Does the world already embody beautiful ideas, or do we simply interpret and project certain meaning onto the spaces we occupy?
This week we want to take a look at the role of art as therapy – both to observe, and to create. Thinking about the distinction between art and entertainment; producing for private or personal means rather than with an agenda to convince or manipulate, the motivations behind art in ancient times before the added bonus of worldwide sharing and connection was on offer, and what art critic Roger Fry liked to call ‘the imaginative life.’
“The castle of the emotional mind is not yet grounded in fact, and there is ample room left within it’s domain for conjecture, invention, and poetry.” – Harold Bloom
Paul Schrader once said to actor Ethan Hawke: a really good film starts the second you walk out of the theatre. Engaging you in a discussion about it’s themes for moments, if not days, after. Films and literature are both forms of art that touch on the private mind of the viewer. As we passively soak in the work what we are in actual fact doing is making sense of the story by running it through our very own. This is the magic of art – even if the painter, director, writer or performer is utterly detached from us in reality, through their work we discover our capacity to relate as our common feelings meet. The success is found for them as they create it, and then passed on to us as we receive it, and then in turn interpret and pass it on in a new way from our own lens.
Most would argue that art has always served the purpose of entertainment, being that creativity is inherent in all things. But historically, what could have motivated art before it could be seen or shared in the way it is now?
Before it was as commonplace to gather art as a commodity, in ancient times creative works were mostly a means of communication:
Greek society –
The Met Museum has a collection of ancient Greek pottery and vases, and explains the original purpose behind them as such:
“Creativity and innovation took many forms during the sixth century B.C. Athenian vases of the second half of the sixth century B.C. provide a wealth of iconography illuminating numerous aspects of Greek culture, including funerary rites, daily life, symposia, athletics, warfare, religion, and mythology.”
The Ancient Egyptians used pictures, and carvings on stones, walls, and tombs to represent many things that needed to be conveyed to their culture at the time. According to historic literature the small pictures often ‘explained the sound of the object or an idea associated with it’ and were used within the context of administration and business, but also to share literary, scientific and religious texts.
Almost like the daily newspaper is to us 20th Century folk, these art forms were a language, needed and necessary for society to function and move forward as a well informed unit. Looking forward to today, we consume more content than any other generation ever has, but have we lost touch with the sensorial value of creative communication just a little?
At Societe, we believe taking regular time to create and digest our own interpretation of the world around us through art is still just as important. Not only for successfully translating big ideas to others, but also our emotions.
In her book Expressive Therapies Continuum, Lisa D. Hinz states that “children’s drawings are infused with emotions that give them personal meanings. Some find drawing is a significant way to explain and contain their impulses and emotions.” A child’s free and easy, untutored approach to art is the envy of every stressed out grown up moving through complexities of adult life, and these days many younger people suffer from this blockage just as much. Heinz calls this phenomenon ‘alexithymia’ – which literally means having no words for or being out of touch with one’s emotions. To assist in the relief she suggests art therapy techniques such as non-threatening kinaesthetic action and rhythms like kneading dough, tapping nails into wood, tearing paper and smashing or rolling clay.
Who’d have thought all that mud pie making in our hay day was in actual fact a far less expensive alternative to pricey talk therapy sessions later in life!
Yet again we see that kid’s are our best teachers, and a final quote from Roger Fry sums up their process beautifully:
“Children, if left to themselves never, I believe, copy what they see. They never as we say “draw from nature,” but express with a delightful freedom and sincerity, the mental images which make up their own imaginative lives.”
As we create and consume art can we be more childlike in our approach?
Bottom image: @thelibrary.store from ‘Art in Schools – The New Zealand experience.’