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How art can be used to help people and organizational transformation and social change

· Art,Creativity

Art has been somehow always a part of my life. My mother was painting ceramics, creating jewellery and handmade bags at home; my father has been painting, carving wood and he creates now masks made with terra-cruda. Both of them were doing that in their spare-time not as working activity. Beside that in my country (Italy) everywhere you can breathe beauty, aesthetic and art. Even the way my mum dresses or prepares the table for receiving guests are guided by her artistic soul and Italian culture.

Before starting paintings classes, I experienced other forms of art: acting theatre, puppetry, writing and dance and when I arrived to Singapore, I was searching for another way to express myself and to give new food to the creative part of me. I was arriving from China, where I have been living for 7 years and I was starting a new chapter of my life. I came to Singapore for business and family reasons and I thought that starting painting classes could be a good way to connect with my new home, fulfil my soul and maybe, why not, integrate art with my business activity (I own and run a business of organization development and transformation consulting in Asia Pacific).

I found My Art Space by chance, searching on internet and I started to go there regularly (it is already 3 years now). I loved this place from the first day not (only) because of the great location and teachers but most of all because of the "philosophy " of teaching art as a way of living. I loved the message that Chankerk gave to us the first day: art is first of all self-discover and self-expression, the most important is the journey not the result. Technique of course is important but it comes after, with time and application. The objective of painting is not the perfect reproduction of a picture but the expression of a meaning and of ourselves. This approach resonated with me so well and it has been really the start of a fantastic journey within myself and the power of art.

I started to learn acrylic painting and now I am also practicing sketching and watercolour. The almost daily practice of art opened in me a "channel" that I was not aware of. I call it the channel of intuition". When making art we use the right brain, while for business or day to day practical activities usually we use the left brain, the logical and sequential one. With art, I learned to connect with the intuitive part of myself, the one which sense and feels things and I discovered it to be extremely powerful. When I work or I relate with others now I feel I can really connect with them at a deeper level. I sense the humanity of the person. This for example is powerful when I facilitate transformative dialogues with groups or in individual coaching sessions at work. It really helps me to sense where people are stack and often, by sensing it, I can help them to move out from this painful situation, acting deep emphaty, being present to them while dialoguing. In my personal life this opens me to great new encounters, because people want and need to be heard and be emotionally connected with other human beings.
 

When I paint I tend to express emotions, with colours, texture, strokes and my paintings are quite intense as - others say- I can myself be. Being Italian the role of emotions in my life and self-expression are very important. My Singaporean girl-friends make me smile because sometime they ask me to paint for them and they would love to receive relaxing, blue-tone, floral paintings and I always struggle to create these quiet piece of art. They are just not me. And that is the beauty of art, it reflects who you are.

For my acrylic and mixed media paintings, I usually do not have a plan in my mind about what to paint, I seat there in front of the canvas and we co-created together. I listen to my emotions and my hand creates encountering the canvas. I love to use various media: cardboard, paper, rope... almost anything can be part of my painting. Once I even used some pills as I was needing this type of shape. I love using gold and strong palette of colours.

Recently I started to approach a new type of panting, more social. I think this is because i am recently involved in many social projects. One of them is community art at Yishun Community centre with Artsolute. We make elderly and patients practice art. It means so much to them. They can release for a bit of time from the boredom and stress of being at hospital, they can practice art with family members bounding with them through art, patients affected by dementia can benefit from art for their disease. Or simply patients enjoy having someone taking care of them. For me, being a foreigner, this is also a fantastic way to show to Singaporeans that foreigners are caring about the local community. One patient once told that it was the first time she saw a foreigner donating her time for locals and this changed her way of seeing foreigners. That is magic.

I started to paint Shanghai, a place very dear to me, and I mixed an acrylic representation of the city with vibrant colours and strokes with ink sketches of the daily life of some workers and an old tired man, I than used gesso and applied some ropes over the painting. Shanghai is a fantastic city full of contradictions. The fast, glittering engine of China economy has been built on the labour of migrant workers and the old generation often do not understand where the new China is going, moving rapidly to a new direction so far from where they come from. People are moved like “marionettes” and not all of them benefits of the rising economy of the country or many live the discomfort of lost values and direction.

In parallel I am experiencing also a lot of Sketching with ink and watercolour. This form of art is becoming very popular in Singapore and I am part of Urban sketcher group. I often go to sketch in town with them or to Pulau Ubin, the last fisherman Village in Singapore. By sketching we aim to capture and help to preserve its heritage. This is another community art and social project I am involved in. I do it because I really think art has an important role in the society. It is a way to open new dialogues. What I like of sketching is the freshness and immediate capturing of the feeling of the place, artist and people. This is my quiet space. All my watercolours are lighter and more relaxing than my acrylics. I use to have always my sketchbook with me when I (often) travel. I love capturing the place and the people.

Sketching brought me also a way to bridge art with my work. Part of my Organization development and HR consulting activity is done through facilitation of workshop of dialogues among people, aiming to transform the organization, the team dynamics or the leadership approach. Some years ago, I started to use graphic facilitation and I found it very powerful. My Corporate clients benefit from seeing the main point of the discussion represented in a visual mind mapping and storytelling. At the end of the session they keep the artefact and this become part of their corporate story and culture. We are working for example with an Italian multinational in Asia Pacific and recently I created live a visual for their leadership transformation journey. I also visually summarize business books.

I am also trying to use art to facilitate development journeys for executive teams. They can learn how to work better together or how to boost creativity practicing art activities (puppetry, painting, sculpting with Lego). This gives them a safe space for practical learning and reflection on team dynamics, collaboration and creativity, topics that are part of my consulting expertise. With Chankerk and Terence of Artsolute we are currently designing/promoting together with the National Gallery a program for corporate people to learn co-creation, creativity, innovation and collective intelligence through art. Those are critical competences in our today complex, volatile, uncertain and unpredictable business environment.

Last but not least, art for me is also a practice of mindfulness. When I paint I lose myself in the flow of creation, there is no more sense of time and I am deeply connected with my soul. When we paint we cannot hide ourselves. It is a form of being present in the moment but suspended in a sort of another dimension. Also at work this is important for me. In our corporate transformation journey we start from the individual and we let him/her understand deeply that change does not happen because we are told to do so but it happens only if our internal conditions change. Mindfulness, journaling and art visualization are a fantastic way to connect with one deeper self and decide to transform.
 

After three years, it looks like art is really spreading in many parts of my life. It has really enriched myself as human being, and the best part of it is when my husband looks at one of my paintings and tell me that he likes it.

GIORGIA MADONNO

Managing Director at Marco Polo Consulting

Giorgia spent most of her HR career in senior positions in corporate HR in Europe, US and Asia with companies such as Fiat Group and The Nielsen Company. In 2008 she founded Marco Polo Consulting, a company specializing in Organization development/HR/Transformation professional services operating across Asia-pacific. She delivers facilitation, coaching, training, advise, OD temporary management. Recently Giorgia has been HR and Organizational Behaviors EMBA Adjunct Professor at MIP/Tongji University in China. She is a subject matter expert for Employee Experience re-design and innovation by collaborative approaches such as Design Thinking, Lego Serious play, Art of Hosting, Graphic Facilitation. She is currently based in Singapore. https://www.linkedin.com/in/giorgia-madonno-313b677/

 

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