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  • Writer's pictureStuart Jarvis

Concrete Chronicles no.8

Updated: Jun 13

Uncovering Beauty in the Brutal: It's Not What You Make It's Why You Make it

I've just read Simon Sinek's book, 'It Starts with Why'. The book received universal acclaim and was one of the first in the self-help era to provide practical support. What I have learned from the book has helped me understand the impact on my audience. But before I get into how it has shaped my practice, think about this:

What's your all-time favourite piece of art? You might describe its colours, shapes, and subjects—What it is. Maybe you even know the process behind its creation—the materials, techniques, and effort involved—How it was made. But can you explain why it resonates with you so deeply?

The same goes for the artist who created it. This elusive "Why" is what drives us to constantly explore ideas, objects, methods, and human connections, and it is what undeniably led me to discover the raw, often overlooked beauty of brutalist architecture.

The Why is at the core of what we do.

Picture a subterranean room, its walls smooth and polished with concrete, a world defined by clean lines and reflective surfaces.  - My first visit to the Blavatnik Building at Tate Modern. Being in that space—a mix of historical fragments and modernist vibes—without a clear practical function was a moving experience.

Trying to describe this experience in words feels impossible, so I turn to drawing. Drawing lets me translate these profound yet hard-to-describe feelings into something you can see and feel.

I believe this is central to the compulsive behaviour all artists experience in their attempt to articulate meaning from the objects, people and places that inspire them.

That’s why you might catch me staring at supermarket ceilings or abruptly stopping my car to take a photo of structural support for a chimney stack. 🙂

Sinek’s main idea—that people often confuse what they do with why they do it—hit home for me. By focusing on the "Why," we create a deeper, more visceral connection with the audience. This principle applies just as much to the arts as it does to business, forming the foundation of some of the most impactful artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors.

So, why do I create the work I do?

Not what I do but WHY I do it has inspired my latest artist statement:

I'm driven by a desire to uncover the hidden beauty within structures often dismissed as 'ugly' or mundane. These buildings, in their raw, unfiltered essence of human ingenuity and utility, captivate me.

Through my work, I aim to challenge conventional ideas of beauty and value, encouraging viewers to see the world from a different perspective. By revealing and celebrating the brutal built environment, I hope to spark a conversation that redefines what we consider beautiful.

Understanding your "Why" is transformative. For me, it’s the "Why" that fuels my passion for the seemingly unattractive, the utilitarian, and the harshly beautiful. It’s this deeper understanding that I hope to share through my art, creating a connection that goes beyond just aesthetics and delves into the profound human experiences and stories these structures represent.

What is your Why? Define your motivations to create. What drives you to return to that same person, medium or landmark?

I would love to hear your comments

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1 Comment

Jun 13

I run a brand strategy agency and the question of 'why' comes up daily. I help businesses figure out their why for a living. It's an interesting job, and it's like counselling a business 🤓. I think it's easier for a business to figure it out than an individual, though...probably because their central concept commonly points to a social or cultural trend or need or truth (a moisturizer company's why could be that it wants to help people stay as young as they feel - tagline 'Forever Young').

I think figuring out your individual why is a much much longer and more nuanced journey. You could argue that finding your why is the reason most people become artists in the…

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