Seeing something familiar for the first time

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Seeing something familiar for the first time

In my house hangs a painting that I have known all my life. It was painted around the time I was born. The artist was a friend of my parents. Considered to be very avant-garde in his day, to me its form is so familiar that I sometimes forget that it is considered by many to be an abstract.

When we are familiar with even the most complex things in life, they become obvious to us in such a way that they can easily be taken for granted.  It’s as if the moment we recognize an object, our brains shut off any additional input and give us the label by which we should describe it to others.

It amuses me to witness visitors, seeing the painting for the first time, struggle to find words to describe their reaction to it. Apart from period, form, colour, process, texture and technique, they also have to consider the materials used, the location in which it hangs, its context and, of course, the all-important meaning and purpose of the work itself. They may even try and consider who painted it, was it a man or a woman, or possibly a child?

But isn’t the same true for everything in life, especially in business?  Seeing a process for the first time, the exact same questions come to mind. And even if they may not have a colour, they certainly will have all the other criteria. Perhaps we can even suggest they have a colour, if we use the word as an analogy for diversity, culture and context?

But back to my painting, of which only a tiny fragment is represented in this blog. I was relaxing in my chair the other night, and it seemed to me that I was seeing the painting for the first time. I forced my eyes to move away from the part they usually focus in on and began purposefully studying the surrounding areas. All at once the painting seemed to come alive, I had the powerful revelation of seeing the whole and yet only a part of it, all at the same time.  So much so that in fact I could begin to consider it as not just one painting, one piece of art but in fact an infinite number of micro paintings, each of which suggesting its own representation and purpose.

After all this time, I am seeing Peter Midgley’s 1950’s masterpiece in a totally new light. And it is highly rewarding and fun. It has inspired me to spend more time looking at the familiar, not in a recognizing sort of way but in an exploratory one.

Have a good week,


2018-04-30T09:05:02+00:000 Comments

About the Author:

Harley is a dynamic 'we can do this' kind of person with a successful track record of working for a wide variety of companies in all kinds of sectors. From very small family run businesses right through to giant multi-nationals. Over the last thirty five years Harley has built a reputation for inspiring those around him to rout out and tackle the core problems facing their organizations. Armed with a wide range of pragmatic tools that he has developed over the years, Harley is able to help his clients bring about long-term, sustainable solutions, while having fun at the same time. Harley is a motivational 'people person' who is nonetheless tough on efficiency and delivery. Apart from being well known for his highly entertaining and motivational speeches, Harley is also a blogger and author of four books; 'The Change Manager's Handbook', 'Transition', 'Inspirational Leadership’ and ‘Making a Difference’.

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