“What matters is that I turn up and open my heart to what I do.”
Completely redoing my website after 10 years is giving me the opportunity to review material that I haven’t looked at for a long time. Old artist’s statements, articles I’ve written, workshops I’ve run and photos of artwork that has come and gone. Looking back I remember a boost of creative energy that was released by a transpersonal counselling training I embarked on 13 years ago. It opened the richness of the human psyche to me, our inner world of meanings, emotions, dreams and fantasies, that often lie unconscious but can and do reveal themselves in imagery. This was fascinating for me. I discovered a whole world inside waiting to be explored and expressed. And so I painted.
“The starting point of the creative process is inside me, in my personal experience.”, I say in an artist’s statement in 2008. “It can rise as feelings, sensations or insights that then find visual expression. Once the experience starts taking shape on the canvas it becomes a dialogue between the inner and the outer, between what comes out of me and what I see reflected back at me. Gradually the process of expressing turns into a process of discovery and the more I let go of what I want it to be, the more surprising the outcome and the greater the gift.”
I also get hooked on an article I wrote in the same year as a response to a piece in the Quaker magazine The Friend. It challenges art as a “single-minded pursuit of self-expression” that “does not directly contribute to the betterment of human kind.” and I took this as an invitation to share what I had learned and discovered about imagery and its relevance for our internal world and psychological health.
“To express oneself in images is nothing special”, I write. “We all do it all the time when we communicate. Just think of the many idioms and metaphors we use like ‘fit as a fiddle’ or ‘hitting the nail on the head’, the images drawn by our movements and gestures to underline what we say, and the melody composed by our voice, its tone, tempo and pitch when we speak. Art picks up on this. It speaks through the visual and tactile image of painting or sculpture as well as the acoustic image created by music, the physical image of dance or the poetic image in language. Images are symbols that don’t just express what is visible on the surface but evoke feelings and sensations and can stimulate memories from the past and fantasies about the future. Since Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, the power of images as symbols of meaning is known and used in psychotherapy to work with inner conflicts and trauma.”
“In my own experience as artist the creative process is both therapeutic (reaching within) and spiritual (reaching beyond) and I usually go through some kind of transformation in myself that finds its temporary closure in the finished image. But this image is not the end of the story, it is in itself a new beginning. It invites a dialogue with the viewer and through this connection becomes part of a different story told by a different human being using different images that reveal a different part of life. Speaking the language of imagery art is able to bypass the mind and communicate directly with the soul. By doing so it affects each individual from within, how much more direct could it be?!”
As I reconnect with these words I feel the excitement and the passion of my argument that still moves me now. Although my artistic expressions have changed over the years and I’m less involved in the therapy world than I used to, art still needs to be personal and soulful for me. It’s what really matters as Thomas Moore says:
“Creativity is being in the world soulfully, for the only thing we truly make, whether in the arts, in culture or at home, is soul.”
What matters is that I turn up and open my heart to what I do, whatever it is I do. In the last couple of years this has been refurbishing the house that is now my home. Now space is opening up to turn my attention back to art again, to let my soul hang out with the new materials I’ve discovered for myself, connect with people in the community and see where it takes me.