is needed to fashion a garment? Did they wear a gold wedding band, and had the years weathered and worn their skin, just as garments also age? Faded but intact and strong. Useful and full of memory and life.
We live in an age that elevates the idea that faster is better, rewards it, and promotes it as a way of being. An idea that those who wish to be successful should rush in all areas of their lives. That the finish line is one to be focused on and fiendishly pursued. It’s a sham. It’s a clumsy trick that’s been foisted on us to make more money, for other people. It’s that simple. A fourth grader with a crayon could sort it out.
Of course, there are exceptions. I want the doctor in the Emergency Room to step quickly. But even here, we can make a useful observation. They do so with a calm and steadied urgency.
This observation is about exactly that. Observation. Seeing. Looking. The key to so much experience. Through my study and research as a Visual Communications Lecturer, I’ve learned that we have two modes of “seeing”. We can think of it as two versions of light. One very broad and far-reaching, like a large chandelier, high in a grand ballroom, and one far more focused, like that of a spotlight on a stage. The chandelier is our default mode. You can logically see how time affects this approach. We move so quickly that we cast a wide visual net, and through recognition, our brain files away information without our really “noticing” it in a meaningful way. We take visual information in like a kitchen faucet turned on high. The spotlight is not nearly as common in our approach to seeing. It takes intention and an awareness of time. It takes a commitment to being present in the moment and delicately recognizing the many aspects of whatever it is within our field of vision.
After reading this, I invite you to engage in a rewarding exercise. Set your intention to the spotlight frame of mind and pick up any object in your reach. Or find something in the area you are sitting, and focus on it. It could be a painting or a pen. The outcome will be the same.
Now commit to 3 minutes to experience a pleasant shift. Meticulously note all of the visual information. The color and lines. Its size and the material it’s made of. Take time to notice every detail you can identify, and silently note them in your head as if making a list.
Listen closely for the inner voice that says, “hurry up!”. Tell it to sit the hell down and shut up.
That voice is a robber in the night. Always lurking to shortchange you. It never goes away, but you can let it know who’s boss.
Begin asking questions. Where did this come from? Why is it the color it is? Where was it made? And let the mind naturally wander through the visual answers in your head. Imagine the paint being applied. Imagine the machine that created it. Imagine the location you think it may have come from. Imagine the many hands that had touched it before it came to rest here before you. How many people may have been involved in its creation, manufacture, and shipping? Imagine the truck that brought it so many miles to be with you here and now. Imagine how much life it had before you ever even noticed it. How it has a world of wonder contained within it that was silent until just this moment. The moment you slowed down and focused on it.
And if you want to shift your perspective to improve your own life and those around you…. engage this same practice with a human. Look at people. Every wrinkle, every grey hair, every scar, and mole. And ask these same questions silently if that’s what the situation prescribes. Or, ask them for the answers firsthand. You will be amazed at the results. Seeing becomes knowing through a patient and curious approach. It only asks that you slow down and focus on what’s in front of you. It just takes a bit of curiosity and a bit of time. Two simple things that will open doors you had no idea were shut.
Life’s fun! Go enjoy it.
Eriq Henri Madsen
Eriq Henri Madsen is a multidisciplinary Artist and Arts Educator, with over 30 years of experience in the Creative Arts in a global context. He works across many mediums and anchors his practice in the fundamental desire to creatively communicate.
Eriq built a strong foundation as a student of OTIS College of Art and Design and UCLA Fine Arts and has since been immersed in a career centered on inquiry and expression. His distinguished career includes time spent in Los Angeles, working for major entertainment companies such as Warner Bros, Walt Disney Studios, and Fox Film Studios, as a Graphic Designer and Creative Director, as well as a number of significant academic appointments, including his current tenure as Dean of the Arts and Design Department, at an Arts College in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In addition to his academic and career accomplishments, Eriq is also a professional artist. His Artworks, which are playful, melancholy examples of his curiosity, can be found in notable
collections throughout the world.
He passionately promotes and engages in work within the arts community in Phnom Penh, donating his time and expertise to numerous Arts Organizations to support Cambodians and other nationalities in the visual expression of their concepts and ideas.