I’ve been working with a group of five executive coaches in group supervision for the past year. We usually meet in a regular office space for short days together six times a year, but for our final session, we decided to take a new approach. We visited Tate Modern to explore the impact of working in a different, creative environment, which as coaches we sometimes do with our individual coachees.
Let me share my experience of our day in this very different environment.
I invited the group to visit the Tate’s Anni Albers exhibition. Albers, a 20th century artist, brought together ‘the ancient craft of hand-weaving with the language of modern art’, and had a profound influence on artists around the world.
Most of the works were framed. Some had tassels at the ends that almost appeared unfinished, or which certainly had the potential to continue. From a distance, I found that I couldn’t see the detail in each piece, but I was able to grasp the big picture. However, in slowing down and stepping up close to each tapestry, I could see the detail, notice which threads made a difference, and discover how the interwoven threads and knots added to the overall beauty of the piece and created whole works of art.
Another key element for me was the impact of the colour of many of the works. At first I was slightly disappointed by what I would describe as ‘muted’ shades of grey, brown, taupe. But on revisiting and engaging with the detail of each piece, I was excited by the intricacy and evident skill that had gone into creating the tapestries.
A key difference from our normal context of an undisturbed and contained location was the environment. We were not in a quiet, closed room, being present and largely still to each other, but rather in a public venue, with constant sounds and movement from all directions. We each went through the exhibition separately, at our own pace, agreeing to meet together at the end. Thus, we each moved on our own path, while members of the group and other visitors were moving on theirs. We were just passing through, pausing, reflecting, noticing whatever caught our attention.
I was struck by what a wonderfully rich metaphor the tapestries represented of our practice of coaching and supervision. And how the gallery itself could be seen as a microcosm of the world in which we are living and working today.