At school it was either the sporty types or the arty types. The sporty types, by and large, breezed through the days and the arty types wrote poems about them (the days, that is, not the sporty types). As chasms between tribes go, it was a case of the Cavaliers and the Roundheads, or Oasis and Blur: just as flint faced, just as tiresome.
Naturally, with adulthood, previously entrenched tribalism dissolves and the two seemingly disparate worlds of athletics and art can coagulate. My own personal experience involved becoming a painter and then getting into training for runs. Nothing serious: a 10k here, a Half Marathon there, the Great North Run a couple of times, and a Park Run every Saturday. It was the training on the slopes of the Scottish Borders that came accompanied with a Road to Damascus moment. The doubts of the early runner chime with those of the painter, and the quickly called upon qualities that take you past the first phase - namely focus and endurance - fuel both sport and art. This was perhaps most successfully skewered in Haruki Murakami's novel 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running', with Murakami revealing what happens to the human mind when halfway through an ultramarathon (62 miles!): creativity is unlocked and a devotion to selected music helps the owner of the body force the muscles to harness whatever mission impossible set for it. As a modest painter and friend to many professional painters, this rings true, in my case on a much, much smaller scale, but still. There you go. Sport and Art are much more intertwined than the school boy me had allowed.
When Sir Ian Botham came to open the inaugural exhibition here at According to McGee of Dubai celebrity artist Dollarsandart in 2015, he exuded the composure of the professional artist as much as the professional sportsman. Languid pride in his movements, intense eye contact, easy craic forged in the flame of personal mountains conquered.
Expressing one self physically and emotionally is not only good for the participant but it helps reach out across borders, languages, and even the calcified divisions of Twitter. So next time when you hit the dreaded ennui (which, at time of writing, will most be likely as you are reading this: Lockdown is not the Muse of Fire it could have been), either pick up a pen or the trainers. A little talent, a little focus, and a little enthusiasm the first few steps for both the athlete and artist make.
Image of gallerist Ails McGee and Sir Ian Botham by Ben Kenyon.
Video of the launch event with Sir Ian Botham and Dollarsandart is here:
Greg McGee, April 2020